Game server hosting company Nodecraft will celebrate its fifth anniversary in May, but co-founders Jonathan Yarbor and James Ross are not waiting for the party.
In fact, starting March 1, they have started expanding the game offerings beyond just Minecraft.
And they have improved customer support and the user experience which already outpaced much of their competition.
In many types of business, the end of the fifth year is considered a good sign that they have made it; but, not in the game industry.
Being satisfied with a mere glide path could easily mean the death of a company.
Nodecraft grew by being a server hosting company solely for Minecraft, a game that became a worldwide hit in its first three years.
It became so big that it provided all the growth and challenge Yarbor and Ross could handle as they wrote the code themselves for their panel, provider, support and billing.
“Minecraft is one of the first few games to bring people from the outside into it, because you can have a laptop and play Minecraft,” Yarbor told Free Press. “Now you can have a tablet and play Minecraft. You can’t do that with all these full-featured games.”
The entire visuals of the game are based on what looks like Legos. But the simple appearance does not lead to boredom because there are so many ways the player can create their own environment within the game.
Different servers provide different versions of the same game and the player does not have to buy a new game to receive a new experience.
Some originally scoffed at Minecraft creator Markus “Notch” Persson, who said openly that he would be willing to sell the game to a company “like Microsoft” someday for $2 billion.
The world is full of inventors who overvalue their creations. But it seems Persson underestimated the value of his. Microsoft did buy the game from him in 2014; but instead, it was for $2.5 billion.
On March 1 Nodecraft held a live launch party on Twitch revealing several big advances. (See the full 38-minute video below.)
The biggest change is what Yarbor describes as their becoming “game agnostic” meaning they will now add a new supported game into their system “about every week.”
From their 2012 beginning, Nodecraft has been known as a responsive, dependable Minecraft server provider, but that was the sole game Nodecraft supported.
Yarbor explained why they needed to expand their offerings.
Minecraft is a really awesome game. But there are other games. There is a cycle and not having the ability to run those games [leaves us out]. Pokemon GO came out, for example, and we would drop a customer because they were playing these other games. And it’s just that not everyone wants to play Minecraft all the time.
And so, starting in March, Nodecraft will be offering a steadily-increasing inventory of games that will allow their users to switch between games without additional cost.
Yarbor gave an example.
The status quo for our industry right now is you rent a server. It costs x dollars for this game, then you have to rent another server for another game. It’s a new billing subscription. They average 20-30 bucks, so if you want to support two games, that’s 40-50 bucks right there. It’s an unsustainable model.
They have added Starbound as their first new game beyond Minecraft.
“Our customers are no longer limited to Minecraft, but can run any game that we support with the new platform,” Yarbor told Free Press.
“We are currently on par to keep a weekly release schedule to support at least one new game within the beta each week.”
Their commitment to offering prompt support is revealed by their hiring Stephen Lains who works in that roll full time.
Their Twitch cast March 1 revealed Nodepanel 2, which provides an updated user console. Yarbor and Ross said they “spent quite a few months modifying this and making this run significantly faster.”
The file manager has been completely rewritten yielding faster performance as well.
Nodecraft is unlike so many other hosting companies that were started by business people who knew little about gaming.
Ross and Yarbor became acquainted while gaming and became frustrated as they developed their own community and tried to find reliable and affordable server services.
And so, they decided to start their own server hosting company, working evenings and weekends to build the first phases of their platform.
Fast forward to now, the partners do all their own coding for different aspects of the business that provides a good experience for the user.
“We build our custom support, our custom billing, we build a custom product,” said Yarbor. “And the only thing that we still don’t touch right now is hardware because that takes millions of dollars to do, and we don’t have that kind of funding.”
He is blunt about their competitors.
“These other providers aren’t building products,” Yarbor said. “They are using third party products and they are being the middleman for you. They go find a third-party provider, they use a third-party billing system, third-party support system, third-party panel.”
“It’s a Frankenstein.”
Yarbor and Ross live on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Yarbor and the company headquarters are at Starspace46, a new co-working space on the west side of downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Ross continues to reside in Kent, United Kingdom.
The last time he visited OKC he told Free Press that he wanted to continue to live in Kent because of his family ties there. It is his childhood home so he wants to stay. And why not?
The infrastructure of both places allows Yarbor and Ross to keep a Skype connection open during the day and talk with each other as if they are sitting next to each other as they work.
They have associated that way more than in person throughout their entire eight years of knowing each other.