Crafty: Xbox hit developed in Scottish village
A TINY games firm based in a quiet Scottish village has smashed the Xbox sales record.
4J Studios, from a base in picturesque East Linton in East Lothian, sold 400,000 copies of Minecraft in 24 hours, and have passed 1.2 million sales within a week of release.
The game, despite its blocky graphics and lack of violence, has proved a massive cult hit and is now challenging Call of Duty in popularity with players on Xbox Live.
4J studios worked with Swedish developers Mojang, whose founder Markus “Notch” Persson created the game and initially released it for free in 2009.
The Scots developed the Xbox Live version of the game, which is sold online for around £14.
Minecraft involves mining for different materials in a computer-generated world, and creating buildings and structures by “crafting” the materials together.
Though 4J Studio’s has an office in Dundee, chief technology officer Paddy Burns, 43, converted an old shop into a studio to avoid a lengthy commute.
Mr Burns, who worked with three other developers in the studio, said:“I’ve never publicised the fact that 4J has a studio in East Linton so everyone seems to assume that 4J only exists in Dundee!
“For the past six years, I’ve been running a small team from here and successfully porting games from Xbox 360 to Playstation 3 and converting old, rare titles to Xbox 360 for Microsoft.
“The relationship with Microsoft led to them suggesting 4J as the ideal partner to Mojang to take the phenomenally successful PC game over to the Xbox 360, and that’s what we’ve been working away quietly here for the past 11 months.”
The game was released on Xbox Live Arcade on Wednesday last week.
He continued: “Notch hasn’t visited the studio yet.
“I am slightly worried we’ll find loads of people dressed as creepers [the game’s bad guys] outside.”
Figures released from Microsoft this week show the game is behind only Call of Duty: Black Ops and Modern Warfare 3 in terms of the number of people playing it online.
This puts it ahead of Battlefield 3 and Gears of War 3, two blockbuster shooting games.
Mr Burns said: “In terms of activity we’re up there with Call of Duty.
“With the sales figures for the week we’re passed 1.2million sales- another record.
He said the game had passed 400,000 copies in its first day, and 1 million within five days.
At a launch party with the Mojang team on Friday, Mr Burns convinced “Notch” Persson to wear a Tam O’Shanter instead of his traditional hat.
The Swedish games designer is known for wearing a black Fedora.
At a recent convention in Las Vegas, Mr Burns said the Minecraft creator was swamped with people dressed as charachters from the game.
Mr Burns says he likes working in an environment away from the “hustle and bustle” of the city, but is worried the village’s broadband speeds.
The 4J studio team created a Minecraft version of Edinburgh castle to promote the game.
Describing the game, he says: “It’s a very retro, blocky look, but then it is a game about blocks.
“At first look, people do think it looks dated but once they play it, they tend to love the look, and the style really appeals to younger audiences.”
The game is being sold for 1600 Microsoft points, about £14.
4J Studios have produced other Xbox live versions of other popular games including shooter Perfect Dark.
The team will now work on updating the game, and Mr Burns says he has already been inundated with suggestions from fans.
The picturesque village of East Linton has a population of under 2,000, and has buildings dating back to the Eighteenth Century.
Mr Burns said: “Broadband speed is a main concern, hopefully it will improve.
“There is a project to get better broadband but they seem to be running into issues with grants.
“We might have to think about relocating if they don’t.
“We would probably go to Edinburgh, but I’d prefer to stay here.”
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