"We had hit the end of the money bucket. It was really dismal and grim."
- Big John Games chief Ken Patterson.
Minnesota-based indie studio Big John Games hit a rough patch last year when a funding deal fell through, and things were looking "dismal and grim" -- until the studio's Minecraft-alike Cube Creator 3D unexpectedly took off on the Japanese 3DS eShop, reportedly selling 10x as many copies as it had in America.
"All of a sudden it was, not hallelujah money, or winning the lottery, but it was like, 'OK, a door has opened. We can at least move forward,'" Patterson told the Minnesota Post-Bulletin.
Big John Games has been quietly putting out games on various platforms for years, but the story of Cube Creator 3D's success on the Japanese 3DS eShop is notable because it shows how developers can succeed by releasing games for underserved audiences in specific markets.
While Mojang has sold over 100 million copies of Minecraft worldwide, it hasn't released the game on 3DS. That's likely why Cube Creator 3D is Big John Games' best-selling release to date, which has given the studio the leeway to embark on its first self-funded game project.
What's less clear is why, exactly, the game sold so much better in Japan than in America. It's reportedly remained in the top 10 top-selling games on the Japanese 3DS eShop for six months, and has inspired Arc System Works (which published Cube Creator 3D in Japan) to collaborate with Big John on another 3DS game.