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Minecraft update scrubs ‘Notch’ references from game’s loading screen

No public explanation has been given

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

A new snapshot of Minecraft went live on March 27. The official patch notes memorialize little more than a series of minor changes, but an analysis of the code by the community reveals something unusual. Occasional references to the game’s creator, Markus “Notch” Persson, have been removed from the splash screen on PC. Persson is still mentioned in the game’s credits.

A tweet from 4J Studios, which handles the console versions of Minecraft, also mentions upcoming changes to these “splash texts,” as they’re known internally. We’ve reached out to Microsoft and 4J Studios for more information on why these changes are being made.

When players start up a game of Minecraft, they’re greeted with a traditional splash screen and a starting menu. In the upper right corner, overlaid on top of the Minecraft logo, there’s a bit of yellow text called splash text. Those texts have been there since the very first versions of the game, which were produced by Persson way back in 2009.

Since that time, the community has kept track of these cryptic messages. They include a host of inside jokes for fans and obscure pop culture references. For years now, they’ve also included references to the game’s creator.

Now they don’t.

According to data miners, version 19w13a of Minecraft includes 384 base messages. Players get one randomly each time they start the game or resize the screen, with several allowing for multiple permutations of similar phrases. In this latest version of the game, three messages were removed. Two of them refer to Notch specifically, while another refers to his wedding day. It’s the largest number of splash text messages removed from the game since 2011, when the game left alpha and four messages were removed.

Many speculate that Microsoft, which purchased Minecraft in 2014 for $2.5 billion, is seeking to distance itself — and its young audience — from Persson. In the years since his departure from Mojang, the studio which he founded, the billionaire has become more and more erratic in his public statements. He’s taken time on social media to align himself with bizarre social and political conspiracies, promote bigoted theories about the relative capabilities of various cultures and races, and defame women and the LGBTQ community.

Since Microsoft has been in control of the brand, the game has been marketed more and more toward children. There are even educational versions of the game, which is used in classrooms all around the world. It’s easy to see why the mega corporation would not want kids going to use Google — or Bing, even — to search for the word “Notch.”

Persson currently has over 3.6 million followers on Twitter, to which he shared last night a simple statement: “What a day!!

Despite these changes, Persson remains one of the few game developers whose work is part of the collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, where older versions of the game still bear his name.

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