Xbox Game Studios Spotlight: Mojang Studios

By Kes Eylers-Stephenson,
In this Xbox Game Studio Spotlight, the Minecraft developers and brand caretaker — Mojang Studios — is going under the microscope. See how the dev ranks, its history, projects, and how many achievements you've unlocked!


Mojang Studios overview

Mojang Studios spotlight history review

Mojang Studios was a company founded around one product — Minecraft. The success of Mojang has rested on those rocky foundations since its creation in late 2009. Over the summer of that year, Markus Persson began building the game and then published it within a few weeks. In 2014, Mojang was sold to Microsoft in a deal worth $2.5 billion. Under the Xbox Game Studios label, Minecraft has continued to grow, and now it is one of the most recognisable gaming IPs on the planet. But, how did we get to this point?

Minecraft was released on TIGSource forums for free in the summer of 2009 after just a few weeks of development time by creator Markus Persson. Immediate success meant that Persson founded Mojang with a few of his former game-dev colleagues later that year. In May 2010, Minecraft was in an official Alpha state with constant updates. In under a year, the game went into a Beta. More free updates kept the game ticking for millions and millions of players already garnered before an official launch. This team already had put together the revenue stream to have an office in Stockholm and were presiding over one of the most valuable gaming IP in the world.

On September 14th, 2011, the "Adventure Update" arrived, prepping players for the arrival of a full 1.00 release on November 18th. Additionally, the Pocket Edition of Minecraft for Android and iOS was released in 2011. The reign of Minecraft development was passed to Jens Bergensten, the lead on small side-project Catacomb Snatch. The raw success of Minecraft is nearly incalculable and this was all achieved in just two-and-a-half years of game development. From 2009 to 2011, Mojang mined, refined, and constructed Minecraft into an all-time gaming IP.

Minecraft update 1.17.10

4J Studios released the Xbox 360 Edition of Minecraft on May 9th, 2012, making it the first console edition. Later, the now legacy console editions for the PS3, Vita, Wii U, and Switch would be added to the pile. All were limited compared to the original PC edition, but Minecraft was now an easily accessible game to everyone. Mojang invested in developers for the servers and mods side of Minecraft in 2012 by acquiring CraftBukkit to assist the building an official mod API.

With a world-beating IP and smart company structure, Mojang is probably one of the most attractive acquisition propositions to have existed in video game history. The EULA regulations regarding the profit made from Minecraft servers turned creator Notch cold on Minecraft, who then proceeded to offer the studio for sale in a tweet. High profile publishers were involved — like EA, Activision Blizzard, and eventual buyer, Microsoft — so Notch decided to sell up his shares. On September 15th, 2014, the long-term dealings between Mojang and Microsoft over Minecraft paid dividends. Microsoft finally bought Mojang Studios in a $2.5 billion deal, arguably one of the most important deals in gaming history.

Minecraft Wild update

Minecraft, since the acquisition, has been ticking over nicely with at least one major update every year. The Xbox One and PS4 versions of the game launched in 2014. The Xbox One version was renamed the Bedrock Edition in 2018, with PS4 following suit a year later, with both boasting cross-play. The highly moddable and flexible PC Java version still probably sits on the top of the pile for those who want the most open-ended Minecraft experience.

Plenty of spin-offs have flexed Mojangs talent and ability to forge skilled partners to look after its immeasurably valuable IP. Minecraft: Education Edition is a learning tool for schools. Minecraft: Story Mode was released by Telltale in 2015, featuring that tried and tested gameplay the studio is/was known for. Minecraft Dungeons was released in 2020 as an all-new dungeon crawler to satiate those who wanted a different experience. With VR versions of the game, as well as the now-cancelled AR version called Minecraft Earth in 2019 for Android and iOS. There really aren't that many limitations to the dimension Minecraft can be in. This repeated experimentation might not always have worked, but it has led to the Minecraft experience becoming one of the best-selling games of all time 240 million copies, with over 140 million active users in 2021.

