Microsoft and 4J Studios bringing Mojang’s world-building simulator, Minecraft, over to Xbox Live Arcade was a big deal when it was announced and was promoted as such by grabbing some of the spotlight during Microsoft’s pre-E3 2011 media briefing. As such, it stands to reason that the console holder and the Swedish studio behind the original version of the game hammered out a deal months ahead of time before carefully fine-tuning the specifics of its E3 announcement. Sure, that’s reasonable all right, but that’s not the way it happened, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft Studios Phil Spencer recently informed Destructoid.
“So I have a funny ‘behind the curtains’ story on Minecraft,” Spencer explained. “It was about a week before E3 last year when we made that deal as a first party. I believed in the project and we knew the studio. The graphic behind me last year on stage — if you were like, ‘What is that?’ it’s because it was created in one night. Even the people inside Microsoft, as they were looking at it, were thinking, ‘What is that Minecraft thing and why are we putting it on stage?'”
Being the enormous software and video game corporation that it is, Microsoft employs a huge variety of individuals with varying backgrounds and areas of expertise, so it’s not completely outlandish that some of its top brass were unfamiliar with the Minecraft phenomenon. It didn’t matter much that some of the folks up at Redmond didn’t “get it” either; Spencer knew what it was and just how big of a deal XBLA becoming its exclusive console platform was, and that was good enough for him. “It’s not that I’m smarter than everyone else,” he said. “I just probably play more games than most people at work. I said, ‘No, trust me this is something we want on stage.’ Just like Limbo the year before. And then the thing comes out and sells two million copies in a month. Did I know that? No. Even Mojang didn’t know that.”
Anyone who wasn’t familiar with the game at the time sure as heck is now. Not content to rule just the sales charts, 4J’s port has also dominated the free time of many who saw fit to drop 1600 Microsoft Points on it. Minecraft continues to be one of the most popular Xbox 360 games.