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Mojang Studios

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Mojang Studios
Formerly
  • Mojang Specifications (2009–2010)
  • Mojang AB (2010–2020)
TypeSubsidiary
IndustryVideo games
Founded2009; 12 years ago (2009)
FounderMarkus Persson
Headquarters,
Sweden
Key people
  • Jonas Mårtensson (CEO)
  • Vu Bui (COO)
Products
Number of employees
~600 (2021)
ParentXbox Game Studios (2014–present)
Websitemojang.com

Mojang Studios[a] is a Swedish video game developer based in Stockholm. It was founded by the independent video game designer Markus Persson in 2009 as Mojang Specifications for the development and release of Persson's sandbox and survival video game Minecraft. The studio inherited its name from a previous video game venture Perrson had left two years prior. Following the game's release, Persson, in conjunction with Jakob Porsér, incorporated the business as Mojang AB in late 2010 and hired Carl Manneh as the company's chief executive officer. Other early hires included Daniel Kaplan and Jens Bergensten.

Minecraft became highly successful, eventually the best-selling game of all time, giving Mojang sustained growth. With a desire to move on with the game, Persson offered to sell his share in Mojang, and the company was acquired by Microsoft through Xbox Game Studios (then known as Microsoft Studios) in November 2014. Persson, Porsér, and Manneh subsequently left Mojang, with Jonas Mårtensson replacing Manneh. In May 2020, Mojang was rebranded as Mojang Studios.

As of 2021, the company employs approximately 600 people.[4] Executives include chief executive officer Mårtensson and chief operating officer Vu Bui.[5] Apart from Minecraft, Mojang Studios has developed Caller's Bane, a digital collectable card game, Crown and Council, a turn-based strategy game, and the dungeon crawl game Minecraft Dungeons. It also released various smaller games as part of game jams organised by Humble Bundle and published the externally developed Cobalt and Cobalt WASD.

History

Background and formation (2009–2010)

Markus Persson founded Mojang Studios in 2009.

Mojang Studios was founded by Markus Persson, a Swedish independent video game designer and programmer, in 2009.[6][7] He had gained interest in video games at an early age, playing The Bard's Tale and several pirated games on his father's Commodore 128 home computer, and learned to programme at age eight with help from his sister. Because he was a "loner" in school, he spent most of his spare time with games and programming at home.[7] Following his graduation and a few years of working as a web developer, Persson created Wurm Online, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game, with colleague Rolf Jansson in 2003. They used the name "Mojang Specifications" during the development and, as the game started turning a profit, incorporated the company Mojang Specifications AB (an aktiebolag) in 2007. Persson left the project later that year and wished to reuse the name, wherefore Jansson renamed the company Onetoofree AB and later Code Club AB.[7][8][9] Meanwhile, Persson had joined Midas, later known as King.com, where he developed 25–30 games. He departed the company when he was barred from creating games in his free time.[7]

In May 2009, Persson began working on a clone of Infiniminer, a game developed by Zachtronics and released earlier that year. Persson reused assets and parts of the engine code from an earlier personal project and released the first alpha version of the game, now titled Minecraft, on 17 May 2009, followed by the first commercial version on 13 June 2009. He reused the name "Mojang Specifications" for this release.[6][10] In less than a month, Minecraft had generated enough revenue for Persson to take time off his day job, which he was able to quit entirely by May 2010.[6] All sales were processed through the game's website, wherefore he did not have to split income with third parties.[11] The payment services provider PayPal temporarily disabled his account when it suspected fraud.[7]

In September 2010, Persson travelled to Bellevue, Washington, to the offices of video game company Valve, where he took part in a programming exercise and met with Gabe Newell, before being offered a job at the company.[12] He turned down the offer and instead contacted Jakob Porsér, a former colleague from King.com, to ask for aid in establishing a business out of Mojang Specifications. In response, Porsér stated that he would quit his job the following day, and they subsequently incorporated Mojang AB.[6][7][13] While Persson continued working on Minecraft, Porsér would develop Scrolls, a digital collectable card game.[14][15] Wishing to focus on game development, they hired Carl Manneh, the manager of jAlbum, Persson's previous employer, as chief executive officer. Other significant early hires included Daniel Kaplan as business developer, Markus Toivonen as an art director, and Jens Bergensten as lead programmer.[6]

Continued growth (2011–2013)

Mojang's offices were formerly located on Maria Skolgata 83, Stockholm.

