Markus "Notch" Persson, the creator of Minecraft, said today that he was selling that powerhouse property, and the studio he co-founded, because the game had made him into "a symbol," something he never wanted to be. He came to that realization after watching this video about the indie games developer Phil Fish.
The video, by Innuendo Studios, was released to YouTube on June 16. Four days earlier, Persson became enmeshed in a controversy over users hosting Minecraft on private servers and selling access and items in them. A change to the game's end-user license agreement now prohibited that. Persson said he had nothing to do with the change, but as the public face of Minecraft he faced a storm of anger, much of it coming over social media.
Then Persson watched "This is Phil Fish." He came to the realization that "I didn't have the connection to my fans I thought I had. I've become a symbol.
"I don't want to be a symbol, responsible for something huge that I don't understand, that I don't want to work on, that keeps coming back to me," he said. "I'm not an entrepreneur. I'm not a CEO. I'm a nerdy computer programmer who likes to have opinions on Twitter."
Taken one way, Persson was driven if not out of games development, then into seclusion, by the kind of social media outrage that Fish frequently faced (and ultimately led to him saying he was finished with games development back in August, this time for good.)
Taken another way, though, it seems like Persson had been uneasy for a long time with the public figure status that comes from developing the best-selling PC game of all time, and enormously popular versions on just about every gaming device available.
Microsoft today said the acquisition of Mojang began when the two sides partnered to bring Minecraft to the Xbox 360 in 2012. For Persson, it looks like it ended with a 20-minute video on the price of fame.