NEARLY 20 years ago he set up his computer gaming business in his bedroom - and today he's a multi-millionaire.

Hampshire-born Craig Fletcher has sold his family-run firm for £20 million after it was bought up by the country's biggest video games retailer, GAME.

What started out as a hobby at his parents' rural home in the New Forest, he now employs 50 staff at his firm Multiplay's headquarters in Lepe Road in Blackfield.

Today more than 10 million people connect to his firm's servers to play games such as Minecraft or the Battlefield action games series during anyone month.

But now it has been acquired by GAME allowing the 36-year old to expand his business rewarding him for years of hard work after he quit university to build it.

The former New Forest Academy pupil said: “We're very happy. This is a reward for those of us who have risked an awful lot. It recognises the hard work that everybody puts in.”

The windfall allows Craig to pay off the mortgages for his brothers Stewart, 47, - who also works for Multiplay as operations director - and Paul, 48, who runs utilities firm Kier.

He added he didn't know what else he would be spending the cash on but will remain in place as director.

Daily Echo:

L-R Dad Tom, mum Yvonne, Craig and brother Stewart Fletcher

He said: “I honestly haven't thought about it, I'm more focused on getting the business out there. I did sneak a look at a few cars, though.”

Although his father, Tom, 72, has retired from the business, his mum Yvonne, 67, will continue to work for him as the office secretary and they still live at their four-bedroom home in Bernwood Grove, Langley, where the business began.

Despite her partner's success, Pippa Caygill, 30, a urology surgical registrar, will continue to work and he added they will probably move to a new home near Romsey.

All 50 staff working there will remain on board and the former Brockenhurst College student believes the firm could triple in size over the coming years.

He added that a lot of the cash will be reinvested in new equipment.

He said: “The sky's the limit. We have had a rocket put under us. We're going to be growing very fast. I wouldn't be surprised if there were 150 people working here in three years time.

“We've got some big ambitions.”

Online gaming became Craig's life after he began playing on his brother's BBC Micro at a young age.

In 1994 he got 20 friends together to play a competitive gaming session to play [first-person shooter game] Doom 2 at the Southampton Hotel Ibis when competitive online gaming was in its infancy.

But it was when he was at studying medicine at Edinburgh University that the hobby took over his life when hundreds would attend gaming events.

He said: “I originally started it as a hobby, something that I did for fun.

“I got to my final year of medical school and realised it was getting silly. I'd fly down on a Wednesday to organise an event with hundreds of people at the weekend and then head back for exams.

“I had to give the company a shot.”

In 1997 he dropped out of university and enrolled his mum and dad and his brother into the business.

With the business initially revolving around him playing online and establishing contacts, now he barely has any time to play games himself as work takes over.

He said: “The last game I played quite a lot was Eve Online [an online multiplayer game set in space]. I exist so that other people can play.”

Over the years the firm grew and grew until the video games retailer, got in touch with Craig.

He said: “Who knew this little tech company could grow so fast and do so much?”

“We have been working with GAME for quite a while. They were the first exhibitor who came to one of our shows.

“They approached us. It almost happened as part of a conversation and it got to point where it was actually happening.

“For the first time in my life I will have a boss. Up until now it's been my mum.”

His audience is expected to grow by at least 17 million people, the number of people with an online subscription to GAME.

Multiplay also organises gaming events across the country including the Insomnia festival, labelled as the “Glastonbury of the gaming world” which saw 67,000 people attend last year.

Martyn Gibbs, chief executive of GAME Digital, said: “The world of live events, eSports and multiplayer gaming is growing rapidly and one we have been looking to enter for some time.

“By acquiring Multiplay we are benefitting from nearly two decades of experience, during which time Multiplay has built an exceptional reputation and leading position in its markets.

“Multiplay has a great management team and a fantastic culture - their passion and enthusiasm for games is infectious.”

  • Started in 1997 the firm began with just four employees. Now 50 people work there.

Every month more than 10 million people across the country connect to their servers to play games such as Minecraft and the Battlefield series.

They have also been the server provider for games such as the Call of Duty and Counter-Strike series.

Their audience is expected to grow by 17 million people with the number of GAME's online subscription.

The company also organises gaming events such as Insomnia, which last year saw 67,000 people walk through the doors at Coventry's RICOH Arena and 1.4million participate online.