Why Minecraft creator turned down job at Valve

"I felt that Minecraft was maybe my chance to create a Valve, rather than work at Valve," Markus "Notch" Persson says.


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Minecraft creator Markus "Notch" Persson was offered a job at Valve, but he turned it down in one of the most difficult decisions he's ever made in his life. The revelation comes from an except of the new book Minecraft: The Unlikely Tale of Markus 'Notch' Persson and the Game that Changed Everything published on AllThingsD.

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As part of his interview trip to Valve in the summer of 2010, Persson met with various members of the development team, including boss Gabe Newell and Team Fortress co-writer Robin Walker. His job interview also included a programming exercise.

Valve's verdict was that Persson was a gifted programmer, but he needed experience working in a group. Still, the company wanted to bring him on, and said they could help him grow his interpersonal skills. However, Persson ultimately turned down the job because he wanted to create his own company.

“Somehow, I felt that Minecraft was maybe my chance to create a Valve, rather than work at Valve,” Persson said.

He sent a text message to Jakob Porser, who was working at Candy Crush developer Midasplayer at the time, saying "You can quit your job." And the next day, he did, becoming a Mojang cofounder with Persson.

Minecraft: The Unlikely Tale of Markus 'Notch' Persson and the Game that Changed Everything is available today through Amazon and other booksellers.

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Avatar image for sgt_hunter

He should use his massive wealth to create Minecraft 2 but it should look like that new game No Man's Sky instead of 8bit blocks x.x

Avatar image for blutosan

<< LINK REMOVED >> Sounds reasonable. I think that most developers would do just that. Persson has always been a little different though. So far it's served him well...

Avatar image for jaoman9

notch is a idiot who made a game only 4 year olds play why would valve even bother trying to hire him

Avatar image for warezwolf

An obvious, and no doubt common, comparison would be with Lego. There's a reason why the latest 'must have' toys get played with by children for a few months then forgotten until the next franchise comes along, but Lego is always around. It's an infinite amount of potential toys, constrained only by the players imagination and the amount of Lego they've purchased.

With Lego you can be a toddler sticking a few bits together and smashing it, or you can be an adult creating entire cityscapes if you want. It's only limited by your imagination and ability. This is exactly what Minecraft offers...

The latest AAA adventure game may be amazing and a genuinely worthwhile thing to play, but it will be completed and just a memory in time for the next one. With Minecraft, just as with Lego, it is only limited by your imagination and ability and finally there's practically an unlimited amount of blocks you can use. You can play it for 5 minutes or 5000 hours, it's not the latest fad, it will last because it's whatever you want it to be and you can always go back and carry on however you like. The game is just offering up vast potential for you to do whatever you want.

If you think Notch is an idiot for designing and releasing this you really need to level your internal interpretation of the word idiot. Otherwise the logical conclusion of that would be to call Ole Kirk Christiansen an idiot (the creator of Lego, and yes I did have to Google it!), even though he changed the nature of childhood toys with his creation and allowed some of the most cherished childhood memories the world over. Your glib comment is really not worthy of the subject your green eyes are throwing daggers at.

Avatar image for arqe

zombies at minecraft got bigger brain than yours probably and yeah thats the reason.

Avatar image for stealthyninja81

<< LINK REMOVED >> an idiot that probably makes more money in a week than you will in your life and whose game is known and has one point been played by almost everyone. yup, got no idea why valve would want someone like that

Avatar image for blutosan

It's nice to see someone go for it, succeed, and perhaps even over-achieve. There's a lot of wasted potential in the world. Not this guy. He could accomplish zero the rest of his life, which is a possibility, and still go down as one of the greats.

Avatar image for sefrix

The problem with Minecraft is that now no matter what he does, it will never, ever be as big of a hit. It's great to have that huge success but it'd suck to have it so young in your career.

Avatar image for blutosan

<< LINK REMOVED >> Artistic expression is usually a young man's game. There is plenty of value in age, but creativity seems to always diminish with time. Still, I think that Persson might have one or two hits left in him.

Avatar image for TehUndeadHorror

<< LINK REMOVED >> It's still an amazing feat. He's practically spawned a new genre of gaming. There are procedurally-generated "voxel"-based games all up the wazoo in the indie space now.

