Today, Microsoft and developer Mojang held Minecraft Live, a streaming event where the company announced a number of upcoming updates to the popular sandbox game. While this was not talked about during the event, Microsoft sent us a quick update revealing that Minecraft recently hit a new milestone, selling over 300 million copies.
The new sales milestone reveal includes a quote from Helen Chiang, CVP of the Minecraft Franchise and Head of Mojang Studios:
As we approach the 15th anniversary, Minecraft remains one of the best-selling games of all time, with over 300 million copies sold, a milestone no one could have dreamed of when we were all placing our first blocks. Our incredible community has built Minecraft into what it is today and what it will become in the future. We can’t wait to share new Minecraft content and experiences in the years ahead.
Indeed, the idea that a game that was basically created as a freeform title where you used blocks to build structures would sell hundreds of millions of copies in less than 15 years was likely not on the mind of its creator, Markus “Notch” Persson.
As this Wired article stated back in 2012, Persson created Minecraft just for fun in May 2009. The article stated:
Over the course of a weekend in May, he wrote a basic game, which mashed up others such as Dwarf Fortress and Infiniminer into something entirely its own, and mentioned it on the TIGSource forum — a site for independent games players and creators. A month later, he charged people €10 (£8) to download the game. Minecraft sold 40 copies that first weekend.
For many indie game developers, selling a game and getting 40 people to purchase it over one weekend would be a huge accomplishment. However, word of mouth quickly began to grow about Minecraft over Reddit and other online communities. In 2010, Perrson formed Mojang Studios to keep developing the game. In December 2020, it reached its beta stage and in November 2011 it finally ditched its labels with a 1.0 release.
The game also kept selling and selling just on the PC platform. In January 2011 Minecraft reached the 1 million sales milestone. Only a few months later, in August 2011, it reached 3 million copies. Mojang also started selling copies of the game on iOS and Android.
Microsoft then got interested in Minecraft and wanted a console exclusive with its Xbox 360. It announced it would bring the game to the Xbox 360 at E3 in 2011 and in May 2012 the Xbox 360 port was released. As expected, it was a huge hit out of the gate with over 1 million copies sold just a few days after launch.
In September 2014, rumors started hitting the interwebs claiming Microsoft was interested in buying Mojang and the Minecraft franchise. Those rumors were confirmed later in the month as Microsoft announced it had acquired Mojang and the Minecraft franchise for $2.5 billion. Persson also departed the studio, and the game he created, as part of the deal.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and former CEO Steve Ballmer were still on the company’s board of directors when the decision was made to purchase Minecraft by its current CEO Satya Nadella. In his book Hit Refresh in 2017, Nadella wrote:
Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, who were still on the board when the deal was presented, later laughed and said they had initially scratched their heads, failing to understand the wisdom of the move. Now they get it.
It’s safe to say that the Minecraft purchase by Microsoft was one of its best acquisitions. Not only has the game itself continued to sell well across tons of different platforms, but the company has spun off its success into different game genres and even into merchandising like toys, Nerf-style weapons, and more. And of course, there’s that long in-development movie version which hopefully will go into production soon after the current Hollywood actor strike ends.
In the meantime, Microsoft has plans to celebrate Minecraft’s 15th anniversary in 2024. It sent over a quote from Kayleen Walters, Head of Franchise Development at Mojang Studios:
As we mark our 15th year, we at Minecraft want to express our gratitude to our passionate Minecraft community. It is our community’s creativity and dedication that has helped shape this world into something extraordinary. As we kick off this milestone year, we eagerly look forward to honoring and celebrating your contributions, stories and adventures. Thank you for 15 amazing years of crafting, building and exploring together. Stay tuned for more updates and surprises in 2024!
It will be interesting to see how Minecraft evolves over the next 15 years.