On Tuesday, the internet exploded with the news that Microsoft purchased Minecraft creator Mojang for $2.5 billion dollars.
Let’s let that sink in for a second: $2.5 billion dollars. Even the number itself – $2,500,000,000 – is so outsized we have to shorthand it for easy reading.
It’s a hard number to wrap your head around, quite possibly larger than the total net worth of everyone who reads this column. So is there a way to visualize exactly how much money that is?
To do so, let’s take the most appropriate route and compare it to objects in Minecraft. How many Gold Cubes could one buy with two and a half billion? What about horses, castles or coca beans? And is Mojang really worth this ludicrous cash pile?
We all know a great game is worth its weight in gold – so let’s see how many gold blocks Minecraft is worth.
First off, it’s been well-established that the real life size of a Minecraft brick would be one cubic meter, so we just need to find how much one cubic meter of gold is worth.
Thankfully, figuring out the weight of a one cubic meter of gold is a fairly common math problem, so the answer – 19,300 kilograms – is easily available online.
So with gold currently trading at $39,657.95 USD per kilogram, the value of a single gold block would be $765,398,435. With $2.5 billion, you could afford 3.27 gold blocks.
But you might have to build a reinforced vault to store them. Gold is one of the densest metals on Earth, and one cubic meter is a lot of it. In fact, each block would weigh around 42,549 pounds, or the same as eight and a half Ford F-150 pickup trucks. If you stacked them on top of each other (because you know you would) they’d form a column three feet across and 10 feet eight inches tall.
That’s nearly seventy tons of solid, 24 karat gold.
It’s impossible to estimate a Minecraft diamond’s value. Not only are their sizes ludicrous – three of them can make an ax head or a sword – but there’s no way to judge their quality.
Having said that, the second largest gem quality diamond ever found, the Cullinan, bears some resemblance to the Minecraft diamond both is shape and absurd size. When the Cullinan came out of the ground at the Premier Mine in Pretoria, South Africa, surveyors found it to be 3,106.75 carats. It was 4.1 inches long and weighed 1.37 pounds – so large it had to be cut up into 9 large pieces because it was too enormous to fit in the British Crown Jewels.
Estimates put the Cullinan’s total worth at around $2 billion dollars, so after buying one, you’d have enough left over to pick up not one, not two, but six diamonds equivalent to the “Pink Star.”
For some context: Sotheby’s sold the Pink Star at auction last year for $83.2 million – the most expensive diamond sale ever recorded.
So you’ve made $2.5 billion from Minecraft – what better to buy you’re your own mount?
Much like diamonds, horses are tough to value, but according to my research you can get an attractive, well-trained horse for around $3,000. But since buying standard riding horses like this would mean owning 833,333 horses, let’s go for broke and say you want thoroughbreds.
The most expensive thoroughbred ever purchased was Fusaichi Pegasus, which sold for between $60 and $70 million back in 2000. With $2.5 billion you could own thirty-five to forty-one horses at that same price, but that’s actually a bad deal, as Fusaichi Pegasus was a disappointment. If you have that much cash lying around, you might just as well do what Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai did, and buy the Darley Stud in Australia. That purchase – a stable and training facility complete with 1,000 of the world’s finest thoroughbreds – essentially gave Sheik Mohammad a global stake in high-end horse breeding. The Darley Stud would only cost $460 million, though, so you’d be able to buy up the breeding stock in several other countries too. Let’s just estimate and say that’d be around 5,000 of the best equine specimens on Earth.
A Castle – By Which I Mean A Literal Castle
Castles are usually the first structure players build in Minecraft‘s survival mode. (Unless you’re like me, and end up living in a hole for several days because you can never find any coal.) But why go through all that hoisting and mining when you can buy a castle to keep the creepy crawlies out?
Take this little number, for example. It’s 12th century, on a commanding hill and only a short drive from Rome. And in addition to the fortress walls there’s a full library, an arms and armor collection, nine bedrooms, a dungeon and art collection. At $11.6 million, you could afford two hundred and fifteen keeps like these – though perhaps it would be better to only buy two hundred. You need some money to add a lip around the battlements, otherwise the spiders will climb right in.
One of the most rare natural products to come across in Minecraft, cocoa beans are a necessity should you want to dye wool or make cookies.
Thanks to health food nuts championing cacao as a snack and coffee alternative, it’s simple to deduce that you’d pay around $17 a pound for a one-pound bag. (Cacao beans are cold-pressed, unroasted cocoa beans in a more natural state, as opposed to roasted cocoa powder.)
That means with $2.5 billion dollars you could have 147,058,823 pounds of cacao, adding up to 73,529 US tons.
To put that amount in perspective, you’d need 1,839 eighteen-wheeler trucks to carry it all, a convoy that would measure over thirty-eight miles if you assume a distance of thirty feet between each eighty foot-long truck.
Okay, But Is Mojang Worth That Much?
So here’s the $2.5 billion dollar question: is this ludicrous amount of money worth it?
The question is, worth it for whom?
For Microsoft the answer is “maybe.” I’m no business analyst and don’t know what they plan for the studio, but there’s a lot to be said for owning a game that, to the younger generation, is a combination of what LEGOs, Ninja Turtles, and Mario were to mine. Microsoft could make a huge misstep, of course, but saying it’s jumping the gun to say they’ll fail. We’ve yet to see how Redmond will play those cards, and for all we know they’ve learned from past mistakes.
And how about Mojang’s founders, Markus “Notch” Persson, Jakob Porser and and CEO Carl Manneh? Do they deserve such enormous slices of this bulbous pie?
Yes, they do – every dollar of it.
Notch created a unique game that’s made a lot of people happy, and Porser and Manneh helped him build a company around it while preserving the its soul. In an era where companies touted games centered on destroying, Mojang offered a place for us to create. When I give talks on game writing to elementary school students, their faces light up when they talk about Minecraft. These kids tell me about towers built and caverns explored, and the pride felt after writing their name across the face of the world. Minecraft is one of the few games in this generation that’s beautiful in every layer, from concept to mechanics.
That’s got to be worth something. I’d say it’s worth two and half billion somethings. Notch, Porser and Manneh deserve to be rewarded for what they’ve given the world, and with more than money too. After the sale, Notch stated that he wanted to give up Mojang for the sake of his sanity, and I don’t blame him. He never seemed happy heading a project as big and popular as Minecraft and clearly itched to do other things. I’m glad he’s getting out rather than morphing into a George Lucas-like captive of his own success.
$2.5 billion dollars is a lot, but sanity and happiness are worth a fortune too. And having given so many people a new world to dig into, I think Minecraft‘s creators are due a little of both.
Robert Rath is a freelance writer, novelist, and researcher based in Hong Kong. His articles have appeared in the Escapist and Slate. You can follow his exploits at RobWritesPulp.com or on Twitter at @RobWritesPulp.