Avatar image for sunbeam4

family first. notch has time & money. god bless ;)

Avatar image for jinzo9988

What, like John Carmack and an even more extreme case, John Romero? I'd hate to see him be another John Romero, but I don't think Markus has his head wired like Romero did when he was young(thank God).

Avatar image for y2guru

Minecraft is a very sought after piece of software, the 360 downloads have been through the roof and soon it will be coming to the playstation platforms!! Mojang is doing just fine and Notch's decision to go it alone was a risk he was willing to take and he's done rather well out of it, for the majority of us we would have taken the easy less risky path and joined valve and yes would've learned a lot and had a lot of fun but independence has major benefits too (if you can pull it off)

Avatar image for biggest_loser

I could never agree with this decision or understand it. In this economy when jobs are so scarce and difficult to come by, you turn down an opportunity to work with one of the most successful companies in the world, even when they offer to hone your skills with you? Most places would throw you out on your ear for not having enough experience. I know its nice that he wanted to be independent and we'll romanticise that but c'mon. Some people would kill for an opportunity like this - even if he just did it for a few years and then did his own thing. If anything, working at Valve would help prepare him for his personal goals. Bad choice.

Avatar image for allever

<< LINK REMOVED >> Sometimes you have to take risks. If you don't, you will never move forward.

Avatar image for RynTM

<< LINK REMOVED >> Might I ask, what is the name of the programmer who did take that job at Valve?

Avatar image for Ejotei

<< LINK REMOVED >> Working at Valve, as incredible as it might be, he would just be another worker and labeled an underemployed worker since his talent is one in a billion. He made an incredible risk but he made an even greater reward in satisfaction and profit, maybe you like being sattisfied by something under your level of talent but this man knew he was better and believed in himself and actually succeded, he is a role model for someone following his/her dreams.

Avatar image for biggest_loser

@Ejotei @biggest_loser Better than what? It would be a damn privilege to work at a place like Valve. This guy has made one game hasn't he? I don't think making one huge project is sufficient enough to say that everyone should follow their dreams by turning down massive, priceless opportunities that would provide far more job security into the future. He's riding a wave now but he'll have to make something else. Yes some people get very lucky, like this guy, but more often than not you don't - particularly in this financial climate. Why risk it when you have an awesome opportunity in front of you? You've also said nothing about the fact that he could follow his dreams after getting more experience. Just imagine if things go bad for his company and he has to start looking for new work and they ask about ohh I don't know experience in a group...Remember your Uncle Gabe Notch!

Avatar image for isv666

<< LINK REMOVED >> Sure, it's a privilege to be able to work at a company like Valve or other big names. But no business has ever started off by not taking risks, regardless of economy. Was it luck? Sure, some of it was. But it was also talent and drive to succeed. He had a dream and he is seeing it through. Whether you like or hate Minecraft, it's currently one of the biggest titles in the world. From things I've read, he's made a ton of money off of Minecraft, enough to live comfortably for the rest of his life. Now that may be incorrect, but if not, he has succeeded in not only developing a hugely popular game, but capitalizing financially.

He could have followed his dreams afterwards, but things could have panned out entirely differently. Maybe he would have lost motivation in a group setting. Maybe someone else would have came out with a Minecraft of their own. Could be any number of things.

Avatar image for TaylorAP13

First off I'd like to say that the decisions you make are not the "right" decisions that everyone should make. He had a feeling that he could make a great game on his own and be the owner of a company that could be huge, he's done that without the help of Valve. He didn't say Valve was a bad company, he had his own dreams. He's gone out pursued it, done it, and I would say he is far from done. He didn't create Minecraft and is now laying around at the beach hanging out. He passed the project on to Jeb and is now working on some other games, 'Scrolls' is a game that he is working on. It does not have the hype that Minecraft has, but it still has a good following and to assume that he just wanted to make one game and now he's done is ridiculous. The reason he wants to create "his own Valve" is so that he can create tons of games like they do. Notch wanted to share his games with the world and now he's doing it. Also he doesn't need to interview for a job... He is the owner of his own Video game design company... Which is quite successful and I'm sure a lot of people would love to work for Mojang too. I think he is going to be fine in the long run. Point is he passed up Valve to pursue his own vision and it's not like he said it was an easy decision...

Avatar image for neowarrior121

<< LINK REMOVED >> 500 bucks and that "kill" it yours XD joking aside i would probably go as far to get an offer as half as decent as his.

