Markus Persson was born in Stockholm, Sweden, in June 1979 and was writing computer code by the time he was 8. Although he never finished high school, Persson landed a programming job when he was 18. It wasn't long before he was creating his own games on the side, and his first release, Minecraft, would be a massive international success. Persson eventually sold his software company, Mojang, and the game that put him on the map, to Microsoft for $2.5 billion.
Markus Persson was born in Stockholm, Sweden, on June 1, 1979. He grew up in the small town of Edsbyn, surrounded by forests that would influence his biggest game creation, Minecraft, decades later. Growing up, he was an obsessive Lego builder, until he was 7 and his father brought home a Commodore 128 computer. Persson latched right on, and he would fake stomachaches to stay home from school and write code. By the time he was 8, he had written his first computer program.
Persson never finished high school, but he had been teaching himself how to write code ever since his dad gave him the Commodore, and his mother made him take an online programming course to bolster his natural talent. This led to a programming job when he was 18, and after a few more gigs, in 2004 he landed with Midasplayer, later known as King.com, the company known for such hugely popular titles as Candy Crush. At Midasplayer, Persson befriended Jakob Porsér, a developer, and the friendship would redefine Persson’s life path.
It wasn’t long before Persson and Porsér were writing their own games, but their Midasplayer bosses didn’t like the attention these games were garnering the duo. So in 2009, Persson left Midasplayer for jAlbum and began spending all his free time creating. Persson would write his first big game, Minecraft, in just a week, and it was rushed so he could simply get to the next one. Minecraft featured an open-world, Lego-like playing field in which players would collect various implements and natural resources and use them to build anything from other implements to houses and cities.
Despite Persson’s pushing the game before he even considered it finished, Minecraft struck a chord with players, and soon it became something of a phenomenon, with 400 copies selling per day for about six dollars per download. That success ended both Persson’s and Porsér’s life of working for other people, and they started their own company, Mojang (which means gadget in Swedish).
Mojang and Superstardom
Minecraft moved about 20,000 downloads its first year, but by the end of the next year it was often getting that many downloads per day. With the added sales came a huge and ever-growing community of players, and Minecraft became as much a community as a game. Without a doubt, Persson was the witty, often cantankerous mayor of that community, and with a large online presence (known widely as Notch or xNotch), he became a gaming superstar. Unfortunately, Persson’s success was tempered with tragedy, as in December 2011, his father committed suicide, and his short marriage to Elin Zetterstrand came to an end a half a year after. What followed was the beginning of a new project, 0x10c, and the abandonment of that same project and a creative dry spell.
But Persson was still riding the Minecraft train, and May 2012 saw its xBox release sell more than a million units in the first week alone. That year, Mojang had around $230 million in sales, but just two years later, Persson was getting burned out, and a tweet he sent out in June 2014—“Anyone want to buy my share of Mojang so I can move on with my life?”—made his phone ring off the hook.
By September, he had sold Mojang to Microsoft for $2.5 billion. To celebrate, Persson bought a 23,000 square-foot Beverly Hills home, for which he paid $70 million.
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