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Why did Microsoft pay $2.5 billion for Minecraft creator Mojang?

Microsoft confirmed its $2.5 billion purchase of Minecraft developer Mojang today, with Microsofts's Head of Xbox division Phil Spencer noting that the acquisition "adds diversity to our game portfolio and helps us reach new gamers across multiple platforms."

It's a big chunk of change to spend on an independent studio founded in 2010, but its juggernaut product has since sold over 15 million units and spawned a merchandising empire. Minecraft earned a reported $326 million in revenue last year, continuing its year-on-year trend of increased profitability.

Creator Markus Persson expressed a desire to move away from Minecraft earlier this year following a notable shift in indie development culture, however. "The current indie scene is as new for the people making games as it is for the audience," Joystiq editor Jess Conditt wrote. "Indie developers don't have trained PR teams to guide them through the drama; many don't know that the press and public will take their tweets seriously; some of them aren't even sure what an embargo is. They receive death threats and then react like candid humans when the audience expects them to behave like detached professionals."

"As soon as this deal is finalized, I will leave Mojang and go back to doing Ludum Dares and small web experiments. If I ever accidentally make something that seems to gain traction, I'll probably abandon it immediately," Persson said in reference to the Microsoft purchase.

Here's a quick rundown of the events that led up to today's deal.

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Massively's ArcheAge launch diary: Day three - PvE, quests, and story

Welcome back to Massively's ArcheAge launch diary. I can't believe we're already on the third installment because there's still so much to see, do, and learn. That's a good thing, though, isn't it?

Yeah, it is, and while ArcheAge has its share of issues, its breadth and depth is incredibly welcome in a genre that's gotten far too comfortable repackaging the same tired experience.

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NBA 2K15 wonders "What if?" in MyTeam trailer

2K Sports recently offered a new trailer and details for NBA 2K15's MyTeam mode. Similar to EA Sports' various Ultimate Team modes, MyTeam has players building a squad of basketballers from across the sport's history, improving their team gradually over time.

One of the ways they'll be able to build their team this year is through a real-time auction house, seen in a few of the game's screens provided by 2K. Players will also have a challenge mode to put their team through its paces in several "What if?" fantasy scenarios. 2K Sports plans to add both multiplayer and weekly challenges to MyTeam throughout the year as well as user-created content. NBA 2K15 will launch October 7 for PS4, Xbox One, PS3, Xbox 360 and PC.
[Image: 2K Sports]

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Microsoft confirms acquisition of Minecraft studio Mojang

Microsoft announced it's bought Minecraft studio Mojang for a deal worth $2.5 billion. The buyout will see Mojang founders Markus "Notch" Persson, Carl Manneh and Jakob Porser leave the Swedish studio. Both companies confirmed the acquisition this morning, with Head of Xbox Phil Spencer noting Microsoft's "long seen the potential of Minecraft."

"At Microsoft, we believe in the power of content to unite people," Spencer wrote on Xbox Wire. "Minecraft adds diversity to our game portfolio and helps us reach new gamers across multiple platforms. Gaming is the top activity across devices and we see great potential to continue to grow the Minecraft community and nurture the franchise.

"That is why we plan to continue to make Minecraft available across platforms – including iOS, Android and PlayStation, in addition to Xbox and PC."

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Don't you step on my blue suede Pokemon New 3DS

Nintendo's New 3DS is getting Poke-themed limited editions in Japan to mark the launch of Pokemon Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby. The red Groudon and blue Kyogre systems are coming to the country's Pokemon Center stores alongside the games on November 21, and both handhelds feature suede faceplates for that extra luxurious feel you've always craved maybe when capturing pocket monsters. If you want in it's 19,000 yen (around $177) a piece, and they don't come with copies of the games.

The New 3DS itself launches in Japan on October 11 in both regular and XL models, and its New features include the right-hand analog C-stick, ZL and ZR shoulder buttons, built-in NFC tech, greater battery life, improved CPU and customizable faceplates, suede or otherwise. As for when the New 3DS launches outside of Japan, Nintendo's ruled out bringing it West in this calendar year. But you can nab Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby when the two 3DS remakes launch in North America on November 21 and Europe on November 28.
[Image: The Pokemon Company]

Saints Row creative director Jaros leaving Volition for Valve

After ten years at Volition, creative director Steve Jaros announced he's leaving the Saints Row studio to join the team at Valve Software. Jaros, who was at PAX Prime showcasing upcoming Saints Row 4 standalone expansion Gat out of Hell, enthused on Twitter about contributing to Saints Row and his "life changing" time at Volition. He added it was time to move on to "new adventures" at Valve, though he didn't specify what those adventures would entail.