Avatar image for tonyleo01

I've never understood this "Minecraft" Phenomenon.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k

Guys, he made one game 4 years ago and hasn't made anything of value since. Most of the things that made Minecraft great weren't even made by him as it is, just modders.

If you want to make another Valve you're going to have to do a little more there, Notch. Let's go!

Avatar image for justinpg

<< LINK REMOVED >> And Valve started with Half-Life, which Team Fortress and Counter-Strike were both mods of originally. When you think about it, almost all of valve's games are VERY similar to one another at the roots. (HL 1, CS, TF, L4D (from HL2) Portal 1 (HL2)). Mods being the biggest selling point is not a bad thing.

Avatar image for Thanatos2k

Valve took the mods and came back and polished them into retail products. Notch just sits on his ass and updates Minecraft every so often.

Avatar image for hystavito

<< LINK REMOVED >> A lot of people also forget (or don't know) that Minecraft is based on a very similar earlier game called Infiniminer.

Avatar image for neowarrior121

<< LINK REMOVED >> i agree to an extent that hes was more of an architect and did the framework and the modders were the real bricklayers to the grand game. and really mindcraft really needs to be modded its the reason for its freshness as its easy to mix things up.

Avatar image for Solace427

I have an entirely new and much more respected view of this man.

Avatar image for pyro1245

You can't just create a valve by yourself. You need a rag-tag group of misfit intellectuals who are not only skilled at programming but also audio design. music composition, story telling,and graphics. All this guy did was make a popular voxel-based sandbox. Good for him though, I'm glad individuals can still get their games out there.

Avatar image for Leboyo56

What an ambitious Persson he is.

Avatar image for forneverbdocked

Isn't that kind of proving to be a mistake? His company Mojang has only had success with Minecraft. Scrolls was released in beta earlier this year and from the very few reviews it has, the consensus is not good. Notch himself was working on a much hyped and ambitious project that was cancelled earlier this year. Then there's the game they're publisher for another developer called Cobalt, which doesn't even have a working website. They're company is 4 years old and Minecraft is still their only work worth noticing.

Avatar image for SkyAboveThePort

<< LINK REMOVED >> Minecraft earned $101 million in 2012, I don't have the figures for 2013. But it's probably safe to assume that they can do whatever they want for the rest of their lives at Mojang..

Avatar image for Thanatos2k

There's a term for this in the music industry - One Hit Wonder.

Valve is not a one hit wonder.

Avatar image for codac

I like this guy.

Avatar image for The_Gaming_Baby

Hard to hate on ambition, especially considering how much this guy is now worth

Avatar image for catsimboy

As much as I like Minecraft thinking it can create a new Valve is just ludicrous especially after seeing how 'meh' Scrolls looks. Most content for Minecraft is created by modders now anyways. An official update came out today and the most meaningful in-game thing it added is chicken jockeys, ooh wow.

Avatar image for NimbusStev

<< LINK REMOVED >> It's more the principle he's referring to rather than literally wanting to be "the next Valve." It's pretty certain that he's already achieved more success than he would have as an entry level Valve programmer. Not only is he financially secure for life, but he also achieved that goal by working on his own personal project. I'm not a Minecraft fan, but the story is very inspirational.

Avatar image for Vozlov

Isn't Minecraft just a copy of older games with added RPG elements?

Avatar image for stealthyninja81

<< LINK REMOVED >> isn't everything a copy of older games at this point?

Avatar image for Vozlov

<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> True, but my comment was in relation to the title of the book. 'the game that changed everything'.

Gaming evolution is exactly that, an evolution. It doesn't start with one game, especially not one that draws extremely heavily from previous games like it.

Avatar image for forneverbdocked

<< LINK REMOVED >> How dare you!

Avatar image for Harbinger_CR

Considering what he accomplished, it seems like he made the right choice.

Avatar image for forneverbdocked

Mojang has only made 1 game. There's no way of knowing if they'll be able to pull another rabbit out of a hat.

Avatar image for SAVO_SPB

<< LINK REMOVED >> Actually they made another game.


Avatar image for forneverbdocked

Also, notch has not made a new game since Minecraft. Mojang has worked on 2 games. Scrolls and 0x10c. Notch was working on the latter, until it was cancelled earlier this year.

Avatar image for forneverbdocked

Scrolls has never been touched.