Early-morning tweet and ‘farmer talk’ leads to Microsoft-Mojang deal

A frustrated tweet from Mojang’s co-founder and a fast flurry of emails among Microsoft executives triggered the negotiations that led to Microsoft’s $2.6 billion acquisition of Sweden’s Mojang. A little Swedish “farmer talk” didn’t hurt.

Microsoft’s acquisition of “Minecraft” began with a tweet and a text.

Markus “Notch” Persson, the man behind the smash hit world-building game, posted a tweet out of frustration with the fame of running a company with obsessive fans. “Anyone want to buy my share of Mojang so I can move on with my life?” he said, early in the morning of June 16, 2014, referring to the Stockholm-based company that built “Minecraft.”

Halfway across the world in Redmond, Peter Zetterberg saw the post. Sweden-born Zetterberg had spent years at Microsoft building an Xbox relationship with Mojang’s top brass. He fired off a text to then-Mojang CEO Carl Manneh.

Was Persson serious? And if he was, would Mojang consider an offer from Microsoft?

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Persson was serious, Manneh said. And they would like to talk to Microsoft.

“We needed to act fast,” Zetterberg said. “Microsoft time is not the same as at another company.”

Zetterberg emailed Microsoft publishing executive Matt Booty at 2 a.m. By 7, his memo had made its way to Xbox chief Phil Spencer, and, soon after, to new Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. Spencer and Manneh would speak on the phone that morning.

Three months later, in September 2014, Microsoft announced a $2.5 billion deal to buy Mojang and “Minecraft,” outmaneuvering reported rival bidders Activision and Electronic Arts and scooping up a worldwide phenomenon well on its way to becoming the second-best-selling video game of all time.

Since closing the deal, Microsoft has tried to avoid breaking Mojang’s laid-back corporate culture with too many rules from Redmond, or making any moves that might turn off “Minecraft’s” legions of fans.

Executives at Microsoft, and employees in Sweden’s video-gaming industry, say they seem to have succeeded at both so far.

Booty, who now oversees Mojang from Redmond, said Microsoft tried “to start out with the minimal amount of integration as possible.” Initially, that meant refraining from even plugging Mojang’s offices into Microsoft’s corporate computer network (Mojang has since integrated into Microsoft’s systems).

“It took us a few months, up to a year, to get to know each other,” said Mojang CEO Jonas Mårtensson, former CEO Manneh’s twin brother. “It’s been a surprisingly good ride, I would say.”

Many of the changes since the deal have taken place in Redmond.

“Minecraft” quickly became one of Microsoft’s flagship products. The company has touted the game’s applications in everything from HoloLens to Windows and education initiatives.

Booty calls Microsoft a “steward” of the…

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