Why Microsoft won't release Minecraft 2

Since its release in 2011, Minecraft has become one of the most popular games of all time—inspiring Microsoft to acquire the developer, Mojang, three years later. But now that the studio is under Microsoft's control, they've made it expressly clear that they have no plans to pursue a sequel, saying it doesn't "make the most sense." In other words, in the company's eyes, it isn't a traditional game—and there's a lot more they can do with the property than people realize. Here are a few reasons why Microsoft won't make Minecraft 2.

Microsoft only recently acquired Mojang

Minecraft first exploded onto the scene in 2009, when Swedish developer Markus "Notch" Persson released an alpha version on the TIGSource forums. Even though the game was only in its infancy at the time, it had quite an impact—so much that Valve paid for Persson to visit their headquarters and see if he was interested in a job. Persson took them up on their offer but ended up turning down a position. Instead, he helped co-found Mojang.

By co-founding an independent video game developer/publisher, Persson was able to continue working on his Minecraft project uninterrupted and without the stress of deadlines. Two years later, in 2011, Persson and Mojang released a completed version of the game on PC, Mac, and Linux. Within three years of release, it had expanded to last-generation consoles and amassed a user base of over 100 million people worldwide.

In September 2014, Microsoft acquired Minecraft as well as Mojang for $2.5 billion. Although the company planned to not only continue supporting Minecraft but also expand the game to other platforms, they had no immediate plans for a sequel—it's only been two years since the acquisition, and looking at what other Microsoft studios have done, it fits with their history. For example, Microsoft-owned studio 343 Industries didn't release their first Halo game until five years after forming.

Minecraft is expanding to new platforms

By the time Microsoft acquired Mojang in 2014, Minecraft had expanded from its initial PC, Mac, and Linux release to mobile devices, specifically Android and iOS phones, as well as consoles such as Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. These releases allowed for Minecraft to drastically widen its audience, which fit squarely within Xbox head honcho Phil Spencer's goals. "For me, I look at it as a great game to add to our portfolio," he told IGN. "I love [the gamer] who plays Minecraft. I love that male, female, young, and old—it's something that lives on so many different screens. I'd love to bring it to more screens out there."

After the Microsoft acquisition, the company helped Mojang expand even further, to new consoles and eventually handheld devices. In conjunction with 4J Studios, who developed the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of Minecraft, Mojang was able to release the game on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in 2014; later that year, in October, the company made its first handheld release for Minecraft on PlayStation Vita, and in December, they released the game on Windows Phone.

Thanks to Microsoft's acquisition, Windows Phone users aren't being left out in the cold anymore when it comes to popular games. Interestingly, when they acquired Mojang, Microsoft promised to continue supporting and releasing the game on non-Microsoft devices—a promise they upheld when Minecraft made it to the Wii U in 2016.

The game is still thriving

Even though it has been five years since its initial release, Minecraft is still thriving. In fact, it's doing better than ever now that Mojang is part of Microsoft. By the time Microsoft acquired Mojang, Minecraft had amassed a user base of over 100 million people, but only 14.3 percent of users eventually convert into paid subscribers.

By June 2014, just three months prior to Microsoft's acquisition, Minecraft had totaled an estimated 54 million copies sold across PC, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. That means Minecraft was already a global phenomenon when Microsoft acquired the game. Within two years, though, the company was able to take Minecraft's popularity and virtually double its sales across new platforms.

By expanding to the aforementioned platforms in 2014 and 2015, Microsoft turned Minecraft into one of the highest-selling games of all time. As of June 2016, Minecraft had surpassed 100 million copies sold, totaling almost 107 million, and averaging 53,000 sales a day. With 24 million of those copies being taken up by PC users, Minecraft has become the highest-selling PC game of all time, outpacing World of Warcraft's second-place total of 14 million copies sold. Minecraft now trails only Tetris as the second highest-selling game of all time, with Wii Sports in third place with 82 million copies sold.

New content continues to release

Other than revolutionizing a game, the main reason for a new installment in a video game series is so users can get new content. So long as Microsoft and Mojang continue to release new content for Minecraft—which is what they plan on doing—users won't hound the company and studio for a new iteration.

When the game first arrived, it only had a Survival Mode, in which players are required to gather resources (wood, stone, etc.) in order to begin crafting. Furthermore, the environment is filled with dangerous monsters, which force the player to build some sort of shelter at night to protect themselves. Not much later, Mojang thought it would be fun to add a Hardcore Mode, which sets the game on the toughest difficulty, and if a player were to die in a hardcore server, they would forever be banned from joining again.

Mojang later added a Creative Mode for players who just wanted to explore and create, allowing the player full access to resources and neutralizing their environmental damage. There is also a Spectator Mode that allows for players to, quite literally, watch without participating in gameplay. And then, finally, they added an Adventure Mode, which allows players to explore environments created by others. In those cases, rules set forth by the creator trump the rules of the game.