In January 2011, Minecraft reached one million registered accounts and ten million six months thereafter. The continued success led Mojang to start the development of a new version for mobile devices. Due to the incompatibility of the game's Java-based framework with mobile devices, this version was programmed in C++ instead. Another version, initially developed for Xbox 360, was outsourced to Scotland-based developer 4J Studios, which also used C++.[6] Scrolls was announced by Mojang in March 2011.[15] The studio's attempt to trademark the game's name resulted in a dispute with ZeniMax Media, which cited similarities between the game's name and that of the ZeniMax-owned The Elder Scrolls series.[16] Kaplan stated in May 2011 that, due to many such requests in the past, Mojang was planning to publish or co-publish games from other indie game studios.[17] Its first, Cobalt from Oxeye Game Studio, was announced in August.[18] An early version of the game was made available in December 2011, with the full game released in February 2016 for Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows.[19][20] A multiplayer-focused spin-off, Cobalt WASD, was also developed by Oxeye Game Studio and released by Mojang for Microsoft Windows in November 2017, following a phase in early access.[21][22]

For the full release of Minecraft, Mojang held Minecon, a dedicated convention event, in Las Vegas on 18–19 November 2011, with Minecraft formally being released during a presentation on the first day.[6][23] Thereafter, Minecon was turned into an annual event.[24] Following Minecraft's full release, Persson transferred his role as lead designer for the game to Bergensten in December 2011.[14]

Among others, Sean Parker, the co-founder of Napster and former president of Facebook, offered to invest in Mojang in 2011 but was turned down.[7][25] At the time, the studio ruled out being sold or becoming a public company to maintain its independence, which was said to have heavily contributed to Minecraft's success.[2][13] By March 2012, Minecraft had sold five million copies, amounting to US$80 million in revenue.[25] In November, Mojang had 25 employees, and total revenues of $237.7 million in 2012.[13][26] In 2013, it released an education-focused version of Minecraft for Raspberry Pi devices, and—after the exclusivity clause penned with Microsoft over the availability of the game's console edition on Microsoft's platforms had expired—announced editions of the game for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita.[6] In October 2013, Jonas Mårtensson, formerly of gambling company Betsson, was hired as Mojang's vice-president.[27] That year, Mojang recorded revenues of $330 million, of which $129 million were profit.[11]

Microsoft subsidiary (2014–present)

Persson, exhausted from the pressure of being the owner of Minecraft, published a tweet in June 2014, asking whether anyone would be willing to buy his share in Mojang. Several parties expressed interest in this offer—including Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, and Microsoft—and Mojang chose to be acquired by Microsoft due to their previous partnerships.[6] Persson, Porsér and Manneh had been the only shareholders at this time.[28] Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella stated that the possible use of Minecraft with the HoloLens, the company's mixed reality device, had been a major factor in the acquisition.[29] The purchase agreement for $2.5 billion was announced on 15 September 2014.[30] The acquisition was finalized on 6 November and Mojang became part of the Microsoft Studios label that day.[28][31] Persson, Porsér and Manneh subsequently left Mojang, of whom Manneh was succeeded by Mårtensson.[6][32] Every employee who remained with the company for six months thereafter was awarded a bonus of roughly $300,000 (after taxes).[33]

Scrolls was released out-of-beta in December 2014 and development of further content ceased in 2015.[34][35] Also in December 2014, Mojang and Telltale Games jointly announced a partnership in which the latter would develop Minecraft: Story Mode, an episodic, narrative-driven game set in the Minecraft universe.[36] In April 2016, Mojang released Crown and Council, a game entirely developed by artist Henrik Pettersson (who had been hired in August 2011), for free for Microsoft Windows.[37][38] An update in January 2017 introduced Linux and macOS versions.[39] Mojang discontinued support for Scrolls' online services in February 2018 and re-released the game under a free-to-play model and with the name Caller's Bane in June.[35][40] Aiming to expand the Minecraft franchise with further games, Mojang developed two spin-offs: Minecraft Dungeons, a dungeon crawler, and Minecraft Earth, an augmented reality game in the vein of Pokémon Go. They were announced in September 2018 and May 2019, respectively[41][42]

Minecraft Classic, the original browser-based version of Minecraft, was re-released for free on its ten-year anniversary in May 2019.[43] By this time, Minecraft had sold 147 million copies, making it the best-selling video game of all time.[44] Persson was explicitly excluded from the anniversary's festivities due to several controversial statements of his involving transphobia and other issues; an update for Minecraft released the March before also removed several references to Persson.[45] On 17 May 2020, Minecraft's eleventh anniversary, Mojang announced its rebranding to Mojang Studios, aiming to reflect its multi-studio structure, and introduced a new logo.[46][47] Minecraft Dungeons was released later that month for Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.[48]

Games developed

Year Title Genre(s) Platform(s) Notes Ref(s).
2011 Minecraft Sandbox, survival Android, Fire OS, iOS, Linux, macOS, Microsoft Windows, Raspberry Pi, tvOS, Windows Phone N/A [49]
2014 Caller's Bane Digital collectable card game Android, macOS, Microsoft Windows Originally titled Scrolls [34][40]
2016 Crown and Council Strategy Linux, macOS, Microsoft Windows N/A [38][39]
2020 Minecraft Dungeons Dungeon crawler Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One N/A [48]

