“It’s one of the greatest success stories in gaming over the last 10 years,” said Doug Creutz, an analyst at Cowen & Co. in New York, referring to Mojang. “They’ve sold a lot of copies of Minecraft over the Xbox.” If a deal is reached, Microsoft plans to pay for an acquisition with cash held overseas, one person familiar with the company said. That would have favorable tax consequences for the software maker, whose vast majority of cash and short-term investments are kept outside the U.S.
The deal came together after Mojang founder Markus Persson reached out to Microsoft a few months ago, based on a positive working relationship on Minecraft for Xbox, said the person familiar with Microsoft. The two companies quickly agreed on a framework and approximate price and have been working out the details since, the person said. Persson will help out with the transition, though he is unlikely to remain beyond that, according to the person.
Minecraft is made for multiple platforms including consoles, computers and mobile devices. As of June, Mojang had sold more than 54 million copies of the game in all its forms. It was the No. 2 best-selling game by physical retail copies sold in July for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, behind Sony Corp.’s The Last of Us for PlayStation consoles, according to research firm NPD Group Inc. It was the No. 3 game in June.
Minecraft was made available for the newest generation of consoles, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, earlier this month. Microsoft, if it completes the deal, will keep the game available for rival products, said two people familiar with the company’s plans.