Microsoft is buying Minecraft maker Mojang. Reports of Microsoft’s plans surfaced nearly a week ago, and the software maker is making it official today. Microsoft is paying $2.5 billion to acquire Mojang, and the deal is expected to close by the end of the year. "Minecraft adds diversity to our game portfolio and helps us reach new gamers across multiple platforms," says Xbox chief Phil Spencer. "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 makeMinecraft available across platforms – including iOS, Android and PlayStation, in addition to Xbox and PC."
Minecraft creator Markus Persson, known as Notch, will not be joining Microsoft as part of the acquisition. "He’s decided that he doesn’t want the responsibility of owning a company of such global significance," says Mojang’s Owen Hill. "Over the past few years he’s made attempts to work on smaller projects, but the pressure of owning Minecraft became too much for him to handle. The only option was to sell Mojang. He’ll continue to do cool stuff though. Don’t worry about that." Notch has previously criticized Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system, but in a revealing blog post he discusses his reasons for leaving Mojang and Minecraft. "If I ever accidentally make something that seems to gain traction, I’ll probably abandon it immediately," says Persson."Thank you for turning Minecraft into what it has become, but there are too many of you, and I can’t be responsible for something this big."
While there are constant calls from investors for Microsoft to sell off its Xbox division and not focus on gaming at all, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella sees things differently. "Gaming is a top activity spanning devices, from PCs and consoles to tablets and mobile, with billions of hours spent each year," says Nadella. "Minecraft is more than a great game franchise — it is an open world platform, driven by a vibrant community we care deeply about, and rich with new opportunities for that community and for Microsoft."
There are a number of likely reasons why Microsoft is buying Minecraft, and some analysts believe the move could boost Windows Phone’s prospects. Minecraft has been a popular app on iOS and Android, but the game isn’t currently available on Windows Phone. It’s hard to imagine a version not existing on Windows Phone in future after today’s deal, but Microsoft may also choose to add additional features and benefits to its own Windows version to entice Android and iOS users.
MICROSOFT TAPS MINECRAFT'S HUGE POTENTIAL
Microsoft’s other interests with Minecraft are likely related to its huge following, and the ability to attract future developer talent to the Windows platform.Minecraft was originally released in test form five years ago as an indie game that allows players to shape an environment by crafting and building constructions out of blocks. A younger generation of players have flocked to the game, and videos of replica objects and tips on how to play Minecraft are regularly shared with millions of views on YouTube. More than 54 million copies of Minecraft have been sold across PC, Xbox 360, PS3, and other platforms, demonstrating its reach and success.
That popularity means Minecraft is essentially the digital equivalent of Lego blocks, allowing players to create their own worlds that can be shared and edited by others. If Microsoft can tap into that culture without upsetting the millions of devoted fans, then it could serve to open up Minecraftto even bigger audiences as a tool for building, education, and development.
NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover Arrives at Martian Mountain
This image shows the old and new routes of NASA's Mars Curiosity rover and is composed of color strips taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment, or HiRISE, on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. This new route provides excellent access to many features in the Murray Formation. And it will eventually pass by the Murray Formation's namesake, Murray Buttes, previously considered to be the entry point to Mt. Sharp.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona
NASA's Mars Curiosity rover has reached the Red Planet's Mount Sharp, a Mount-Rainier-size mountain at the center of the vast Gale Crater and the rover mission's long-term prime destination.
"Curiosity now will begin a new chapter from an already outstanding introduction to the world," said Jim Green, director of NASA's Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "After a historic and innovative landing along with its successful science discoveries, the scientific sequel is upon us."
Curiosity’s trek up the mountain will begin with an examination of the mountain's lower slopes. The rover is starting this process at an entry point near an outcrop called Pahrump Hills, rather than continuing on to the previously-planned, further entry point known as Murray Buttes. Both entry points lay along a boundary where the southern base layer of the mountain meets crater-floor deposits washed down from the crater’s northern rim.
"It has been a long but historic journey to this Martian mountain,” said Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “The nature of the terrain at Pahrump Hills and just beyond it is a better place than Murray Buttes to learn about the significance of this contact. The exposures at the contact are better due to greater topographic relief."
After 2 years and nearly 9 kilometers of driving, NASA’s Mars Curiosity has arrived at the base of Mount Sharp.
The decision to head uphill sooner, instead of continuing to Murray Buttes, also draws from improved understanding of the region’s geography provided by the rover’s examinations of several outcrops during the past year. Curiosity currently is positioned at the base of the mountain along a pale, distinctive geological feature called the Murray Formation. Compared to neighboring crater-floor terrain, the rock of the Murray Formation is softer and does not preserve impact scars, as well. As viewed from orbit, it is not as well-layered as other units at the base of Mount Sharp.
Curiosity made its first close-up study last month of two Murray Formation outcrops, both revealing notable differences from the terrain explored by Curiosity during the past year. The first outcrop, called Bonanza King, proved too unstable for drilling, but was examined by the rover’s instruments and determined to have high silicon content. A second outcrop, examined with the rover's telephoto Mast Camera, revealed a fine-grained, platy surface laced with sulfate-filled veins.
While some of these terrain differences are not apparent in observations made by NASA's Mars orbiters, the rover team still relies heavily on images taken by the agency’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) to plan Curiosity’s travel routes and locations for study.
For example, MRO images helped the rover team locate mesas that are over 60 feet (18 meters) tall in an area of terrain shortly beyond Pahrump Hills, which reveal an exposure of the Murray Formation uphill and toward the south. The team plans to use Curiosity's drill to acquire a sample from this site for analysis by instruments inside the rover. The site lies at the southern end of a valley Curiosity will enter this week from the north.
Though this valley has a sandy floor the length of two football fields, the team expects it will be an easier trek than the sandy-floored Hidden Valley, where last month Curiosity's wheels slipped too much for safe crossing.
Curiosity reached its current location after its route was modified earlier this year in response to excessive wheel wear. In late 2013, the team realized a region of Martian terrain littered with sharp, embedded rocks was poking holes in four of the rover’s six wheels. This damage accelerated the rate of wear and tear beyond that for which the rover team had planned. In response, the team altered the rover’s route to a milder terrain, bringing the rover farther south, toward the base of Mount Sharp.
"The wheels issue contributed to taking the rover farther south sooner than planned, but it is not a factor in the science-driven decision to start ascending here rather than continuing to Murray Buttes first," said Jennifer Trosper, Curiosity Deputy Project Manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. "We have been driving hard for many months to reach the entry point to Mount Sharp," Trosper said. "Now that we've made it, we'll be adjusting the operations style from a priority on driving to a priority on conducting the investigations needed at each layer of the mountain."
After landing inside Gale Crater in August 2012, Curiosity fulfilled in its first year of operations its major science goal of determining whether Mars ever offered environmental conditions favorable for microbial life. Clay-bearing sedimentary rocks on the crater floor, in an area called Yellowknife Bay, yielded evidence of a lakebed environment billions of years ago that offered fresh water, all of the key elemental ingredients for life, and a chemical source of energy for microbes.
NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Project continues to use Curiosity to assess ancient habitable environments and major changes in Martian environmental conditions. The destinations on Mount Sharp offer a series of geological layers that recorded different chapters in the environmental evolution of Mars.
The Mars Exploration Rover Project is one element of NASA's ongoing preparation for a human mission to the Red Planet in the 2030s. JPL built Curiosity and manages the project and MRO for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.