Microsoft is in advanced talks to acquire the maker of the game “Minecraft” for more than $2 billion, people briefed on the discussions said this week. The move was intended to ensure that one of the most popular games was available for the computing giant’s family of devices.
The sides still need to work out many details, and a deal could fall through, according to one of these people, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Acquiring “Minecraft” would give Microsoft control of an online world that has defied many of the conventions of the modern games business to become a blockbuster success.
The game’s blocky graphics are crude by today’s standards, looking like virtual Lego bricks. But unlike many of the startups purchased by big technology companies for billions of dollars, “Minecraft” is already a lucrative business. This year, Mojang, the privately held Swedish company that makes “Minecraft,” told the Wall Street Journal that its revenue was about $360 million last year, up 38 percent from the year before.
Mojang was co-founded by Markus Persson, a 35-year-old programmer and game designer who is better known in the gaming world by his gamer name, Notch. Persson has said in the past that he did not want to sell the company or take money from outside investors.
In an era when many games, especially for mobile devices, are given away, and derive their profit from the sale of virtual currency and other items, Mojang sells “Minecraft” the old-fashioned way — by charging people to buy a copy. The price varies depending on what kind of device people use to play the game, ranging from $7 on mobile phones to $27 for computer versions. A version of “Minecraft” for Microsoft’s Xbox, which has been a top seller for the console, costs $20.
For Microsoft, the interest in a deal is motivated in large part by a desire to ensure that attractive content is available for some of its most important platforms. “Minecraft” is not currently available on Windows Phone, the mobile operating system that Microsoft has struggled to turn into a strong competitor to Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android.
“Minecraft” has also not been adapted to take advantage of the graphical interface of Microsoft’s latest operating system for computers and tablets, Windows 8. The game is not available for purchase in the Windows Store, Microsoft’s online app store.