Why Did I Fake Stomach Ache To Build Computer Programs
The word “Minecraft” is ranked among one of the top words looked up on Google. Minecraft grossed more than $700 million users and it currently has an online game world that is larger than the physical surface of the earth. So how did a game that started out as building blocks, became one of the most played in history, selling over 20 million copies.
Markus Persson was born in Sweden; he grew up in a small town with 4,000 people. Although he may not have had any role models, his surrounding, however, did inspire him to build a game that changed his life. His father worked in railways and his mother was a nurse. Young Persson was not much of a people person, his obsession was Legos. When Markus was 7, his father brought home a Commodore 128 computer, moving from Legos to the computer was an easy transition for Persson, to make sure that he stayed on the computer, Persson would fake stomachaches to skip school.
Within a year he had written his first computer program, although this program was not worth much, it did help him improve his programming skills. Unfortunately at 12, his parents separated, this separation was hard on the family. His father became addicted to drugs, his sister couldn’t stay home. His mother who wanted to make sure that the divorce does not affect Persson enrolled him in a programming class. Because he would skip school he never finished high school but with the talent of coding, he managed to land his first programming job at 18.
At 25 he started working with King.com, this is where he met Jakob Porsér. Four years after joining Kings, he left and worked at Jalbum where he had some spare time to work on side projects. Persson and Porsér started writing games, and his first game was inspired by the surrounding of his youth; Cave Game, today known as Minecraft.
Cave Game was released in 2009, the first version was popular among coders. Players had to gather resources to build structures. It was the first virtual open world with a Lego-like playing field in which players would use various natural resources to build anything from houses to cities. Persson decided to advertise the game before finishing it, this turned out to be a smart decision. As Minecraft quickly struck a chord with players, Persson knew he was on the right track. The game was selling 400 copies per day for about $6 each. As money was coming in, the duo left their job and started their own company, Mojang. In the coming years, Minecraft had various updates, some of which were 51 new languages, trading with villagers, adding desert, jungle. Mojang continued to add objects until 2011.
20,000 users downloaded Minecraft in the first year. After releasing a version of Android and iOS systems (also known as the Pocket Edition) Minecraft grew, and rather than a game played once in a while, it became a community. Persson was now seeing 20,000 downloads per day. The creators decided to quit their daytime job to work full time on Minecraft, adding new features and fixing bugs. The game was a big hit, Persson had to hire people to serve customers. Sadly, with the success came news that left Persson confused, his father had committed suicide. Persson did not know what he wanted.
To overcome news about his father, he grilled himself into doing more work. When investors did approach him, he would deny their investments, as he felt the company was doing well without any outside investment.
After releasing an Xbox version, they sold more than a million copies. Mojang was banking $230 million in sales. Things were going well for Persson, but then, he decided to send out a tweet in June 2014 that said “Anyone want to buy my share of Mojang, so I can move on with my life?”
The CEO of Mojang saw the tweet, as the story goes within seconds of him reading the tweet he received a call from a Microsoft executive asking him if Persson was serious. Persson wanted out, a deal was made with Microsoft. And on September 15, 2014, Microsoft announced it would pay $2.5 billion, in cash, to acquire Mojang. Within hours of the announcement, Persson shared that he would depart from the company he created — “It’s not about the money, It’s about my sanity”. A man who was confused, who grew up in a place less than 4000 people, took inspiration from his surroundings and walked away with $2.5 billion.