In other words, expect the portal gun to get a dubstep attachment soon enough. As for Volition, the Deep Silver studio's working with High Voltage Software to bring Saints Row 4 to PS4 and Xbox One on January 27, 2015, with Gat out of Hell releasing on the same day for last-gen, current-gen and PC.
[Image: Deep Silver]

Driveclub additional to regular PS Plus allocation, says Sony [update]

PlayStation Plus members are getting the service's edition of Driveclub on top of next month's regular number of games, according to Sony Europe. That means the PS4 racer's lite edition is effectively a bonus for Plus subscribers, who can download and play it as well as the two PS4, two PS3 and two Vita freebies due monthly in the Instant Game Collection. The confirmation comes from Sony Europe's Fred Dutton on the region's PlayStation Blog, so we've reached out to Sony America to confirm the same deal applies. [Update: A Sony Computer Entertainment America spokesperson told Joystiq the same does apply for North America]

Evolution Studio's sim is out October 7 as a full retail game and in an edition free for Plus members, with the latter missing most of the cars and tracks available in the former. The Plus edition includes 10 cars and 5 tracks with 11 variations or routes, while the full game features 50 cars and 25 tracks with 55 routes. It's unclear whether or not the hashtag is included in the Plus edition, but the good news those who download the Driveclub freebie can upgrade to the full game for $50.
[Image: Sony Europe]

Destiny claims biggest launch ever for new IP in UK history

Destiny sold more at launch in the UK than any other new intellectual property in gaming history, following Activision's claim it shipped $500 million worldwide last week. Bungie's shooter is the second game to break the new-IP record this year, the first being Watch Dogs in May. The most successful UK launch of any game ever still belongs to Grand Theft Auto 5, but Destiny now boasts the biggest launch of 2014.

Not that any of that's surprising, frankly, and we're still waiting on hard sales figures from Activision. It's maybe more revealing to dissect Destiny's UK sales-by-platform percentages, especially since they offer a 50-50 cross-generation split between PlayStation and Xbox. While PS4 leads the way with 46 percent, Xbox One and Xbox 360 come in second and third with 36 and 14 percent respectively, and PS3 makes up the remaining 4 percent.

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Stiq Figures, September 1 - 7: Paying for early samples edition

Welcome to Stiq Figures, where the sales data is after the break and the posts don't matter.

With the rise of digital storefronts and all-in-one gaming consoles, there are a few more options to distribute demos than bundling compilation discs with gaming magazines. The modern difference is particularly underlined with Steam's Early Access, where betas and generally-unfinished portions of games can be sold with the promise of eventual full admission to the final experience. It seems increasingly more common for pre-orders to be rewarded with a headstart too, as was the case with Destiny's beta.

The decision to pay for access to unfinished concepts is always in the hands of a player, of course, but between Kickstarters, Early Access and pre-order samples, it all makes me wonder: How do you feel about it? Is there a thrill to getting a headstart on something you've been dying to play, even if it's rough around the edges or a year away from completion? Would you prefer it if development teams stuck to trailers, press releases and livestreams to promote their work? Is a compelling Kickstarter pitch enough to get a few bucks from you?

It feels like a conversation with a lot of angles to consider, and it'd be interesting to hear when you consider a project finished enough to spend some cash on a taste of it. Share your perspective on demos, betas and any other form of pre-launch gaming you have thoughts on, right after you check the Xbox One's debut in this week's Japanese hardware sales after the break!

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The White House's game jam focused on education

Pizza boxes, crowded computer labs and an overworked coffee maker – these are common sightings at plenty of game jams, but the interior of the White House and Secret Service members are a bit more uncommon. USA Today reports that 100 developers saw both when they gathered in Washington, D.C. for a game jam, an event sponsored by the White House to specifically focus on education.

Science and technology advisers from the Obama administration hosted the weekend-long jam, with attendees including Far Cry 4 contributing developer Red Storm Entertainment, Angry Birds developer Rovio, and GlassLab, a collaborative effort which includes members from the Entertainment Software Association and Electronic Arts.

The 23 participating teams retain all rights to the concepts they cooked up during the jam, and while there doesn't seem to be an official gallery to host the designs, there's plenty of photos and recollections unified by the "WHGameJam" hashtag on Twitter.
[Image: Wikimedia Commons]

Xbook One is Microsoft's console in laptop form

While Nintendo has its 3DS and Sony has its PlayStation Vita to please gamers on the go, Microsoft stands alone as the only major competitor in the modern games industry without a portable device dedicated to gaming. And well, for modder Ed Zarick, that just won't do. Behold: The Xbook One.

