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Gates and Ballmer didn't want to buy Minecraft but now 'they get it'

Microsoft's behemoth $2.5 billion purchase of Mojang, the studio behind Minecraft, may have caught some by surprise, but the acquisition is widely seen as a smart move by the company that is already yielding significant returns and improving Microsoft's image in the gaming world tremendously.

In his recently released book, Hit Refresh, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella provides some interesting tidbits about the purchase, however. For one, he suggests that the company could have bought Minecraft at a much, much earlier date than the 2014 purchase, referring to an instance where Phil Spencer, who was only Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Studios at the time and not yet the head of Xbox, brought up the company and a potential purchase opportunity to the management at Microsoft:

“Early in Microsoft’s relationship with Mojang, before I was CEO, Phil presented an opportunity to purchase Minecraft, but Phil’s boss at the time chose not to move forward.”

However, Spencer's boss at the time, likely Don Mattrick who has since left to assume the position of CEO at Zynga, turned it down. While Nadella doesn't provide too many other details, there seems to be at least some confusion from the other side, as the founder and former owner of Mojang, Markus 'Notch' Persson suggests they had no real interest in a sale until around 2014:

"I'm probably the wrong person to ask about specifics, but I do remember us getting a ridiculously low offer from some company at some point fairly early on. We said no. Just to be clear, we weren't actively looking to sell, but would with some frequency get asked. It wasn't until my tweet we decided to pursue it.

Regardless of who said no, what is clear is that if Microsoft had bought the company back then, it probably wouldn't have had to pay the massive $2.5 billion sum that they ended up paying eventually, though Nadella maintains he's pleased with the purchase.

He also commended Spencer for his persistence, since he stuck with his ambition of bringing the now massively popular sandbox game in-house and was finally able to clinch the deal when he was promoted to be the head of Xbox and the opportunity to buy Minecraft came again. Nadella writes:

"For some, such a visible, high-level rejection could have been withering, but Phil didn't give up."

Another interesting tidbit about the purchase that Nadella reveals in his book is that at the time of purchase, both of his predecessors, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, did not see the appeal of the purchase. $2.5 billion was certainly quite a large sum for a game that had only been released 3 years ago in 2011. They eventually came around, though, as Nadella explains:

"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."

Since then, Microsoft has worked tirelessly on pushing the IP to as many platforms as it can find, from PCs to mobile devices, created partnerships with other studios for offshoot products and improved the visual fidelity of the game. For a game as popular as Minecraft, the purchase will almost certainly yield large returns in the future, establishing Microsoft as one of the biggest names in gaming, especially among the next generation who are considerably infatuated with the world-building simulator.

Source: Yahoo Finance

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