Game jam games

Mojang partnered with Humble Bundle in 2012 to launch Mojam, a game jam event to raise money for charity, as part of which Mojang developed the shoot 'em up mini-game Catacomb Snatch. 81,575 bundles including the game were sold, raising $458,248.99.[50] The following year, Mojang developed three mini-games for Mojam 2.[51] The studio also participated in Humble Bundle's Games Against Ebola game jam in 2014 with three further mini-games.[52]

Year Title Event Ref(s).
2012 Catacomb Snatch Mojam [53][54]
2013 Nuclear Pizza War Mojam 2 [55]
Endless Nuclear Kittens
Battle Frogs
2014 Docktor Games Against Ebola [52][56]
Healthcore Evolved
Snake Oil Stanley

Unreleased games

In 2011, Persson and Kaplan envisioned a hybrid of Minecraft and Lego bricks and agreed with the Lego Group to develop the game as Brickcraft, codenamed Rex Kwon Do (in reference to the film Napoleon Dynamite).[57] The game has also been described as a first-person shooter.[58][59] Mojang hired two new programmers to work on the game, while a prototype was created by Persson. However, Mojang cancelled the project after six months.[57] Upon announcing the cancellation in July 2012, Persson stated that the move was performed so that Mojang could focus on the games it wholly owned.[59] Daniel Mathiasen, a Lego Group employee at the time, later blamed the cancellation on a series of legal hurdles that the Lego Group had put in place to protect the product's family-friendly image. Kaplan lamented that the staff at Mojang had felt more like consultants on the project, rather than its designers. The Lego Group also considered acquiring Mojang at this point but later decided against doing so as they had not foreseen that Minecraft would become as popular as it would at one point be.[57]

In March 2012, Persson revealed that he would be designing a sandbox space trading and combat simulator in the likes of Elite.[60] Titled 0x10c, it was to be set in the year 281,474,976,712,644 AD in a parallel universe.[61][62] The project was shelved by August 2013, with Persson citing a lack of interest and a creative block.[14][63] Minecraft Earth was made available as an early-access game in November 2019 for Android and iOS.[64] In January 2021, it was announced that the game would be withdrawn from sale in June that year, with all player data deleted in July. Mojang Studios cited the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as primary reason for the game's closure, as its effects conflicted with the game's concept.[65]

Games published

Year Title Platform(s) Developer(s) Ref(s).
2016 Cobalt Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One Oxeye Game Studio [20]
2017 Cobalt WASD Microsoft Windows [21]

Legal disputes

Scrolls naming dispute

In August 2011, after Mojang had attempted to trademark the word "Scrolls" for their game, ZeniMax Media, the parent company of The Elder Scrolls publisher Bethesda Softworks, issued a cease and desist letter, claiming that Scrolls infringed on ZeniMax's "The Elder Scrolls" trademark, that Mojang could not use the name, and that ZeniMax would sue the studio over the word's usage.[16][66] Persson offered to give up the trademark and add a subtitle to Scrolls' name, however, as Mojang ignored the cease and desist letter, ZeniMax filed the lawsuit in September.[16][67][68] Bethesda's Pete Hines stated that Bethesda was not responsible for the lawsuit, rather the issue was centred around "lawyers who understand it".[69][70] Mojang won an interim injunction in October, the ruling being that Scrolls and The Elder Scrolls were too easy to differentiate, though ZeniMax could still appeal the ruling.[71][72] In March 2012, Mojang and ZeniMax settled, with all "Scrolls" trademarks and trademark applications being transferred to ZeniMax, who would in turn licence the name to Mojang for use with Scrolls and add-on content, but not for sequels or any other games with similar names.[73][74]

Uniloc USA, Inc. et al v. Mojang AB

On 20 July 2012, Uniloc, a company specialising in digital rights management technologies, filed a lawsuit against Mojang, stating that the licence verification system in Minecraft's Android version infringed on one of Uniloc's patents.[75][76] The case was Uniloc USA, Inc. et al v. Mojang AB and was filed with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.[77] In response to hate mail, Uniloc founder Ric Richardson denied his involvement, claiming to have only filed the patent.[78] The patent was invalidated in March 2016.[79]

Putt-Putt cease and desist

In July 2013, the minigolf chain Putt-Putt issued a cease and desist letter against Mojang and Don Mattrick (who was previously affiliated with Minecraft's Xbox 360 version but had since joined Zynga), alleging that they infringed on its "Putt-Putt" trademark. Attached to the letter, which Persson shared on Twitter, was a Google Search screenshot showing videos of user-created maps using the name. Alex Chapman, Mojang's lawyer, stated "I think there is clearly a misunderstanding here as to what Minecraft actually is. It's a game that, amongst other things, allows people to build things. Mojang doesn't control what users build and Mojang doesn't control the content of the videos users make. Suing Mojang for what people do using Minecraft is like suing Microsoft for what people do using Word."[80][81]

Notes

  1. ^ Originally from Swedish mojäng [mʊˈjɛŋː], lit.'gadget';[1][2] since the rebranding to Mojang Studios, it is pronounced /moʊˈdʒæŋ/.[3]

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