Sweden’s booming video game industry is more than just Microsoft’s ‘Minecraft’

Microsoft’s acquisition of “Minecraft” maker Mojang in 2014 thrust it into the center of Sweden’s vibrant video-gaming cluster, where a boom in the last half decade — that includes much more than “Minecraft” — is one of the biggest success stories in the industry.

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN — Microsoft raised eyebrows in 2014 with the announcement it was spending a hefty $2.5 billion to buy Mojang, the Swedish developer of world-building game “Minecraft.”

The reaction among the fast-growing video-game industry in Stockholm was a little different.

“For us, it was like, ‘Microsoft got a pretty sweet deal,’ ” said Susana Meza Graham, an executive with Swedish video game maker Paradox.

“Minecraft,” by the time Microsoft came calling, was a global phenomenon. It instantly gave Microsoft a hugely popular brand with kids and gamers of all ages, as well as the $100 million or so in profit that Mojang was then pulling in annually.

Bringing Mojang and its 35 employees under Microsoft’s umbrella also thrust the Redmond company into the center of a vibrant, and unique, video-gaming cluster.

Sweden’s video-game boom in the last half decade is one of the biggest success stories in the industry, fueled by a talented and creative workforce and the fruits of years of government support for education and technology.

The country today boasts the second-highest concentration of video-game studios per capita in the world (neighboring Finland is No. 1), according to data from industry tracker Gamedevmap. The U.S. clocks in at 13th, with less than half the rate of game companies per capita as Sweden.

And an industry trade group estimates that one out of every 10 people in the world has played a game developed in Sweden, from casual titles (“Candy Crush”) to the high-end (“Battlefield”) and whimsical (“Goat Simulator”).

Recently, many have plugged into “Minecraft,” an open-ended game that lets players pilot blocky characters and build elaborate universes. The game has sold more than 122 million copies, the second-biggest all-time seller behind No. 1 “Tetris.”

Converted factories

Stockholm, Sweden’s largest city and home to 930,000 people, is spread across an archipelago of 14 islands and coastline where Lake Mälaren meets the Baltic Sea.

At the core is the kidney-shaped island of Gamla Stan, “old town” in English, a maze of narrow cobbled streets connected by bridges and ferries to the adjacent islands.

Just to the south sits Södermalm, an island primarily used for farmland until its bogs and lakes were drained and working class housing was built in the 19th century. Today, it is Stockholm’s…

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