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Microsoft announces purchase of Minecraft creator Mojang for $2.5 billion

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Microsoft today announced the purchase of Mojang, the Sweden-based development studio behind massive hit Minecraft.

Confirmation of the $2.5 billion deal comes a week after rumors hit that that the two companies were in talks over an acquisition. In a press release, Microsoft officials said they expect the deal to be “break-even” in fiscal year 2015, which ends June 30, 2015, on a GAAP basis. The deal is expected to close in late 2014.

The founders of Mojang, including Markus "Notch" Persson, will all be leaving.

"Gaming is a top activity spanning devices, from PCs and consoles to tablets and mobile, with billions of hours spent each year," said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. "Minecraft is more than a great game franchise - it is an open world platform, driven by a vibrant community we care deeply about, and rich with new opportunities for that community and for Microsoft."

Microsoft promises to respect the brand and independent spirit of the game and carry on the tradition of innovation. The company also confirmed that Minecon will continue next year. Mojang said in a prepared statement that there is "no reason for the development, sales and support" for the other versions of the game to stop.

Shortly after the news was confirmed, Minecraft creator Persson tweeted that he would probably share his personal thoughts soon. He also linked to comments from Mojang.

In explaining why they sold Minecraft and the studio, Mojang's Owen Hill wrote that the title has grown from a simple game to a "project of monumental significance."

"As you might already know, Notch is the creator of Minecraft and the majority shareholder at Mojang," Hill wrote. "He's decided that he doesn't want the responsibility of owning a company of such global significance. Over the past few years he's made attempts to work on smaller projects, but the pressure of owning Minecraft became too much for him to handle. The only option was to sell Mojang. He'll continue to do cool stuff though. Don't worry about that."

The decision to go with Microsoft, he wrote, was driven by their belief that only a handful of potential buyers had the resources to grow Minecraft on a scale that it deserves.

Hill also addressed concerns that this purchase might signal an end to support of Minecraft on non-Microsoft platforms, saying there was no reason for that to stop. But he did add:

"Of course, Microsoft can't make decisions for other companies or predict the choices that they might make in the future."

Microsoft's Phil Spencer wrote that the company plans to continue to "make Minecraft available across platforms — including iOS, Android and PlayStation, in addition to Xbox and PC."

The purchase also signals a departure of the core staff at Mojang. The studio confirmed today that founders Persson, Carl Manneh, and Jakob Poser will all be leaving the company.

"We don't know what they're planning," Hill wrote. "It won't be Minecraft-related but it will probably be cool."

Spencer said that the relationship with the studio began when the two companies started talking about bringing Minecraft to the console.

"Minecraft quickly became the top online game on Xbox Live, with over two billion hours played on Xbox 360 in the last two years. That working relationship set the ground work for other opportunities. We've long seen the incredible potential of Minecraft," he said. "At Microsoft, we believe in the power of content to unite people. Minecraft adds diversity to our game portfolio and helps us reach new gamers across multiple platforms. Gaming is the top activity across devices and we see great potential to continue to grow the Minecraft community and nurture the franchise. That is why we plan to continue to make Minecraft available across platforms — including iOS, Android and PlayStation, in addition to Xbox and PC."

Minecraft has sold more than 100 million copies of the game on PC alone. The game launched on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 last week. Fans of the world-building sandbox game have used it to educate, for wedding themes, to help with city planning around the world and to create a live opera. The game was officially released in 2011 after a two-year beta.

In 2012, as Windows 8 was preparing to launch, Persson was opposed to certain elements of the operating system, tweeting he’d rather “have Minecraft not run on Win 8 at all than play along. Maybe we can convince a few people not to switch to Win 8 that way...”

He later said in a Reddit AMA that Microsoft’s new operating system could be a hindrance to freedom of development.

“I hope we can keep a lot of open and free platforms around. If Microsoft decides to lock down Windows 8, it would be very very bad for Indie games and competition in general. If we can keep open platforms around, there's going to be a lot of very interesting games in ten years, mixed in with the huge AAA games that we all love.”

Persson was not the only high-profile developer opposed to the new operating system in 2012. Both Valve's Gabe Newell and Blizzard's Rob Pardo expressed similar concerns about the operating system.

Spencer said that Mojang's unique vision, creative energy and innovative mindset will make them a perfect fit with the company's other global studios.

"Microsoft Studios includes 343 Industries, Turn 10 Studios, and Lionhead Studios just to name a few," he wrote. "These industry-leading game studios within Microsoft that have had great success with beloved games and massively popular franchises like Halo, Forza, and Fable. We're excited to welcome Mojang to the Microsoft family and we are thrilled to support the success and longevity of Minecraft for years to come."