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Notch doesn't make Minecraft anymore

Commentary: You need to understand a child's innocent passion for Minecraft to know why today's news had such a deep impact across the globe.

So much more than a video game. Microsoft

This morning Australia woke up to the news that Microsoft has purchased Mojang for a "smooth $2.5 BILLION", as Mojang called it in its press release. We expected it, of course, after last week's buildup, but the reality hit with a weight I didn't expect.

In the next room, I could hear my two kids, five and eight, awake and playing Minecraft. Not the video game itself, but their imaginative play version. Wielding their toy Minecraft diamond sword and pickaxe, I could hear them playing out a journey from the world of Stampy Cat to the world of the Minecraft Crew, their two favourite Minecraft YouTube channels.

Over the weekend my kids spent a few hours playing the actual game. When they weren't playing, they spent time before bed reading books learning about how to construct better buildings in Minecraft, and how to work with Redstone to build powered devices like railways and automatic doors (the same magical in-game material others have used to build working hard drives). On Friday my son wore his Minecraft T-shirt to school.

My kids and many of their friends love Minecraft deeply, and they know the story of Notch, the Swedish game designer who tinkered with a small idea and created this thing they love more than anything else in the world. Notch, who has been plain in his humble attitude to material wealth while his creation has generated hundreds of millions of dollars. Notch, the guy who pulled the plug on an Oculus Rift version of Minecraft because "Facebook creeps me out".

Notch hasn't even been directly involved with day-to-day Minecraft development since 2011. I've known that for a long time, but that wasn't as exciting as telling the kids about the man in Sweden who had made their video game dreams come true.

Markuss 'Notch' Persson BAFTA

To my children, Notch is Willy Wonka, Batman and Santa Claus all rolled into one. He's someone who inspires them, dispensing joy with each new content patch. He's the game developer they needed. He's someone they can believe in. A symbol of independence, honesty and openness in a sea of restrictive and dictatorial digital entertainment options.

And this is exactly what Notch says he needed to reject. He never wanted to be a symbol. He just wanted to have fun being a nobody who makes games. This whole Minecraft thing was a dizzying accident, and now he wants to go back to being just some guy in Sweden messing about with ideas.

Already we're seeing fury and anger on social media at how Notch and Mojang could sell out like this. Somehow, after all their hard work, they are accused of not caring about what they've created.

It's a cry for yet another end of innocence, that even this merry band of upstarts can be tempted by the kind of money that could provide for their families into the 22nd Century. How dare they.

When I fear for what Minecraft might become, it isn't because of Microsoft specifically. That said, Microsoft does have a history of wasting incredible game development talent -- Bungie and Rare the most obvious examples. This will be another test of whether Nadella's Microsoft can be different to Ballmer's.

My fear is the peeling back of the curtain. The discovery that Wonka is actually a real person who is feeling overwhelmed and needs a rest. That a few months ago people got so angry about something that changed at Mojang it was the last straw. And that means he can't be part of Minecraft anymore.

Who knows, maybe we'll now get that Oculus Rift version and it will be a revelation. Maybe Minecraft Realms will be packaged into Office 365 for free and we'll all live happily ever after.

The machinery is being adjusted. The same team is at the helm, but a new team charts the course. The stakes have changed. They must. The Nasdaq is now involved, shareholders expecting growing returns. Returns on that "smooth $2.5 BILLION". How long until my children start to sense that something has changed about their favourite thing in the world?

For now, I just can't be sure how to tell them Notch doesn't make Minecraft anymore.

However I do it, it won't be today. As they go Minecraft adventuring gleefully in their room, I'll let them believe in Notch a little longer.