Mojang Studios' previous project: Minecraft Dungeons

Minecraft Dungeons Achievements

Minecraft is so successful that it has inspired a Diablo-like dungeon-crawling spin-off called Minecraft Dungeons, released in 2020 on Xbox One, PS4, Switch, and PC (with Series X|S releasing later in 2021). While Mojang apparently led the development of the game, and it was published by Microsoft Game Studios, it is worth noting that Double Eleven is apparently responsible for the console ports. The Middlesbrough team might have also had a major hand in the development, as per an announcement back in 2019. The top-down isometric hack-and-slash used the traditional loot-grind loop in the blocky Minecraft aesthetics. Critically, it was received well — but perhaps a little under-par compared with the mainline game — with a 74 critical score and a 7.8 user score on Metacritic. Over on OpenCritic, where the voting pool is more closely managed, it might have a 74 critical average, but its recommendation level is at 48%. Most of the critics are not about the aesthetics or the ideas beneath the surface, but just that it is much too simplistic without any true depth. Fun to be had, it seems, but just not as endlessly in other looter-slashing dungeon crawlers.

Mojang Studios' current project: Minecraft for Series X|S and PS5

Minecraft

There is a rumour that a pixel-style top-down Minecraft experience is on the way (thanks, Windows Central), but that isn't a certainty just yet. Journalist and insider Jez Corden does note in the article, "one thing I know for sure: There is more Minecraft coming. I know from trusted sources that Mojang has at least two all-new projects that aren't Minecraft or Minecraft Dungeons."

However, there is one thing that is a certainty. Minecraft was released on Xbox One and PS4 in 2014 to critical acclaim and it was in 2018 when Minecraft Bedrock made the game into a platform. Cross-play essentially has made Minecraft a singular experience across all systems. However, It isn't quite as flexible as the Java version on PC, but then nor is any console version of a PC game. Bedrock continues to receive all the updates of Java every year and remains immensely popular. Now, though, most feel that it is time for a Bedrock update designed for the Series X|S and PS5 hardware in order to get a taste of the ray-tracing available on the Java version. Information is scarce on the ground, but t seems generally accepted that something of this ilk will be on the way.

Mojang Studios in 2021

Buzzy Bees

In 2021, there has been the major Caves & Cliffs: Part II update adding higher world ceilings and better biome distribution, as well as further cave system biomes. There was the Disney DLC content as well as the Sonic stuff, too. Minecraft, Bedrock and Java, was added to Game Pass on PC late this year. We know that the next update after Cliffs & Caves will be called The Wilds and will be released in 2022. The update is said to "focus on immersion" and "biome diversity," according to game director Agnes Larsson. Fun times ahead!

How does Mojang Studios rank?

The great TA office splitter! On one side, we have those who think Mojang deserve an S for not only making one of the best games of all time — but doing so on PC and console while pushing for cross-play between systems. Not only is Minecraft innovative, but it has grown better and more diverse with every update. Then we have the side of the office that think it's a high A, not because the studio isn't immensely talented, but because Mojang only deals in one property. Outside of the base game, little has succeeded, which perhaps stresses that Mojang cannot be at the peak of Xbox Game Studios. We really could swing the diamond sword any given way, to be honest, which makes for a fun, civil conversation! Ultimately, we've gone for the lower grade just because we have a shadow of a doubt about the S. The "exceptional level" has been reached, but not across all projects Mojang has worked on, but — going with our description for an A — Mojang can absolutely "impress further." So, an A it is, but we expect to revisit this when we see Bedrock take the full step up to next-gen!

A Tier
A

A studio with a fantastic portfolio, and the talent to impress further



Of course, this is just our opinion! Get involved down below and let us know how you think Mojang is doing at the moment. Vote in the poll below and give us your reasons why in the comments below.
How would you rank Mojang Studios?
  • S — A world-class studio executing at an exceptional level,
  • A — A studio with a fantastic portfolio, and the talent to impress further
  • B — A studio capable of greatness, but has more to offer
  • C — An up-and-coming studio, or one struggling to realise its potential
We've had 217 responses.
Kes Eylers-Stephenson
Written by Kes Eylers-Stephenson
Hey, I'm Kes! I'm a Staff Writer, and I've been here since 2021. What do I like? The Outer Wilds is top notch. The Witcher 3 blew my mind over the course of five years completing it. I want Burnout back — I really miss crunching mechanical wonders into walls to the sound of Guns N' Roses. Cool, now we are acquainted, I'll see you around.