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Lord of Minecraft

Markus 'Notch' Persson on resisting VC, the lure of DLC and why he's open about revenue

Markus Persson, perhaps better known as 'Notch', is a Swedish developer with an eclectic CV: Wurm Online, Luxor, Funny Farm... Oh, and Minecraft, the construction/survival indie game that became a phenomenon this Summer.

With the game at one point selling over 25,000 copies and earning $350,000 a day, Persson found himself able to found his own studio. Days after settling into his new office, GamesIndustry.biz chatted to the softly-spoken Swede about the young company's plans, how he felt about having made his earnings so public and why publishers' abandonment of the PC has been a godsend for indie developers.

GamesIndustry.biz You moved into your new office this week, didn't you? How's working as a team rather than on your own working out so far?
Markus Persson

I'm not quite used to it yet. We're trying to get to do scrum and more like proper development, I hope. It's a fairly new experience. I did this for years in a team though, so I'm pretty used to working with people, but I've worked at home for so long that it's so easy to get distracted by the internet, or do whatever I want and figure and I can do work in the evening and stuff.

GamesIndustry.biz Plus you've got them all looking to you as the boss this time around, presumably, which must seem odd?
Markus Persson

Yeah, definitely. We're getting a CEO, he's starting in January - so hopefully he's going to do the actual day to day bossy stuff. But I'm definitely going to be more like the creative aspect of, like game design and stuff like that.

GamesIndustry.biz Is that because you're not really taken with the idea of being a director, or a more of a purely practical issue?
Markus Persson

Yeah, what I find is find most fun is developing games, thinking about game design, programming and all that. I'm not really interested even in doing business deals - I have no idea what to do there.

GamesIndustry.biz What kind of effect has the sudden onset of money had on your game design thinking? How do you resist the urge to just drive off in a sports car for a few days?
Markus Persson

I think the way I did it was to read a book on the scrum, the agile development - it's very like feature driven. If you have a feature you want to add, you just focus on creating that without worrying about the infrastructure and the code or any of that surrounding stuff. Then when you end up in a situation where you need that infrastructure, that's when you add it. If you're going to stick to the scrum, it's pretty much the same except it scales up to a larger team.

GamesIndustry.biz How are you finding, not just the game being a success but also being a cult figure online yourself?
Markus Persson

Yeah - with the Notch Twitter account and the blog and stuff, that was pretty fun I thought. At first I thought it was manageable, but then people started recognising me in Stockholm and coming up to say hi. It felt like there was a big clash between the internet world and the real world, which was kind of... I wouldn't say unhelpful, because it was very flattering if people recognise you. But it still made me realise that it can be pain sometimes.

GamesIndustry.biz It must be odd to be addressed as 'Notch' rather than your real name too?
Markus Persson

I think it's about 50/50 though. I usually only use it online, rarely hear people actually say it. Basically when I started using computers everyone had nicknames everywhere so I just picked one and now I'm 'Notch.'

GamesIndustry.biz What's behind the resurgence in indie success at the moment, do you think? Is it a change in perception or in the market?
Markus Persson

I think it's a little bit of both. The games industry started moving away from PC and into console a lot. While there are a few hardcore PC studios around, most of it seems to be focused on the console versions. They only really port of the PC versions. The indie market really could blossom because people started realising that we're actually doing interesting ideas in the indie games. Something like in the early 90s, games that were made by id Software or Epic - small developer teams who actually took chances because they didn't have huge projects. So the indie scene could blossom; there are a lot of indie games on console too and they're selling really well as well. But I think it's one result of the sort of abandonment of PC gaming.

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Alec Meer


A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.