↓ 17. Markus 'Notch' Persson, Who Invented Minecraft

May 30, 2012 Update: The release of Minecraft on the 360 was met with strong sales, and even bumped Call of Duty from the Xbox charts. Call of Duty!

Feb 20, 2012 Update: He had a big month, but with all the movement around him he stays put. The power he wields continues to be evident, though. His fans have turned official Minecraft LEGO sets into a reality, and his mere Tweet that he might fund Psychonauts 2 turned into, if briefly, a real conversation about funding a game that industry favorite Tim Schafer has struggled to get greenlit (it's still far from a sure thing). Oh, and in one weekend a charity drive by Notch's company earned almost half a million dollars.

Why He's Powerful

Twenty million registered users of Minecraft. That's all it takes to make Markus "Notch" Persson one of the most powerful people in gaming. The Swedish indie games developer's success with a seemingly simple premise—Minecraft is essentially a virtual building blocks game—has shown that there's still millions of dollars to be made in video games by the garage developer who strikes ludic gold.

Will Persson be able to roll the success of Minecraft into something more lasting? His quickly-growing company Mojang continues to announce new titles like Scrolls and Cobalt. For thousands of game developers in the world, Persson has shown the way toward financial and critical success outside the confines of traditional game publishing. And that was before his game even came out. He even had his own convention in Las Vegas last year—and that too was a hit!

Now Minecraft is in the hands of other developers at Mojang. Notch is dreaming up his next great video game.

Here's a wrinkle, though: Could Minecraft, which is full of user-made content based on pop culture copyrights, survive if the U.S. government passes the Stop Online Piracy Act (or its Senate counterpart, the Protect IP Act), which could crush well-meaning Internet sites in the name of defeating online pirates?