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Last year, Minecraft sales crossed $60 million, making it the best-selling PC game in history. This incredible popularity is why Microsoft purchased Minecraft developer Mojang for $2.5 billion dollars in cash. But according to founder Markus “Notch” Persson, Microsoft wasn't the only well-to-do company that waved stacks of money in his face.
In a recent interview with Forbes, Persson mentioned that Activision and Electronic Arts expressed interest in buying his company, but negotiations eventually petered out. Notch wasn't exactly forthright about what caused the deals' disintegration. But he did say that Mojang's founders didn't want to hand the reigns over to a publisher “who did game play in a way we didn’t like.”
And after Microsoft promised to retain all of Mojang's 47 employees, Notch and the other two founders sealed the deal.
Before Microsoft came along, Notch was like a digital Robin Hood. Stealing from the rich wasn't exactly his bag, but he had become something of a spokesman for the ordinary gamer. His Twitter feed was opinionated and critical of the industry. He even canceled a virtual reality port of Minecraft when Facebook acquired Oculus VR:
But soon after Mojang made the decision to start enforcing Minecraft's End User License Agreement, Notch started to think about taking a break from video game development.
Many gamers assume that Notch sold Mojang because the money was too good to pass up--and that was definitely part of it. But by the time Microsoft's check book made an appearance, Persson already had one foot out the door. The daily deluge of gamer vitriol over the EULA had taken its toll.
“I was struggling with why are people so mean online," Persson remembers. "You see the mean comments, and they seem like they’re written in a bigger font size almost."
In fact, the sale might never have happened without this tweet:
Shortly after Notch's tweet hit the net, offers started rolling in. Aside from Activision and EA, several venture capital firms put proposals on the table. But Notch and the two other Mojang founders eventually signed the company over to Microsoft.
These days, gamers have mixed feelings about Markus Persson, but he doesn't seem to care. He spends more time playing video games than staring at code, and he doesn't let Twitter ruin his day.
Here's how he explains it:
“I thought back to when I met my idols and [realized], ‘Oh s–t, these are real people. That disconnect became so clear to me. I don’t have the relationship that I thought I did with my fans.”