Matthew and Ben Horton now rake in £100,000 a year
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When 13-year-old twins Ben and Matthew Horton suddenly started making a lot of money, their dad was understandably worried.
The identical lads were on pocket money of a pound a week – and suddenly they had an account with £600 in it.
Mystified council worker Mark, 51, at first feared they might be dealing drugs.
But the addiction involved in their new-found wealth was a totally normal teenage one – playing video games.
Only the boys weren’t just content with playing them – they were inventing them too.
Now, at only 20, they are earning more than £100,000 a year each as developers.
A clip from their video game Bacon Hair
(Image: PA Real Life/Roblox)
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They have helped parents Mark and Caroline pay off the mortgage on the family home in Norfolk and are financing their brother and sister’s university education.
Like millions of little boys, the twins started gaming in childhood, starting with Lego on PlayStation 2 and simple Flash games.
Then they discovered online gaming platform Roblox, which teaches youngsters how to make their own from scratch.
Matt says: “It gave us access to interesting creations by hundreds of people. At first, we just played them, then in the 2013 Christmas holidays we started experimenting with creating our own.”
They came up with free-to-play Boat Ride, in which players navigate a Disney-like world of attractions. Then they added extras at £5 a time, such as being able to fly around their world using a jet-pack.
It was a big breakthrough. “When I showed my dad we’d earned £600, he thought it must be from drug-dealing as it was so much. He was so surprised,” said Matt.
Ben added: “We only got about £1 a week pocket money, so that first £5 was a lot. It bought about 5,000 marshmallows. We had a lot of tubs of sweets.”
Matt started teaching himself video production, so he could make trailers for the twins’ growing number of games.
Meanwhile Ben went deeper into learning programming and user interfaces.
At 16, they dropped out of sixth form to concentrate on their budding careers.
A few months later Matt came up with adventure gaming movie The Last Guest while Ben created a video game based on it called Guest World.
It made them £67,000 in the first year of release. Matt – whose latest project is a 60-minute animated movie called Bacon Hair – said: “The Last Guest has been watched for over 25 million hours and had 100 million YouTube views.”
Now the pair have created a total of 20 games together on Roblox, including another belter called Roleplay World.
Matthew and Ben Horton when they were younger
Along with Guest World, it has accumulated 100 million gaming visits. Matt said lockdowns have sent the number of games players rocketing.
He said: “Views of my videos have doubled and engagement with our games has increased by 30 to 40 per cent.”
Ben said: “It’s really overwhelming to have that many people playing our games. When Matt started selling The Last Guest soft toys people even began dressing up as his characters.” The brothers now live and work together in Crawley, West Sussex but hope to move to LA, the global hub of the gaming industry.
The secret to their success has been hard work – and thinking in sync, as identical twins sometimes do.
“We didn’t have any formal training. We just learned quickly by ourselves, repeating things and getting better,” says Matt.
And their games have proved a winner for the whole family. “We paid for a trip to Florida for us all last year and were able to pay off part of our parents’ mortgage,” Matt adds.
Their success is also helping sister Rebecca, 21, through a travel and tourism degree and 18-year-old brother Edward’s physiotherapy studies.
Matt said they still find it hard to believe that something they started doing for fun is landing them a fortune.
“We did all this stuff because we enjoyed doing it. We’re really fortunate,” he said.