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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella with Seattle Chamber President Maud Daudon in Seattle today. (GeekWire Photo)

For Microsoft, buying Mojang — the game developer behind the Minecraft game franchise — means much more than just acquiring an immensely popular game.

That’s what Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said today at an annual Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce annual luncheon at the Westin Seattle, explaining Microsoft’s interest in Minecraft. Nadella’s first question during a fireside chat was, unsurprisingly, about Microsoft’s $2.5 billion purchase of Mojang that was announced today.

minecraft mobile“To me what Minecraft represents is more than a hit game franchise,” he said. “It’s this open-world platform. If you think about it, it’s the one game parents want their kids to play.”

Nadella said he woke up this morning and his 10-year-old daughter asked him if he knew about Microsoft buying Mojang — a comment that drew laughs from the audience.

“If you talk about STEM education, the best way to introduce anyone to STEM or get their curiosity going on, it’s Minecraft,” he said. “So I think what this open-world phenomenon will mean to the community at large, for people who builders, is pretty big, and we are very excited about the acquisition, obviously.”

He added, “We are really excited about being stewards to the community that is Minecraft.”

The acquisition — which is Microsoft’s first major purchase since Nadella took over in February — of the popular open-world platform gives Microsoft a bigger presence in video games and education, as well as one of the top paid apps for iOS and Android. It’s the largest game-related acquisition in Microsoft’s history. Microsoft says Minecraft will continue to be available for PC, iOS, Android, Xbox and PlayStation.

Meanwhile, Mojang’s founders — including Minecraft creator Markus “Notch” Persson — are leaving the company to pursue new ventures.

“Minecraft has grown from a simple game to a project of monumental significance. Though we’re massively proud of what Minecraft has become, it was never Notch’s intention for it to get this big,” Mojang explained in a post this morning.

Mojang, which is based in Stockholm, Sweden, has built an insanely popular game that is about breaking and placing blocks, kind of like an electronic version of Legos. Minecraft’s growth has translated into significant revenue and profit, with 2013 sales of $317 million and profits of $125 million, when converted from Swedish kroner using the average exchange rate. Microsoft says it expects the acquisition to break even during its current fiscal year, which began on July 1.

We’ll have more from Nadella’s talk later today, so check back on GeekWire for that.

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