Today the rumors have been confirmed with Microsoft announcing the acquisition of Mojang, maker of Minecraft for $2.5 billion dollars. Minecraft is huge to say the least and paired with Microsoft, the possibilities are limitless. As a seasoned Minecraft player and arm chair business strategist, here are some things I think Microsoft will do with this immensely popular franchise.
Use Minecraft as the Killer Game for Microsoft VR Headset
While we only have rumors and a few leaked slide decks in terms of a Microsoft virtual reality product (search for “Project Fortaleza”), Minecraft would give millions of fans a reason to buy Microsoft’s VR product.
Launch on Windows Phone
Minecraft is the 3rd bestselling game of all time (Tetris is #1 and Wii Sports is #2) and is the top paid app (app, not just game) on Google Play, Apple App Store, and the Kindle App Store. However it doesn’t even exist in the Windows Store for Phone or Tablet. The reason that it doesn’t exist has been stated by the maker of Minecraft- the 2.5% market share Windows Phone has isn’t worth the time to port to. With Microsoft owning Minecraft the current bestselling game is sure to get ported to Windows Phone and tablets.
Make Worlds Work Across Devices and Platforms
Convincing people to switch to Windows Phone will be a bit easier when it has a game many people love, but players on iOS or Android cannot bring the world saves with them. Imagine being able to play Minecraft on your Xbox One but then be able to pick up where you left off on your Windows Phone, iPhone, or Android device. This isn’t far fetched, there are two indicators that this will happen.
First, Microsoft has been doing this for a while now on a smaller lesser known scale with apps like Wordement, Stap Attack, and small hand full of other games. The technology and infrastructure is currently available but most have never used it. Exposing used to this technology with the biggest app on all platforms combined would be a huge win.
There is also an indication from the Mojang side seen in a recent push to create feature parity across all versions of Minecraft. Xbox 360 version used to be many versions behind always leading PC version, but is now almost caught up. Similarly, pocket editions have been making big strides as well.
Persistent Servers for Consoles
The downside to playing on a console is that playing with friends is dependent on your console being on. PC version has always had the ability to connect to a persistently running server but the console and mobile editions have been left behind.
My circle of gamming friends are closure players and typically don’t touch PC games so when we jumped on the Xbox 360 version this was a problem. So my solution was to buy an Xbox 360 and run it as a dedicated server and subscribe to another Xbox Live Gold account- with the appropriate gamer tag: MisterServer. Doing this is admittedly pretty ridiculous, but we are die hard console players and that was the only solution.
Microsoft already touts their server prowess with Titanfall so running Minecraft servers isn’t much of a stretch. If they were reach feature parity like discussed above and can run servers for Minecraft world being able to hop into any friend’s world with any device would be an incredibly unifying experience.
Azure Minecraft Server Hosting
Minecraft has sparked an entire ecosystem of unofficial custom servers, hacks, plugins, and add ons. Even though these features are not touched on by mainstream users this subculture of Minecraft tinkerers and modders are what I think makes Minecraft amazing. Microsoft will need to be very careful not to step on their toes since they are the most vocal and most enthusiastic players- they will need to find a way to support and nourish this community.
Azure can host anything since you can run almost any kind of virtual machine you want, but adding Minecraft servers to the Azure App Gallery would be a way to introduce this community to Azure. They could even take this a step further and allow Minecraft plugin developers an easy way to distribute them on the preconfigured Minecraft Azure App.
Bring Minecon to Seattle
The convention dedicated Minecraft was canceled for 2014 and speculatively this was because of the sale to Microsoft. It is tentatively planned for spring 2015 in London, but nothing is set in stone, quartz, or nether rock. On Xbox Wire Microsoft confirmed that it will continue next year but did not specify a location.
Why Seattle? Why not, Seattle is awesome and it’s Silicon Valley of the far North West. It’s also Microsoft’s home turf and would give them a home court advantage of providing resource. Plus as a Minecraft fan and its easier for me to get there.