When Microsoft bought the free-form exploration and building game Minecraft along with Mojang, the studio behind it, for a gobsmacking $US2.5 billion last year, many industry commentators questioned their wisdom.
There was no doubt that Minecraft was popular — this is a game that sold four million before it was even officially released, after all — but $US2.5 billion is an enormous amount of money. At the time Microsoft finalised their sizeable purchase, the game had sold 60 million copies across all platforms, worldwide.
How much more could this investment be expected to grow?
We now have our answer: a lot more, and it shows no signs of slowing. This week the Minecraft website reported that the game had reached another sales milestone: 20 million on PC and Mac. Even though it went on sale way back in 2011, around a quarter of those sales occurred in the past year.
Amazingly the number is on top of the more than 20 million copies sold across Xbox platforms and another 20 million on mobile and tablet devices. Mojang and Microsoft continue to update Minecraft and offer it on more platforms: it is already on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, and even Sony’s PS Vita handheld system.
A large part of Minecraft’s popularity is that it is child-friendly. It is used in school teaching programs, and many parents play it with their children.
Parents will also have noticed the plethora of Minecraft merchandise on store shelves last Christmas season, a trend that will no doubt be repeated this year. Expect more action figures, plush toys, and even Minecraft Lego when the gift-shopping season begins.
Microsoft certainly took a risk paying such an enormous sum, but less than a year later the signs are already good that their investment was a wise one.