As you are probably aware, last Monday saw the purchase of self-confessed indie gaming company Mojang, home of hit game Minecraft, for a tidy £2.5 billion. However, while such success might be the dream of so many start ups, Mojang founder and Minecraft creator Markus ‘Notch’ Persson issued a weary statement in which he explains how success is not always worth it.
Writing on his blog, he explained: ‘I was at home with a bad cold a couple of weeks ago when the internet exploded with hate against me over some kind of EULA situation that I had nothing to do with.’ The backlash naturally ‘confused’ him and made him realise that he 'didn’t have the connection to [his] fans that [he] thought he had.’
Persson’s statement raises questions about just how much success you might actually wish for your company. Sure, he made a huge profit from the business that most of us would trade our grandparents for, leading many to brand him with the inevitable ‘sell out’ label. Having spoke out in the past against large corporations like Facebook and even Microsoft itself, Persson realised he had been made into some kind of symbol for the indie development community which he never sought and which he didn’t appreciate: ‘I’m not an entrepreneur. I’m not a CEO. I’m a nerdy computer programmer who likes to have opinions on Twitter [...] A lot of you were using me as a symbol of some perceived struggle. I’m not. I’m a person, and I’m right there struggling with you.’
Interestingly, he declares outright that he never wants to be responsible again for something so enormous, saying that he will ‘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.'
For Persson, the success of Minecraft has turned his company and his creation into something he never intended it to be, and the glaring public spotlight seems only have made it easier for him to hand it over to Microsoft. While many fans are now understandably worried about the direction in which Minecraft will now go under Microsoft, the wrath of many towards some of Persson’s decisions has clearly been the last straw: ‘It’s not about the money. It’s about my sanity.’
So there you have it. Not what you might expect to hear from the founder of one of the gaming industry’s most successful start ups, but definitely something to bear in mind when thinking about the future of your own business. When a project becomes so big that you reckon your mental stability is on the rocks, it’s probably time to jump ship. And ideally earn $2.5 billion at the same time.