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It seems that Microsoft is in a spending mood; a new report from the Wall Street Journal yesterday says that Microsoft “is in serious discussions” to buy Mojang, the Swedish game developer behind the megahit Minecraft. That in and of itself wouldn’t be too shocking, but the report claims that “the deal would be valued at more than $2 billion,” which, in case you’re wondering, is definitely a lot of money for an independent game developer.

Late last year, Microsoft made headlines by agreeing to buy Nokia for a whopping $7.2 billion. Paying $2 billion for a developer with one successful game – albeit, one of the most successful games ever – sounds unrealistic. The WSJ article points out that Minecraft is big business in the realm of licensing as well, with agreements with Scholastic, Lego, and Warner Bros. for a forthcoming movie about the franchise. In all, Mojang is said to have earned over $100 million in profits in 2013, a figure that’s ridiculously high – again, all for one game. And all of that may be a nice feather in Microsoft’s cap should it go ahead with the acquisition, but I have to wonder whether that’s the real motivation.

Currently, you can buy versions of Minecraft on just about every game platform around, including Windows PCs, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Xbox One, and Sony’s family of PlayStation consoles. Buying Mojang would make Microsoft platforms the only place to go for Minecraft. Moreover, Microsoft might have ideas about somehow tying in Minecraft’s popularity with the Windows Phone platform, which is in need of more users. Might forthcoming mobile versions of Minecraft end up being Windows Phone exclusive?

Another interesting wrinkle is Markus “Notch” Persson, the developer who created Minecraft, and is widely regarded as the most visible part of Mojang. He’s been a pretty vocal critic of Microsoft’s decisions, particularly with Windows 8. And this year he publicly announced the sudden cancellation of the Oculus Rift version of Minecraft after the news that Facebook would acquire Oculus. His reason? “Facebook is creepy.”

It will be interesting to see what he has to say should Microsoft’s acquisition come to fruition. Either way, the real question here is why Microsoft would be willing to spend so much on a game developer – and what kinds of plans it might have to make good on that investment.

[Source: Wall Street Journal]

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