In just over two years, Minecraft has become an indie cult classic, and it hasn't even left the 'beta' development stage yet. Markus Persson, commonly known as Notch by fans and developers alike, started coding Minecraft on May 10, 2009 after leaving his previous job as a game developer for King.com (an online gambling site). Apparently inspired heavily by discussions on TIGSource.com forums about Infiniminer, Minecraft began as a simple 3D block building game with a freely-roamable open world environment and nothing in the form of gameplay goals/scenarios.
Just one week later on May 17, 2009, Notch releases Minecraft to the public as an experimental 'alpha' release. Since then, there have been regular updates which has made the game very different to what it looked like at the beginning. With each stage of the development cycle the retail price of the game has increased, with €20 to be the final release price when it goes gold on November 18-19, 2011 (to coincide with MineCon, the official Minecraft convention in Las Vegas).
To cope with the increased popularity of Minecraft, and to have the ability to work on other, future projects, Notch founded Mojang AB ('mojäng' being Swedish for 'gadget') with Jakob Porser, a fellow programmer and personal friend, and Carl Manneh, the former CEO of Notch's previous employment, JAlbum.net. Notch relinquished control of Mojang to Carl Manneh soon after its founding because of his lack of experience running a professional company, and lack of motivation in the business side of things; in his own words: "I'm not an entrepreneur, I'm a game developer!".
Minecraft's business model has always existed on a user-freedom principle. Upon purchasing their respective copy of Minecraft, the user/s then have the right to run multiplayer servers, install mods, edit the source code and play from any location where the client can be downloaded. Despite this, it is estimated that 70% of Minecraft players are using a cracked or non-purchased copy of the software. Notch has made his stance on piracy clear in the past, stating that "Piracy will win in the long run. It has to."; he also states that he believes game publishers will have to appease customers in the future, suggesting regular updates and portraying games as a 'service' rather than a physical product. In the face of all this, as of April 2011, Minecraft has made $33 million in gross profits.
Notch and Mojang have recently announced their next release: 'Scrolls', a collectible card based strategy role-playing games. Due to the small-scale nature of Mojang studios, Notch himself will not be working on 'Scrolls' until the development of Minecraft has come to an end; Jakob Porser is the project leader instead. Minecraft and Mojang, with its horde of fans and gaming reputation will not be going anywhere. Already planned and in development is a Minecraft documentary, and there is still the aforementioned MineCon to come. Minecraft is testament to the power of word-of-mouth, listening to the fans and small scale business models.