Mojang - When Your Dreams Become a Harsh Reality
For years, computer and console games have been the favorite pastime of many people, regardless of age or gender. Markus 'Notch' Persson was one such kid - a shy, but an avid fan of playing and developing video games.
Having learnt how to program by the age of 8, he dedicated himself to creating video games. After getting inspired by a game that encompassed his love for building blocks and gaming, he created Minecraft in less than a week.
Fast forward a bit, his company Mojang has developed the world's best-selling video game of all time and is now part of the Microsoft family.
Read this compelling story of the shy Swedish gamer who made his dream a reality here:
The Humble Beginnings
Markus Persson, also known as Notch in the online gaming community, was a devoted fan of building and creating LEGOs - until his father brought home the Commodore 128 computer. Entranced and intrigued by the possibilities, Markus learned how to code and wrote his first computer program - all that by the age of eight!
Today we have schools and courses for game design, but back in the early 80s, people had to learn how to code by themselves. Markus is one such self-taught programmer who despite never even having finished high school, was hired at a web design company when he was just 18 years old.
Markus has always been a gamer and has always wanted to create video games. One such game was Wurm Online which he had created back in 2003 with his friend Rolf Jansson. They named the game Mojang Specifications, but later on renamed it to Mojang AB as it got incorporated.
In 2004, Markus got a job at Midasplayer, now known as King.com, where he worked as a game developer. He met with Jakob Porsér there, who would, some years later, define the success of Minecraft and Mojang.
You would imagine that working at a game development company would be the dream for a game developer.
Not for this guy!
Necessity Pushes Innovation!
Markus wasn't made for the 9-5 life and didn't appreciate working for a boss and a predetermined game development path. He had always been more interested in the indie scene where he could create a popular game without a big company. For him, creating games had always been about his own pleasure and other player's enjoyment, never about the money they would potentially bring.
So, just as Mojang was beginning to make profits, Markus exited for Midasplayer, returning all of his shares to his friend Rolf. His only wish was to keep the name Mojang for later use, which Rolf agreed to. The company was renamed to Mojang Specifications AB, while the name Mojang itself was reserved for future use.
It wasn't long before Markus and Jacob hit it off at Midasplayer and began creating games of their own, which started to garner attention from the indie community. This didn't sit well with their bosses at Midasplayer, so in 2009 Markus left the company and joined Jalbum - a photo sharing and gallery creation website where Markus worked as a Java programmer.
He had always seen himself as a game creator and not a web developer, but he became habituated to the fact that he won't become rich with making games. Despite this, he had fun at Jalbum and quickly befriended CEO Carl Manneh. Unlike Markus's old bosses, Carl encouraged him to pursue his dreams and balance his work and passion.
That made all the change for Markus!
The Birth of Mojang and Minecraft
Markus wasn't just a passionate game developer - he was an enthusiastic gamer as well. On one such occasion, he discovered the game Infinminer, a sandbox type of game with very simple graphics where players could build their own world made of blocks.
Based on this game, he got the idea for Minecraft - a game with the similar premise of Infiniminer, with all the digging, and building. As the game's graphics were fairly simple and block-like, it took only a week for Markus to create it. He didn't spend too much time on the game, as he was rushing to launch it so he could focus on other games, but he couldn't predict how popular the game would become.
The game began to gain traction within the indie game community and sold 400 copies per day at a $6 price tag.
In 2010, they brought in Carl Manneh as the CEO as Markus admired his entrepreneurial spirit and the way he led Jalbum.
The three of them were off to a great start!
Controversies and Tragedies
Markus never thought that his unfinished game would pick up so quickly, as he only wanted to continue to make more and more games. But gaining popularity also came with plenty of controversies.
The game development world is based on games taking inspiration from one another, so it's nothing unheard of for a game to look like another of its type. However, the gaming community took issue with the game being strikingly similar to Infiniminer, which came out a few months before Minecraft.
This resulted in Markus being hit with plagiarism accusations by players.
The name Minecraft itself sounded similar to Infiniminer, but Markus' reasoning behind it was that the game is a combination of mining and crafting. It's also a nod to Blizzard's extremely popular games Starcraft, Warcraft and later World of Warcraft as well. Also, the game was supposed to have a subtitle Order of the Stone which was a nod to the online series Order of the Stick, heavily fawned over by Markus! Luckily, that name didn't really stick, as it probably would have caused even more controversies.
Markus knew he had a good game on his hands, created with the purest of intentions, but it was now the time for him to convince others as well.
Infiniminer creator Zachary Barth came out to clear the air and the allegations, feeling that Markus hadn't committed plagiarism - especially since at the time, the code for Infiminer got leaked on the Internet.
As if this wasn't enough of a blow, Markus was about to have the worst year of his life. In 2011, his father had committed suicide and Markus' year-old marriage broke up as well.
But, even after such a tragedy, he stayed focused on his work, starting a project called Ox10C, promptly abandoning it, and entering a creative dry spell.
Acquired by Microsoft
Minecraft was an insanely popular game, downloaded 20,000 times in the first year and as many times per day in the following years. The mass popularity of the game in the indie scene meant that Minecraft had created a community - a community that was constantly growing!
In 2012, the Xbox version of Minecraft sold a million copies just in the first week of release and that same year the company made $230 million.
By 2014, Markus was already burned out. He was just a simple guy who wanted nothing more than to create games, but the success and popularity was getting to him. He made a bit of an unconventional move, asking people on Twitter if anyone wanted to buy his shares. As if they were waiting for it, Microsoft took him up on the offer and by the end of 2014, Mojang was bought for a staggering $2.5 billion.
Markus, Jakob, and Carl left the company soon after the acquisition was finalized but still arranged for Markus to help out with consulting when needed. Today, Minecraft has become the best-selling video game of all time and has more than a 126 million monthly users.
Mojang remains the emanation of Markus's dream and continues to bring forth the most beloved game of all times, only now as a subsidiary of the tech giant Microsoft!