Meet the guys behind Minecraft’s first official companion app

If you’re a Minecraft fan, you might have heard of 57Digital.

The Sheffield-based studio is run by two developers and created the first official companion app for the popular block-building game in 2011.

Since creating the go-to guide for all things Minecraft, the founders of 57Digital, Jamie Chapman and Luke Dixon, have branched out. Their Skin Studio app features 1.4 million Minecraft skins and also lets people design their own and upload them to the game; while their Papercraft Studio app lets users print out popular Minecraft characters and items so they can build them in real-life. They also sell their products on Minecraft’s official Marketplace.

In total, 57Digital’s apps have racked up more than 10 million downloads, but what’s their most popular skin and what’s the secret behind their success?

The Microsoft UK News Centre caught up with Jamie and Luke to find out.

You created the official Minecraft app?

Luke: Yes. We started with Minecraft Explorer and then launched Skin Studio, with an app called Papercraft Studio coming later.

How did that come about?

Luke: We played Minecraft when we were younger on our PCs, but when we wanted to figure out a crafting recipe we would have to switch to a web browser, which would pause the game. That was annoying. So, we decided to make an app that we could use as a guide while playing. We developed it as an app just for us, simply to fulfil our own need but then we released as a free app it to see if anyone else had the same issue. It didn’t start out as a commercial endeavour, but then it gained popularity. We eventually had to make it a paid app because it was consuming so much of our time.

Jamie: We decided to leave the software company we were both working at, in order to set up our own business. That was around the time we took an interest in Minecraft, purely as a game.

What was it about Minecraft that drew you in?

Luke: I really liked the survival element and trying to build something. I liked making things and videogames so creating things in a game was perfect.

Jamie: It was unlike anything else I had played. It wasn’t a linear story where there were quests, it was an open-ended sandbox; it was endless, you could do anything.

What’s your most popular skin?

Luke: Our all-time bestseller on the Marketplace is the Foodies pack.

Jamie: The Foodies pack lets you dress up as food, such as a hamburger or a hot dog. It’s crazy working in this area, because on a daily basis we will say to each other: “Could you add a little bit more bacon to this skin?” It’s bizarre to be talking about that, but it’s also a lot of fun.

Minecraft has such a strong community of fans. Does that help your business?

Jamie: Absolutely. Our Skin Studio is very much a community-focused app, with people developing their own skins and submitting them to share with the community. It’s great to see the community make something and then share it with their friends.

Your creations must be all over social media

Jamie: We’ve had some popular streamers play our maps, which is nice to see. It’s very rewarding to spend a lot of hours on a piece of content and then see people enjoying it.

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Are you ever completely happy with what you design?

Luke: We always think we’ve done the best we could do. In fact, we sometimes put too much effort into the little things, but that’s our nature. We can be a bit too perfectionist. When we see someone playing one of our maps and they make a comment, sometimes we think: “That’s such a great idea, why didn’t we think of that?”.

What do you have planned for the future?

Luke: We will continue to make skin packs because we like to think we do that well, but we are also developing more maps. We have an ideas board and there are more than 100 maps on there at the moment.

Jamie: We’ve realised that plan is quite difficult to achieve with just two of us, especially when we come up with so many ideas. So, we are trying to connect with other builders and modellers and see if we can work together to create more content.

How is that going?

Jamie: It’s been quite successful. We’ve had a few people reach out to us and say they want to help us make content. It’s pretty early in those discussions, but so far so good.