Video games and the video game industry has grown quite significantly over the past few years. Super Mario Bros., which was released on the Nintendo console way back in 1983, saw the beginning of the growth of video games as an industry. From iconic releases such as Mario, Age of empires, the video game industry started to bloom. 2011 saw the release of Minecraft, one of the biggest games to be ever released. It rocketed up in sales, and even after a decade of its release, it still rests in the top 5 games played on YouTube every day. It is currently the best-selling videogame of all time, with over 200 million copies sold worldwide and 120 million active players by 2020. So, who owns Minecraft? Who created the game?
What is Minecraft? – Who owns Minecraft?
Before we go into the ownership details, let’s talk a bit about the game. Minecraft was created as a sandbox video game, meaning it gave the player almost infinite creativity to do whatever they wanted to do. It was one of its kind and the first to be released, which saw it scaled heights so quickly. In Minecraft, you must use the resources around you to try and survive as long as possible without dying. It let the player create everything from an ax to a castle of their own and defeat enemies. It had a level of creativity that no game had at the time and served as an inspiration to the genre and many more games that followed its footsteps in the coming years.
The biggest feature of Minecraft was it was not a predefined game world. The world was procedurally created, meaning once you boot up the game, the game randomizes the resources, terrain, and everything. This made no two people playing the game see it had the same features. Every run was unique and different. The game even had the freedom to choose between a first-person perspective and a third-person perspective, and you can either explore the world alone or with friends. Probably the reason Minecraft such a big hit was that it is considered basic software. It did not require high-end computers to play, as it ran on a Java program, which will eventually see the game come to mobile devices.
It was the most accessible game of its time, by having various modes to play from survival mode, for those who want a challenge and the game to be difficult, to a creative mode where players are given all resources at the start of the game and can peacefully build whatever they want. The game has an “ending,” where you are supposed to kill the Ender Dragon, found in an alternate dimension. But the game does not stop even after that. You are free to explore and build as much as you want, indefinitely. It was the creative aspect of Minecraft and its accessibility to all ages that made the game a huge success. Even after a decade, the game is still one of the most popular games on streaming platforms such as YouTube and Twitch, amassing millions of views every day.
Development of Minecraft
So how did Minecraft start? Marcus “Notch” Persson created Minecraft. Marcus was a game developer working on the game King and would often develop small games using the programming languages he learned during his free time. Before Minecraft, he developed similar games that had a base-building aspect to them. Java was the programming language used to create Minecraft. Marcus started the development of the first iteration of Minecraft, the Java version, in 2009. During its initial testing, the game received positive feedbacks and reviews. Marcus decided to quit his day job and work full-time on Minecraft and set up the game company Mojang from the funding he received from the game. Jakob Porser and Carl Manneh were the cofounders of the company Mojang. Over its several testing and beta releases, Mojang hired many employers to work on the game.
The full final version of Minecraft was released in November 2011. Jans “Jeb” Begensten would then replace Persson as the lead designer taking over the creative world of Minecraft in 2012. The game was sold and received overwhelmingly positive responses, and Mojang would release further free updates over the years to those who already purchased the game. Apart from this, there were also many other versions of Minecraft that were released.
The Minecraft version for mobile devices, running on Android, was called the Minecraft Pocket edition. The final stable version for both Android and IOS was released in late 2011. Though being the same game, due to the limitations of the smartphones, the mobile port did not consist of all the PC version features. Also, the mobile version was written in C++, not in Java, as IOS did not support Java. Once Microsoft acquired the Nokia mobiles and built the Windows phone, the game was also released on Windows Phone 8.1. The final update to Minecraft mobile came in 2017, and it changed the name from Pocket edition to Bedrock Edition.
In 2020, Mojang released an updated game with better visuals, utilizing the graphic drivers, and implementing ray tracing, physically based rendering, and many more improvements. The game continues to receive updates for the near future and has a well-established server system to support many players. It was made possible by Mojang initially hiring the server company Bukkit to enable server modifications. Mojang would then go on to buy the entire Bukkit server and full ownership of the server. This sparked some controversies, as Bukkit was open-source software, meaning it was free to everyone and was managed by multiple people.
Minecraft also includes different and unique editions that a game has had, such as the educational editions. It was developed to spark creativity in children in schools and included a chemistry resource pack, including free lessons on coding and a classroom mode. It also released the Raspberry Pi system game, which allowed the players to edit the text using the programming language Python. Unfortunately, though, Mojang stopped all developments and updates for the Raspberry Pi version in 2016. Since its acquisition by Microsoft, Mojang would then develop a Minecraft version specific for Windows 10. This included support for gamepads, keyboards, the ability to connect to Xbox Live and play locally with friends, and ran the bedrock version of the game. Minecraft also released a 4K version of the game, which was much restricted as it did not have a procedurally generated world. Instead, it was predefined, and players had to play the same world every time.
The game also came to consoles, first on Xbox 360, which enabled cross-play between the PC players and the console players. The game was designed differently for consoles, with a more suited interface and easier crafting system. Though owned by Microsoft, the game also eventually came to its rival console, the Sony-owned PlayStation 3, and eventually to PlayStation 4. The console versions are named Legacy versions of Minecraft.
Who owns Minecraft?
Minecraft, as we saw earlier, was created by Persson. Persson had the major percent of stocks of the game, along with his 2 co-founders. Persson created the company Mojang, and he owned the game until the big companies started noticing him. Gaming giants Activision and EA approached Persson to buy the company and gain ownership of the game, but Microsoft eventually acquired Mojang and Minecraft. In 2014, Microsoft bought Mojang studios and Minecraft for a whopping $2.5 Billion, which saw Persson becoming one of the world’s richest persons. The game., through its updates, slowly stopped having any links to Persson. For example, if you boot up the game in the previous versions, it will show that Markus Persson made it. But, in the later versions, those references were removed by Microsoft. Microsoft has gone to designing the game for disabled persons by creating an Xbox One Adaptive Controller for the game.
Here is a timeline of the owners:
- Markus Persson: 2009-2014
- Microsoft: 2014-Present
Another interesting fact about Minecraft is that the game was supposed to be made in virtual reality as well, with Persson planning to release the game on Oculus Rift, a VR gaming console. But he stopped the development after Facebook bought Oculus Rift, as he said, “Facebook creeps me out.” Finally, though, players themselves modded the game and released a VR version of the game, which was open source. Microsoft also made various iterations of Minecraft by releasing Minecraft Stories, which was a story-driven choice-based game set in the world of Minecraft. It received positive reviews as well. Minecraft was one of its kind, gave the users near-complete freedom to do what they liked to do, encouraged creativity, and served as an inspiration for many sandbox games that followed it. Though there are many games now in the market with better and more realistic graphics than Minecraft, the latter remains at the top of the table.