Swedish programmer Markus Persson originally created "Minecraft" as a weekend project in May 2009 using simple coding tools. He built on this foundation over a 30-month development cycle. Persson hired other programmers and created the game studio Mojang to assist in the creation process after overwhelmingly positive word of mouth made the developmental versions of the game a runaway hit.
Persson, who is also known by his Internet handle Notch, was inspired to create "Minecraft" after experiencing the emergent and deep gameplay of a program called "Dwarf Fortress." Realizing that "Dwarf Fortress" featured primitive, ASCII character graphics, Persson decided to create a similar, more visually interesting open-world game revolving around seemingly unlimited player choice. This genre of game has since become known as a sandbox game due to the way players are virtually dropped into a little world to build whatever they can imagine.
Persson uploaded early versions of "Minecraft" to free game design forums. Over the course of a few months, he continued to add features to the program and began to charge a nominal fee to download what he called an alpha version of the title. As it became more and more popular, Persson hired programmers and staff to continue the development of "Minecraft."
Persson and Mojang continued development of "Minecraft" through the next two years in an extended paid beta stage during which the title sold 4 million copies. In winter 2011, Mojang announced that "Minecraft" was complete and out of beta, but the studio has continued to add features and iterations of existing game modes even after releasing a final version. Versions of "Minecraft" have also been ported to consoles, tablets and smartphones, widening game's player base.