As the third best selling game of all-time (only bested by Wii Sports and Tetris), it’s hard to imagine a period when Minecraft wasn’t a huge deal. However, the game started off as a buggy alpha developed by just one man, Markus “Notch” Persson, before Mojang Studios and he worked together to turn it into the incredible multi-platform title that so many of us play today.
And it’s Minecraft‘s massive success that helped foster the sale of the game (and Mojang Studios) to Microsoft for the whopping price of $2.5 billion. Notch explained that he was buckling under the weight of the game’s success, something that he could have never predicted when he was developing the alpha over 5 years ago.
But it has now become clear that Minecraft‘s success is something that new owners Microsoft didn’t predict either. According to the sometimes inflammatory game developer Peter Molyneux who worked for Microsoft for 6 years at Fable dev Lionehead Studios and then as the Creative Director of Microsoft Game Studios, Europe, Microsoft used to think that the massively popular title was “rubbish.”
Molyneux made the comments to GamesRadar back at Gamescom, long before Microsoft’s purchase of Minecraft was even being hinted at by the press. He explained that although he likes the game’s simple block-chipping and material collecting mechanic having “been a total fan of that game since [he] first saw it,” the simplicity is exactly what turned Microsoft off in the first place.
“Well I can remember coming to things like this back in my Microsoft days and talking to Microsoft. They thought it was rubbish. You know, it didn’t have a character, it didn’t have a story, it didn’t have a tutorial, the graphics were, you know, like 1980s graphics and they totally, totally missed that. To consumers… they didn’t care. Some of the most beautiful scenes I’ve ever seen in a game has been in Minecraft. Because you just feel like there’s this never-ending world, really.”
Microsoft’s wallet no doubt could have been left a little fuller if they’d have purchased it back then but hindsight is a powerful thing. When Minecraft first arrived on the scene, with its blocks and tools and survivalist gameplay, procedurally generated worlds were less of a thing than they are now with No Man’s Sky and the like, among many 2D and 3D Minecraft-esque clones, and the closest most of us had gotten to survivalist gameplay back in the day was headshots against zombies in Resident Evil.
And remember, in 2009, it was a time when Call of Duty‘s success was unwavering and shooters were the undisputed monarch of game genres so it’s not hard to see why Microsoft thought ‘I don’t understand this Minecraft game and how it could possibly be successful.’
What is good news though is that they realize Minecraft’s importance now. Xbox fans have been asking for new IPs and more exclusive games for some time with the failure to provide them being one of the factors to the Xbox One’s sales slump and the future of Minecraft could undoubtedly help with that.
Granted, that’s not going to offer much solace for those worried that with the absence of the game’s original creator, Microsoft could potentially ruin Minecraft. Especially as Molyneux correctly predicted that Microsoft would kill off the Xbox One’s mandatory Kinect add-on. With $2.5 billion on the line and the expectations of millions fans weighing heavily on their shoulders, Microsoft will hopefully treat Minecraft as more than the ‘rubbish’ block building indie they once deemed it to be.