Mojang, the Swedish videogame developer behind the indie game sensation "Minecraft," is set to double its profits from last year's 60 million Swedish kroners ($8.9 million) to an estimated 115.8 million SEK this year, the company's CEO Carl Manneh said in an interview with the Swedish site IT24. The developer's success suggests a larger trend occurring in the game industry toward smaller scale localized projects as massive AAA titles continue to underperform for major publishers.
Other than a prospective Lego toy line based off the increasingly popular game, "Minecraft" remains the company's sole IP. But as an independent studio spearheaded by a colorful and exuberant developer (Markus "Notch" Persson), Mojang has long boasted a unique and effective digital strategy. "Minecraft" was first released in 2009 as a developmental "alpha" release, more than a year before Notch would even announced plans to start his own studio to support the game.
The game eventually entered its "beta" development stage (the point at which most games become available to a small number of users for play-testing and product development) when the company was founded in September 2010. While users had to pay for the different PC releases, the prices were infinitesimal compared to AAA game prices (usually around $60 for a new title), and allowed "Minecraft" to accumulate a vast online fanbase. By the time it released on Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) in May 2012 for the comparatively expensive $20 price tag, Mojang had drummed up enough fevered anticipation among console players that it broke all XBLA sales records, selling some 400,000 copies in the first 24 hours alone.
"Since Mojang keeps more of the earnings from the new Minecraft versions, our turnover increases a lot this year," Manneh said to IT24. "Our profits will more than double. Markus' company will also make more money, though perhaps not as high a percentage as Mojang."
Mojang is also currently working on the role-playing card game "Scrolls" that caused a brief legal dispute last year with Bethesda Software, developer of the acclaimed "The Elder Scrolls" series, as well as several smaller developers and working with smaller developers to publish their games, according to an MCV Nordic report. But whatever additions Mojang is currently rolling out, Minecraft continues to be the heart of the developer's current business model-MCV estimates that the game sells approximately 17,000 units a day along with several smartphone versions. But last year, the majority of profits went straight to Notch Development—Perssons' own company—rather than Mojang itself. MCV states the 425 million SEK ($63.5 million) of the total 550 million SEK ($82.2 million) went to Notch Development). Now with the company's massive increase in yearly profits, much of the money will go straight to Mojang since the company has officially taken over the IP from Persson.
As the majority owner of Mojang, Notch still stands to make a lot from the company's increased profit. But the shift towards a more institutionalized development and product management cycle than existed in "Minecraft's" early alpha days is a sign of the company's shift away from its chaotic DIY roots and into the mainstream of a new generation of game development Notch himself has heavily shaped.
To herald the change, Mojang moved into a bigger office which finally gives the studio more than one bathroom.