If you aren't a kid or at least a parent of school-aged children, you will probably never have heard of Roblox. But it has recently become a popular way for children to game. It may not have the universal appeal of games like Fortnite or Grand Theft Auto or the universally-recognized name of Minecraft. Still, the online gaming platform Roblox is rapidly growing in popularity. It has 115 million active users worldwide, and that number is increasing all the time. It surpassed Minecraft's 100,000 users in August 2019. Six Roblox games reached one billion visits in 2019.
Roblox is particularly popular with Generation Z, and this has recently helped it generate $150 million in Series G funding. Indeed, Roblox claims that half of all American children between the ages of 9 and 12 use its platform. It is now one of the top five most-watched games on YouTube.
An in-depth look at Roblox:
What is Roblox?
Roblox technically isn’t a game. It is a gaming environment aimed at children. Roblox users download the Roblox app to their computer, game console, phone, or tablet. They then select a Roblox game to play each time they open the app.
It may surprise you to know that Roblox has been around since 2006. This predates even Minecraft. There are now more than 50 million games in the environment. Your son or daughter certainly can't complain that they can't find something that they would like on the platform.
The makers of Roblox have provided the tools and gaming environment. They have left it to the Roblox community to use their imagination and create the games.
Roblox also acts as a mini social platform, providing the opportunity for its users to add friends and chat. It allows players to “Imagine, socialize, chat, play, create, interact and relate with others in many ways.”
How Popular is Roblox?
Roblox is popular with children of both genders, with about 40% of the players female. Research firm, Kids Data, has collected information about Roblox usage in the UK. In that nation alone, at least 1.5 million children are playing the game, with 24% of British 10-12 year-olds playing on Roblox. This outscores TikTok (13%) and Snapchat (20%), although TikTok’s support will have risen since Kids Data’s survey. Roblox use is very similar to that of Instagram with this age group. Roblox use by 10-12-year-old UK children also exceeded the time they spent watching traditional television on CBBC (11%), Nickelodeon (10%), and Cartoon Network (8%).
Although Roblox is less popular than YouTube with youngsters, the game company recognizes the importance of that video platform for building their followers. In much the same way that Twitch influencers record their games and share long-form videos of them on their YouTube channels, Roblox gamers record their games and share them through YouTube.
Roblox claims that they gain most of their players through word-of-mouth. A kid likes a game and invites his or her friends to join. They, too, join Roblox and tell their friends about it.
Remember, Roblox isn't just a game to play cocooned in your room, socially isolated. It is a game environment where players join up with their friends in a social setting.
Children love Roblox because it now offers a vast collection of games. You can track those games you are playing, collect badges, and create universes online. It has a similar look and feel to Minecraft and Lego.
How Does Roblox Work?
When you think of making a game, you probably imagine a gaming studio full of young boffins slaving over millions of lines of code. Indeed, that does describe many popular games on the market, although the vast majority have large teams, all specializing in one specific task. Indeed, that is probably how the gaming platform of Roblox was developed.
But Roblox is a game environment. It isn’t a game as such. It’s not like Fortnite, for instance, where millions of players from around the world have virtual battles. Each group of players in Fortnite may play a distinct game, competing against each other. However, despite the multiple games that play concurrently around the world, and gameplay variations depending on the options you choose, Fortnite is still recognizably Fortnite. These players are all still playing the same game.
Roblox is different. There are millions of different games in Roblox. Sure they have a similar look and feel – they all exist within the same graphical environment. But they don’t co-exist in the same gaming world. Each Roblox-created game is a different and separate game. Yet users can download every game in the Roblox environment and don’t need any additional software unless they wish to create a game. You can play a Roblox version of virtually every game genre imaginable, from racing games to action games to roleplaying games to shooting games.
How Safe is Roblox?
As with many websites and apps that interest children, there is always the question of online safety. You will find quite a few press reports questioning whether Roblox is safe for its young players. Some people claim that Roblox provides a platform for adults trying to groom children. You will find similar concerns expressed about TikTok and YouTube.
The media have even expressed concern about inappropriate role-playing opportunities in the games. The Sun UK, for example, reported that Mum shares outrage after seeing seven-year-old daughter's character 'gang-raped' in online Roblox game. In that case, the Roblox developer said it was "outraged" to learn its rules had been "subverted" by a "bad actor." They banned the offending person for life and made things harder for this to occur again.
One problem is that sometimes when you allow children to express their imagination, some will do so in inappropriate ways. Also, it is vital to remember that Roblox games target 8 to 18-year-olds, so you will find teenagers on the platform as well as young children.
This issue is not new. People were downloading nude patches for popular gaming franchise, The Sims, as far back as the original version of that game in 2004.
Roblox has recognized the concerns expressed by parents of young children, however. They have fronted up to complaints and altered the environment to make inappropriate activity more difficult. They also have a section of their website called For Parents, which explains Roblox's safety tools. These include avatar clothing detection, a reporting system, chat filters, and customizable parental controls.
Making a Roblox Game
The majority of Roblox players are happy to play its games, just like they do any other videogames. They are no different to those people who spend their time on YouTube or TikTok merely watching content. They are content users rather than creators. However, the more ambitious Roblox users like to create games in the environment. They download the Roblox Studio software, where they can "make anything." Roblox claims that "Roblox Studio lets you create anything and release with one click to smartphones, tablets, desktops, consoles, and virtual reality devices."
Roblox offers the Developer Hub, a one-stop-shop for publishing on Roblox. It provides useful resources for those wishing to create Roblox games, including a comprehensive set of tutorials. You can also connect with other developers, get platform updates, and browse their API references.
How to Make Money on Roblox
Although the vast majority of Roblox games are free-to-play, many include advertising and microtransactions. This follows the same pattern as many of the games you find in the Android and iOS stores.
There is a definite market for well-created Roblox games. The Roblox Studio site claims that "Creators like you are getting paid for what they love to do. Our top developers are earning over $2M a year by providing in-game purchases."
You do have the option to charge for your Roblox games, although unless you have already built yourself a name, you will struggle against all the free games on offer. Some Roblox developers have got away with charging a one-time entry fee to their game, marketing it as being an access payment.
Another successful way that popular games make money is by charging for Game Passes. These work where you have a lot of downloadable content (DLC) and the Game Passes effectively give access to the DLC.
Roblox makes in-game commerce possible by having a virtual currency – Robux. Players buy Robux with real cash, and then “spend” Robux for items within the games of their choice. Developers build up Robux from the games they make and then exchange Robux back for real money.
However, not everybody who has created a game can exchange in-game Robux for real money. To be able to do this, you need to work through the official Developer Exchange and:
- Be at least 13 years of age or older,
- Be a member of the Outrageous Builders Club tier,
- Have a minimum of 100,000 “earned” Robux in your account.
Marketing on Roblox
Roblox doesn’t yet have a full-scale advertising platform like many of the social platforms we cover. However, you can advertise any games you create within the platform.
Once you have created your game, group, or piece of (virtual) clothing of your dreams, you have the opportunity to use the User Ads feature. You upload images to promote your places, clothing, models, decals, groups, etc. These display at the top and sides of Roblox.com. When someone clicks on the image, it will take them to the game (or other item) being advertised.
Another option is Roblox's Sponsored Games feature. These are promotions for games that show up directly in many different game sorts/lists. They are clearly marked as sponsored, but otherwise, look and act just like any of the other choices available.
Both User Ads and Sponsored Games use a bidding system. Developers bid in Robux every day that they would like their promotion to run. They can indicate the specific platform (web, tablet, or phone) where they would like their marketing to appear.