By Kristy Dorsey

Stormcloud, an independent games development studio based in Dundee, has landed an undisclosed seven-figure investment from two of the Scottish industry’s leading business figures.

Chris van der Kuyl and Paddy Burns have provided the cash injection through Chroma Ventures, the investment arm of their 4J Studios. The money will be used to bring into development new games conceived during lockdown following last year’s launch of its biggest success to date, financial education game Island Saver.

The company was founded in 2012 by Frank Arnot, who previously worked for Messers Burns and van der Kuyl at Vis Entertainment and latterly 4J Studios. A shareholder in 4J, Mr Arnot struck out on his own with money from 4J’s development of the hit game Minecraft for Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo consoles in 2005.

Also aided by start-up support from the Abertay Prototype Fund, Mr Arnot now employs 12 people and expects to hire half-a-dozen more developers in the coming year.

The Herald:

The first new title is expected to be an open-world creative game for PCs and consoles in line with Stormcloud’s primary focus on family-friendly entertainment. A prototype has been completed with the project now moving into pre-production, and if all goes well, a launch will likely take place in 2023.

“There are a few things in development, but that is the one that is furthest along,” Mr Arnot said. “We will focus on this one for a bit, and then pick up on some of the others.”

Stormcloud has won several plaudits for its family-friendly titles, including the BAFTA-nominated games based on the bestselling children’s books The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom. Its original award-winning series that teaches children origami – Paper Zoo, Paper Ocean and Paper Pets – also earned a BAFTA nomination.

Last year, in partnership with NatWest group, Stormcloud launched Island Saver, which now has more than 2.7 million downloads. It was nominated for “Best Educational or Serious Game” at the TIGA Game Awards 2020.

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“That has been our biggest to date, and our most successful as well in terms of reach,” Mr Arnot said.

Messers Burns and van der Kuyl established Chroma Ventures in March of last year to consolidate their investment portfolio and give more structure to future investments. Their focus in on early-stage deals of between £500,000 and £5 million.

Mr Burns said: “We’ve known Frank and the Stormcloud team for many years now and have followed their recent successes closely. Stormcloud has excelled in producing family-friendly games that everyone loves to play.

“When Frank shared their latest new games ideas with us, we decided that we wanted to help enable him and his team develop them.”

With no previous external investment in the business, Mr Arnot remains the majority shareholder. He said it was “great to be working with the guys again”, who are also his landlords as owners of the Water’s Edge development in Dundee where Stormcloud is based.

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“Given the challenges we’ve faced in the last year with the pandemic, it feels particularly good to be part of a wider community of games developers working in similar genres,” he said. “To be doing so with Chris and Paddy’s support – both financially and practically – is a real bonus.

“Having known each other for years, I think there’s a natural affinity and understanding of what we each bring to the working relationship. I trust and value their opinions – which is why we started talking about this in the first place – and they trust in our team’s ability to do the work and to do it in the right way.”

Mr Burns added: “What sets Stormcloud apart is the depth of experience in the team, many of whom have been making games for nearly 30 years.

"They know instinctively what works and what doesn’t, and they make original content in a style that is distinctively their own.”