The Wolf of Minecraft: Student creates server for popular video game

Matthew Cummings

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Andrew Badertscher is understating it.

“I’m not your typical Marin kid,” he says.

Indeed, he speaks like a Wall Street banker in his mid-twenties whose drug of choice is Starbucks rather than cocaine.

It started for Badertscher in March of 2012. An enthusiastic architecture student, he had just begun playing Minecraft on online multiplayer servers, which can be accessed by players after they pay a small fee to download the game.

Badertscher soon surprised himself by succumbing to the temptations of buying extra perks through “donations” to the server owners. It was a move similar to making in-app purchases on iPhone games. Except Badertscher shelled out $200.

“A big thing that I learned right away was that players who donate, they feel better than the people who don’t donate,” Badertscher said. “I wanted to feel better too.”

His $200 donation allowed him to chat with other avid Minecraft fans, his fellow “elite players.” It was on this server, in March, that he would meet a friend he knows as “Viet,” a Vietnamese college student at NYU. By May, the two had discovered how much money server owners could make from donations.

“We both realized, ‘Hey, look at this business venue, you want to try it?’” Badertscher said. “We said yes. It was a big risk, but we wanted to try it.”

With the help of a Canadian player named “Tex,” Viet and Badertscher spent the next two months coding and preparing the infrastructure for a new server. Tex and Viet handled the programming while Badertscher designed web ads, drafted legal documents, and planned the marketing approach.

“I try to target populations,” Badertscher explained. “The majority of Minecraft players, the biggest age group is 12-year-olds. So I ask myself what can I do to morph the server to be more friendly to them. On Facebook posts, I’ll put more pictures and fewer words. On the server, I sell things that appeal to younger kids like swords or horses.”

In order to draw the attention of the young population of Minecraft players, the three designed a brightly-colored world and named the server “Waffle Minecraft.”

“It doesn’t mean anything, there’s no waffles,” Badertscher said. “But that’s the thing about the world of Minecraft. It doesn’t have to make sense.”

The banner ads which he bought on other sites quickly drew the attention of eager 12-year-olds, and the money began to come in. At first, he made less than $100 a month, but as some players began to buy the high-priced items on the server, the payout increased.

“There’s this social atmosphere where people always want to be better than each other so they keep giving money, money, money,” Badertscher said. “And those people at the top, they talk so much, they talk trash, and it makes the people who don’t have it want to move up. So there’s definitely a social aspect to it, which I love because I love the fact that they’ll keep going higher and higher.”

While the money increased, his sleep decreased. During the end of summer in 2012, Badertscher had been devoting four hours a day to his work on the server. Then junior year started.

As homework began to pile up on top of his business venture, he decided something had to go. That something was sleep.

“I was still dedicating four hours a day,” Badertscher said. “I kind of screwed up my sleep schedule. I was going to bed at 1 or 2 a.m. each day.

Was he ever tempted to bail on the server?

“I was so determined,” he said, thinking back on it. “College was on the horizon and I definitely wanted a new stereo for my car. And the money kept flowing. It kind of became addicting.”

The money kept flowing and flowing and flowing for the three partners. But by November 2013, the relationship between the co-workers was strained by financial concerns.

“Tex had grown tired of the pay, he wanted more, he wanted a bigger cutout,” Badertscher said. “He felt that whatever he was doing was above what we were doing. We said no, said goodbye, he said goodbye. If anything, that means a bigger cutout for me. I mean, I was sad to lose a friend, but I was getting more money.”

The event marked Badertscher’s growing obsession with his bank account.

“Tex was a great friend, he’s a great guy,” Badertscher said. “I should be extremely sad to lose a guy like that, but I don’t know, I guess it’s the money. It just consumes you, once you get in this business, you just want to make more and more.”

Badertscher and Viet happily accepted the larger payout that came with letting go of their friend. Each month’s paycheck grew larger and larger as the server continued to expand. Badertscher said he has made $35,000 in total and expects around a $40,000 windfall when he and Viet sell the server in the near future.

Badertscher has still never met the man with whom he continues to share profits.

“We’ve tried a few times,” Badertscher said. “I’ve been in New York twice but both times we missed each other by five minutes. We tried to meet in a pizza shop. I don’t know if we’ll ever meet. I want to, but it’s not exactly easy to plan.”

Having dabbled in piloting, Badertscher will attend Arizona’s Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University next year. He plans to major in global security as he hopes to become an FBI agent.

Even if he is one day undercover an international security mission, he will always carry fond memories of his high school business ventures.

“I’m proud. Very proud. I never expected it to go anywhere. I wanted a big server but I never expected to have this. I do think it slightly affected my grades, but I think what I’ve accomplished as a businessman, what I’ve learned about marketing, talking with people, getting relations, getting contacts, I think that’s a skill that I’ll definitely have for a long time.”