Combining the innards of an Xbox One with a 22-inch screen from a Vizio television and custom 3D printed parts, Zarick has turned Microsoft's newest home console into a portable device for mobile gaming. Well ... kind of.

While certainly easier to lug around than a standard Xbox One and 22-inch TV, the Xbook One isn't a device you can use just anywhere; it still requires an outlet for power, and the Kinect is not integrated into the design. Still, the modding on display here is impressive, and we could easily imagine the Xbook One being a hit with LAN parties and the like. Also, it's just fun to say: Xbook. Xbook.

You can check out Zarick's breakdown of the process at his website, and watch a video demonstration of the box after the break. If you want to get your own, you can order one straight from Zarick for the sum of $1,495, plus shipping.

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Distance brings Early Access patrons to the track this fall

After introducing players to its neon-streaked streets at PAX Prime last month and in a private beta, Refract Studios' Distance will turn the corner on Early Access sometime this fall. Although an exact arrival date has not been set, Refract's Kickstarter update explains the Early Access version should help private beta members find a few new multiplayer rivals.

There's more in Distance's bag of tricks than just speeding along raceways – as displayed in the beta trailer, players can twist, flip and spread their wings to navigate between sections of Distance's winding tracks.

Distance is a spiritual successor to Nitronic Rush, a similarly-hectic racer that the Refract team contributed to while studying at DigiPen. Since rights for Nitronic Rush were retained by DigiPen, Refract set out to finish their vision with Distance, which is eventually due for release on PC, Mac and Linux.
[Image: Refract Studios]

MMO Week in Review: ArcheAge has arrived

Row row row your boat gently down the stream, if you're incredibly lucky or maybe just invisible, you won't get PKed in the face
At the end of every week, we round up the best and most popular news stories, exclusive features, and insightful columns published on Massively and then present them all in one convenient place. If you missed a big MMO or WoW Insider story last week, you've come to the right post.

A huge MMO launched this week! No, not Destiny, although that launched too. I'm talking about ArcheAge, the long-awaited Trion/XL Games sandbox MMORPG that has finally sailed its way across the pond to western shores, probably in an actual boat because, you know, this game has actual boats. Yes, ArcheAge's head start is now live for founders, though it's not been without the usual round of long queues and server instability and DDoS attacks and people waiting in polite and tidy lines for quest mobs. We've been chronicling the head start in a series of launch diaries and streams and will continue doing so this week as we approach the formal launch.

Read on for a look at the rest of this week's top MMO stories.

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Day-one patch adding Challenge Mode to Hyrule Warriors

Hyrule Warriors who are looking for a test of skills that goes beyond the game's Adventure Mode will be glad to hear that, as reported by Nintendo World Report, developer Koei Tecmo will be releasing a day-one patch that adds Challenge Mode to the game when it releases in North America on September 26.

So just what is Challenge Mode? According to members of a Nintendo Treehouse stream made earlier this week, it's basically "Adventure Mode on steroids." So ... it's tougher and angrier, but also has some acne problems and premature balding? Whatever you say, Nintendo.

Obviously that's a joke, but the truth of the matter is we won't know what Challenge Mode has in store for us until later this month. Remember warriors, patience is a virtue.
[Image: Nintendo/Koei Tecmo]

Surgeon Simulator dev expands curriculum in Twelve a Dozen

Would you trust Bossa Studios, developers of the questionably-medically-accurate Surgeon Simulator, to teach basic math skills? Educational organization Amplify did, and the result of their collaboration is Twelve a Dozen, a puzzle-focused platformer that subtly teaches simple calculations and the order of operations.

In Twelve A Dozen, players guide Twelve and her companion Dot in an effort to save Twelve's family as a disaster descends upon Dozenopolis. Twelve's lesson plan spans 30 levels' worth of puzzles, with more coming in an eventual update. The App Store description notes that Twelve A Dozen is meant to support the curriculum of those aged 10 - 14, but all iPad users can brush up on the basics for $4.99 (£2.99).

Just ... don't go thinking you're a few hours away from practicing heart surgery once you can do algebra in your sleep.
[Image: Bossa Studios]

The Joystiq Podcast

The Joystiq Podcast

Super Joystiq Podcast Special: PAX Prime 2014

Latest episode: Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

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