What technology is behind Minecraft

Burnout and tax tricks: what's behind Microsoft's "Minecraft" purchase

As a child, Markus Persson liked to play with Lego - and programmed his first simple computer game at the age of eight. In the meantime, Persson has invented the "Lego of our generation" with "Minecraft", as the video game professor Ian Bogost from the Georgia Institute of Technology explains. The game, in which users can create objects with small blocks, has now been downloaded hundreds of millions of times. All of this has been happening under the aegis of Microsoft for about half a year - the IT giant was surprisingly able to acquire Minecraft for 2.5 billion last September. The "Forbes" magazine has now for the first time examined the background of the deal in detail.

Previously scolded about a sell-off

The fact is: The time to buy Minecraft was ideal for both parties. Before that, Persson had always ruled out a sell-out, and months earlier he had ranted heavily against Oculus VR after it had been taken over by Facebook. But Persson had grown tired of his role in Minecraft. As a "notch" he was omnipresent in the game world, explained rules and settled every complicated dispute. The millions in profit that Minecraft had generated for years had changed little about that.

"Players are mean"

But the Minecraft players became increasingly angry and abusive towards their founders. He doesn't understand "why the fans are so mean," Persson told Forbes. When Minecraft introduced new licenses last June that restricted the sale of objects between players, it got too much for Persson: Hundreds of malicious tweets followed him, and more emails were received. "Anyone want to buy my share of (Minecraft operator, note) Mojang so I can get ahead in my life?" Wrote Persson on Twitter.

30 seconds until the call

When Mojang CEO Carl Manneh saw this news, he knew it would soon be all around. Because even before that, big companies had queued to take over Minecraft or at least to invest. But the tweet triggered an explosion: just thirty seconds after Manneh discovered him, his smartphone rang. On the other end of the line: Microsoft. This was followed by Electronic Arts, Activision, and other gaming giants.

Microsoft wanted to save money

In the end, Persson chose Microsoft. Though he'd gone off his tweet in a rage, the appeal of leaving Minecraft behind just kept growing. At the same time, Microsoft agreed to most of the terms and conditions of the Minecraft makers. As Forbes reveals, it is behind the fact that the IT company bunkered up to 93 billion dollars in Europe. If you wanted to transfer this sum to the USA, a lot of taxes would have to be paid back. So it made more sense to invest 2.5 billion of that in Minecraft. So, ultimately, the gaming industry's biggest takeover was "nothing but a tax ploy," Forbes said.

Search for meaning

In fact, Minecraft will continue to be available to all other gaming platforms. Xbox One users should only receive exclusive content in advance. Persson, meanwhile, wants to work on a new game. But since the deal, the neo-billionaire has been living in frenzy: he bought the most expensive villa in Beverly Hills and is said to regularly spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on leaving. He describes his new company as a "kindergarten for adults"; the brilliant idea has not yet occurred to him. Nevertheless, he does not regret the deal with Microsoft, even if he sees himself as a traitor. "It wasn't about the money, it was about my sanity," concluded Persson. (fsc, derStandard.at, 8 May 2015)