How Markus “Notch” Persson Flipped a Little Game Called Minecraft to Microsoft for $2.5 billion

By Wesley

Meet Markus “Notch” Persson

Persson who goes by the online moniker “Notch” was born in Stockholm, Sweden, to a Finnish mother and a Swedish father on June 1st, 1979.

He started computer programming on his father’s Commodore 128 home computer at the ripe old age of seven. After learning how to program from the command line on these primitive home computers, Notch created his very first game at the age of eight

It was a text-based adventure game, still considered a rite of passage for people learning to write software today.

To make a living, Notch worked as a game developer for King.com (ever heard of Candy Crush— that’s their title) for a period of four years from 2005 until 2009.

The Minecraft Phenomenon

That was the year he began working on Minecraft, releasing the sandbox survival, adventure, and building game on November 8th 2011.

Over time a small group of extremely devoted fans would help Notch and his company, Mojang, to massively expand the PC game’s audience and sell millions of copies, making it not only the most successful independent video game of all time, but the highest selling video game of any kind of all time!

To put it in perspective, the word Minecraft is searched on Google more than the Bible, Justin Bieber, and Harry Potter.

A $2.5 Billion Video Game (Notch’s Share: $1.7 Billion)

From there he would end up agreeing to a deal with Microsoft in September of 2014 to sell Minecraft, Mojang, and Mojang’s intellectual properties for a gargantuan sum of $2.5 billion.

Notch wasn’t an overnight success, but it didn’t even take him three years from the release of his video game to flip it for $2.5 billion to one of the biggest companies in the world.

But it was a long road to get there. Notch made himself into one of history’s greatest success stories starting from nothing, and overcame great personal tragedies to do it.

Notch’s Tragic Past of Adversity and Challenges

Notch had to overcome a youth troubled by drugs and the violent suicide of his father to make it to where he is today. His beginnings were as humble and challenging as you can imagine.

The game designer’s father, Birger Persson, fought a long, difficult battle with drug abuse since before Notch was even born.

A Family Drug Addiction

Although he had seemed to overcome it for many years with the help of Christian missionaries, the elder Persson, still haunted by his own monsters, committed suicide just before Christmas of 2011, in the throes of a deep depression.

Notch’s younger sister, Anna, who has a cheerful, smiling personality that belies her own years of struggles with drug addiction, ran away from home when she was a teenager and turned to drugs to cope with her problems.

Their Fight to Flourish

Notch’s hard-working mother, Ritve, was a Finnish-born nurse who encouraged the younger Persson during his own troubled adolescence, and supported his interest in computer programming. She had a troubled childhood of her own.

Born in the wild forests of northern Sweden, Notch moved with his parents to small town Edsbyn three hours north of the capitol, to escape the influence of drugs in the red light district of Stockholm. They spent an entire summer living in a bus.

“Markus’ father and mother came to Edsbyn from Stockholm,” reports Brother Lars-Erik Haggblom, 68, a retired pastor of the Pentecostal Smyrna Church in Edsbyn, “There were problems with drugs but they found God and they were saved.”

Mr. Haggblom told a British newspaper:

“There were too many things to remind them of their old lives there in Stockholm – too much temptation. That must have been around 1976…

We have workers in Stockholm who help drug addicts and people with problems. And Birger and Ritve came to our church and asked for help. Then one summer they came to Edsbyn in our church bus. Markus’ parents spent the summer living in the bus. They would go to the forest and pick berries. They liked it and decided to move to Edsbyn.”

Notch’s father Birger got a job working for the Swedish railways, based in a nearby city.

By Mr. Haggblom’s account the family began to flourish:

“Birger built a house and Markus was born in Edsbyn, so was his sister Anna.

Markus’ father Birger started at the bottom, as a blue collar worker, but made his way up the ladder, to become a white collar worker, one of the bosses. Then Birger got offered a better job with the railways down south and so they left Edsbyn and moved to Stockholm.”

That’s when Notch’s mother, Ritve, began her training to become a nurse.

The entire trajectory of Notch’s life would then be altered forever at the age of seven when his father purchased a Commodore 128 computer. Not a year had passed before the young Notch had created his first computer program.