Dundee game development firm 4J Studios brought in the New Year in style, celebrating five million sales of gaming sensation Minecraft to close 2012 on a record high.
The firm, which is responsible for the evolution of the interactive phenomenon for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 game console, realised 22% of the 453,000 sales which Minecraft achieved across all platforms on Christmas Day alone.
In total 100,416 people bought the 4J-developed game on December 25, while it was purchased for the Xbox 325,591 times during the seven days of Christmas.
As a result, the company saw Minecraft leapfrog Halo 4 to take second spot behind Call of Duty: Black Ops II at the top of the Xbox LIVE activity rankings for the final week of last year.
Sales figures aside, company chairman Chris van der Kuyl said 4J has been very fortunate to be involved with the development of the Minecraft phenomenon.
He said the game’s success “surprised us all and exceeded everyone’s expectations”.
It has also led to “recruitment mode” at 4J and the firm is now looking to enlist further members of staff for its offices in Dundee and East Linton on the outskirts of Edinburgh, to support title development.
Although he would not divulge the company’s current staffing levels, he said the success of the game and consequent company growth will also see the firm relocate from its studio on Perth Road into new Dundee headquarters at City Quay.
At the hands of Mr van der Kuyl, chief technology officer Paddy Burns and studio director Frank Arnot, 4J rose from the ashes of VIS Entertainment, which folded in 2005.
As chief executive officer, Mr van der Kuyl oversaw the transition to an international stage, merging in 2004 with Nasdaq-listed Bam Entertainment.
When VIS filed for bankruptcy in April 2005 it incorporated VIS Games and associated companies Axis Animation and VIS iTV and supported more than 100 employees.
Mr van der Kuyl took over VIS’s Dundee office, picked an “elite team of staff”, and 4J Studios was ultimately born.
The company “quietly worked away” on a number of projects including taking Oblivion to a new audience on the PlayStation 3 platform.
Since their formation, the studios have developed a catalogue of games across a wide spectrum of console platforms.
4J has also remade or ported a number of existing games over to other game consoles including the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, in 2007; and Overlord: Raising Hell in 2008, both for the PS3; followed by a progression between 2008 and last year from Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie, Perfect Dark, to Minecraft — all for Xbox LIVE.
“Over the process of time we have struck up a strong relationship with Stockholm-based developers Mojang, who released Minecraft for creator Markus Persson, and also with Microsoft,” Mr van der Kuyl said.
He said the relationship was forged by 4J’s ability to re-engineer PC codes efficiently and deliver production projects on time.
The work carried out by 4J and prompt delivery and release of Minecraft saw the Dundee-made game become the fastest-selling title in Xbox history.
4J Studios sold more than 400,000 downloads of Minecraft, massively outscoring every previous Xbox Live Arcade game.
The game recouped its development costs within one hour of going on sale.
Mr van der Kuyl said the studio now plans to utilise its core team of designers, technology and games programmers and artists to build on Minecraft’s success.
He suggested that another J should be added to Dundee’s famous trio of industries. He said Dundee is now the city of jute, jam, journalism and joysticks.