Like the rest of the world, I was fairly shocked yesterday when I heard about the Microsoft purchase of Minecraft and its creator Mojang for $2.5 billion. That’s twice now that Microsoft has shocked me with its videogame strategy. The first time was about 15 years ago, when the software giant announced it would launch a new home console called the Xbox into an already crowded console market. The Xbox turned out to be a smashing success that continues to fuel a tiring Microsoft brand.
Most analysts paint the Minecraft purchase as a mobile strategy: Windows phones show a scant 3% marketshare, and Minecraft is one of the most popular apps for mobile platforms. True to a point, perhaps. But I also think the Minecraft purchase is another attempt to refresh the tiring Microsoft brand.
Think about it. On the one hand, the Xbox is hands-down the M-rated console, defined by blood-and-degradation titles like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto. Buy a 10-year-old an Xbox 360 and then try to find a game rated below Teen. You’ll be sadly disappointed.
On the other hand, Minecraft is appropriate for gamers of literally any age. It’s creative, it’s open-ended, and it singlehandedly launched the modern mega-million-dollar sub-economy in which of millions of gamers watch hundreds of gamers play games on “Let’s Play” YouTube channels. Minecraft delivers a feel-good salve for Xbox-hating parents, a feel-good salve for open-source-loving, Windows-hating millennials and a direct patch into the massive YouTube economy.
For a solution that broad and powerful, $2.5 billion doesn’t seem so high a price.
A few interesting links:
If you’ve never watched anyone play Minecraft on YouTube, here’s a good starter video from Tobuscus (note the 5-million-plus views):
If you have trouble understanding why anyone would want to spend hours watching a video of someone else playing a videogame, you’ll love this classic parody from The Onion about the World of World of Warcraft expansion pack.
(Feature image from WallpaperFO.com)