In addition, there is also the Multiplayer Mode, which now mostly exists within Minecraft Realms, allowing players to play with and against each other. Finally, in June 2016, Microsoft enabled cross-platform play between Windows 10, iOS, and Android devices, thus unifying the player base.

There's plenty of user-generated content

PC and console gamers have had a long-running rivalry, but thanks to the new generation consoles, that gap has begun to close—albeit marginally. Still, no matter how close they get in terms of quality, there's till one underlying difference between the two platforms: mods.

The vast majority of PC games allow users to create their own modifications. Sometimes those mods fix glitches within the game, improve the graphics, or expand upon the content and gameplay. There are potentially thousands of mods within Minecraft, and that number's only increasing. Persson once thought mods would threaten his vision for the game, but he has recently come to cherish the mods for what they are—and, more specifically, what they do to make Minecraft what it is.

Mods and other forms of user-generated content, such as minimaps, texture packs, and custom items, helped popularize Minecraft among the PC community. However, Mojang recently made it clear that they've never officially recognized Minecraft mods—but that's something they are planning to change in a future update, which will not only make modding official but also streamline the process. As long as Microsoft and Mojang continue to support user-generated content, the community will help the game continue to thrive.

There are other applications for Minecraft

Over the years, Microsoft has been able to utilize their gaming initiatives and technology for other applications. For instance, their motion-sensing peripheral, the Kinect, started out as a way to complement the Xbox 360 and Xbox One but is now used by students, companies, and even doctors. In fact, in 2011, shortly after the launch of the original Kinect, Canadian doctors used the device during a cancer surgery. Now the company has incorporated their intelligent personal assistant, Cortana (inspired by the Halo character of the same name), into Windows 10, which allows them to compete with Apple's Siri.

Microsoft is looking to continue that mission with Minecraft. In early 2016, the company announced plans to release Minecraft: Education Edition (commonly known as MinecraftEDU) later in the year as a tool for students and teachers. The initiative aims to continue the work of MinecraftEdu, an independent organization formed in 2011 that worked alongside Mojang in using Minecraft in education, except this time there will be an official education version of the game.

Leigh Wolmarans, head of Lings Primary School in the U.K., believes Minecraft would be useful to students. "Technology can lead to exceptional learning, but it has to be used in conjunction with other tools," Wolmarans told the BBC. "If all you are doing is sitting them down and leaving them to experience Shakespeare through Minecraft, you would be doing something wrong. Dance, art, drama and music remain the best ways to teach kids. But technology can add to that as an additional tool."

Microsoft can pursue more spinoff games

As previously mentioned, Microsoft is looking into other revenue streams and applications for Minecraft, and one of those streams comes from spinoff titles and other types of games. For the company, it's not so much about the game itself as it is about the intellectual property. Microsoft is approaching Minecraft the same way Disney is using Star Wars: licensing out the property for third-party development, and profiting off the title that way.

For instance, in late 2015 and early 2016, Mojang partnered with Telltale Games to release an eight-part, episodic series in the same vein as other Telltale games (e.g. The Wolf Among Us, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, etc.), titled Minecraft: Story Mode. All eight episodes, as well as three additional ones that released as downloadable content, were successful with critics and audiences alike. It's unclear, however, if Telltale and Mojang will pursue a second season for the game.

It's not always about games

With the convergence of the movie and gaming industries, as well as the consumer and commercial technology industries, there are more options for capitalizing on video game titles than there were ten, 20, or 30 years ago.

Minecraft happens to be one of those titles, which allows it to be profitable for Microsoft on multiple levels—including a movie adaptation. In 2016, Warner Bros. officially announced plans to release a Minecraft movie in May 2019 (which means it will go up against movies like Avengers 4 and Star Wars: Episode IX), with Wonder Woman scribe Jason Fuchs writing the script and Night at the Museum helmer Shawn Levy directing.

Other than a movie adaptation, Microsoft has capitalized on Mojang's willingness to release Minecraft-themed merchandise, namely their Lego collection. In 2012, Lego released the official Lego Minecraft set, which Forbes reported as being so popular that it sold out during the holiday season.

The quest continues

Instead of pursuing new content or an unnecessary sequel, Xbox boss Phil Spencer says Microsoft would rather like to unify Minecraft's player base first. Again, to Microsoft, it's more about the intellectual property and what they achieve with it in terms of technology.

"I think what we've learned through Xbox Live is something that we can help in unifying a little bit of what happens with Minecraft today," Spencer told IGN. "If I'm on PC, I get access to the mod servers; if I'm on console or the mobile editions, I don't. We're looking at how do we bring that whole system together a little more. Because there are other games out there that let me move from screen to screen fairly seamlessly."

They've shown their capability for doing just that by expanding the game to new platforms. Additionally, Microsoft has utilized the game's content and technology in various fields, including education, which has significantly bolstered sales. With these extra revenue streams, there's really no rush for Microsoft to make Minecraft 2.