Game on: Minecraft at Word Up
Story by Sherry Mazzocchi
At first, Swedish journalists Daniel Goldberg and Linus Larrson were intrigued by the massive amounts of money that Mojang was making.
Back in 2011, Markus Persson thought no one would notice his small Swedish company, Mojang, at the Game Developers Conference. In order to stir up excitement, he tweeted that anyone wearing a blue T-shirt similar to Steve, the main character in Minecraft, would get a mask.
He ordered 100 Steveheads—a cardboard box with holes for the eyes—and figured they’d reuse the leftovers. On opening day, a sea of people wearing blue T-shirts lined up for Steveheads. He was shocked at the wave of people that crested upon Mojang’s tiny booth. The boxes were gone within minutes.
Minecraft: The Unlikely Tale of Markus “Notch” Perrson and the Game that Changed Everything chronicles the rise and rise and rise of the popular Swedish game and its unlikely maker.
Swedish journalists Daniel Goldberg and Linus Larsson interviewed Perrson, his family and co-workers, for an inside look at the game and the person who created it.
“We saw Minecraft as an example of how the Internet has the ability to disrupt established orders,” said Larrson. But they more the investigated the story, it was clear to them that it wasn’t just another business story.
The story wasn’t about making a lot of money; it was a story about creativity.
Perrson stands out because he was always set on going his own way, say the authors. The big game developer he worked for didn’t take his ideas seriously, so he left.
Perrson, or, as he’s known to his 1.4 million Twitter followers, Notch, is a rare breed of game developers. Most games are made by a battery of developers, so it’s difficult to say who the creator is. Working independently, Notch made millions. About two years after his company hit the big time, he distributed $3.5 million to his small team of employees and then quit his own company.
The book follows Notch from the early days. He he taught himself to program games at age seven, on his family’s Commodore 128. While his father and later, his sister, descended into drug addiction, Perrson sat in front of his computer for hours at a time. After high school, his mother thought he would never get a job, move out and make his way in the world.
She needn’t have worried. Minecraft is one of the most successful video games ever. More than 12.6 million people have bought the PC version of the game. If you add up all of the available platforms, it’s sold over 33 million copies. At a price of $19.95, it rakes in roughly $278,000, or about $375,00, per day.
It is a cash machine.
“Markus, like everyone else was surprised at how fast Minecraft grew,” said Larrson.
Mojang and Minecraft represent a new indie mentality in game development. “They don’t want to be seen as businessmen but as artists,” said Larrson. They aren’t rote programmers, creating endless functions. Instead, they are more like filmmakers or artists.
Minecraft doesn’t fit the pattern of other popular games like World of Warcraft or Angry Birds. While players can slay dragons or Creepers, that’s not really the point of the game.
It’s all about building. Users can work in Creative Mode, which turns off all of the monsters. It transforms Minecraft into a massive construction site. Players create their own environment—including replicas of the Eiffel Tower, the Starship Enterprise, gigantic stone cathedrals and, for the more juvenile-minded, giant phallus-shaped objects. Minecraft, the authors say, is LEGO on steroids.
In schools, children use an educational version of it to build replicas of molecules and cities. Construction companies even use it as a city planning tool.
But as the game became more and more successful, the more its maker worried. He never wanted to milk money like the uber-franchised Angry Birds. He also didn’t want to be a one-hit wonder.
Since leaving Minecraft, Perrson has experimented with several other projects, but so far none have come to fruition. Despite his wealth, the authors say he is a very humble man who values his craft above all.
The book ends in 2011, just after Notch left his company. The authors, fresh from the latest MineCon, will have a lot more to say about Minecraft and Notch at their Nov. 6 reading at Word Up Community Bookstore.