February 28, 2014 12:06 am

Minecraft film under construction at Warner Bros

Minecraft game screenshot

Warner Brothers is swapping Lego bricks for pixelated blocks to bring popular virtual-world game Minecraft to the big screen.

The Hollywood studio is building on its success with The Lego Movie , which has become one of 2014’s biggest hits, taking in $280.5m globally over the past three weeks. A Lego sequel is planned for 2017, making it Warners’ biggest family-friendly franchise since the blockbuster Harry Potter series ended in 2011.


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Sometimes seen as Lego’s digital heir, Minecraft has become one of the world’s most popular online games since it launched in 2011. More than 100m people have created their own structures and landscapes with its digital blocks, to protect themselves from the evil “creepers” that come out at night.

Warners has acquired the rights to Minecraft from its Swedish developer Mojang and is working with the producer of The Lego Movie , Roy Lee, on the project. Unlike the animated Lego Movie, Minecraft will be a live-action film, allowing faster production.

That means it could hit cinemas ahead of rival Sony Pictures’ animated adaptation of Angry Birds, another mobile game turned merchandising machine, which is slated for release in 2016.

The tie-up was first reported on Thursday by Deadline Hollywood and confirmed by Minecraft’s creator, Markus “Notch” Persson, in a tweet.

“Someone is trying to leak the fact that we’re working with Warner Brothers on a potential Minecraft Movie. I wanted to be the leak!” he said. Warner Brothers declined to comment while Mojang did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

Minecraft first launched on the PC, where more than 100m players registered to play its free version and more than 14m paid about €20 for full access, Mr Persson said in another tweet this week. It also counts as one of the most popular paid apps on smartphones and tablets, where it has sold millions more copies at about $7 each. Apple said that Minecraft’s “Pocket Edition” was the top-selling paid app on both the iPhone and iPad in 2013.

Minecraft’s success has come as Lego has struggled to recreate its analogue success in the digital world. While Lego’s movie franchises such as Star Wars, Batman and Harry Potter have yielded best-selling video games, none has yet matched Minecraft’s huge appeal among younger audiences.

In an open-ended world of simplistic, blocky graphics, players spend hours on end crafting castles or replicas of real-world structures, often sharing videos of their creations on YouTube.

However, the “sandbox” nature of the game means that it has no plot and few characters other than Steve, the silent main protagonist, and his nemesis the Ender Dragon, presenting a potential challenge for screenwriters.

Despite the company’s rapid growth in the past three years, Mojang has taken no outside investment and remains owned by its employees, with Mr Persson the largest shareholder. Its Scandinavian neighbour Lego, which is also privately owned, earlier on Thursday reported that sales last year grew to DKr25.4bn ($4.7bn) with operating profits up 10 per cent at DKr8.3bn ($1.5bn), outpacing the wider toy market.

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