Although Roblox has been around for over a decade, it’s probably one of the biggest success stories that you’ve never heard of, especially if you happen to be over the age of 13. That’s because the social, gaming and development platform, where players can come together using almost any device, has a very unique audience: kids who like to code.
As it turns out, this is a tremendous market that’s continuing to grow. Similar to the game Minecraft, users are encouraged to head out and express their creativity. But instead of fighting enemies and building structures, kids with an average age of about 10-12 (although they can be as young as five or six), can build entire games and experiences. Some of them may be mundane by adult standards, with a high school simulator being among some of the top ranked experiences. Other games include surviving a natural disaster, but they all have one thing in common: they’re all playable cross-platform. That means a mobile phone player can interact in the same game experience as someone using a desktop computer, a gaming console or even a VR device.
“Roblox has seen rapid growth over the past two years,” Tami Bhaumik, vice president of marketing at Roblox, told [a]listdaily. “We’ve had a 330 percent year-over-year growth period, 48 million active players, and over 22 million games with 1.7 million developers on the platform and we’re continuing to grow. We have about 200 people in the company and we plan on doubling our size in the course of the next year to focus on making sure that the platform is robust with features that help our developers create compelling games.”
The profitable company recently raised $92 million in venture capital funding led by Meritech Capital Partners and Index Ventures. As the platform expands its features, which includes virtual reality development for the Oculus Rift and soon the HTC Vive, the ultimate goal is to help these growing game designers become entrepreneurs someday, selling the worlds they create in Roblox on the open market. Roblox also debuted a new toy line from Jazwares earlier this year, featuring action figures inspired by user-generated content.
In discussing the company’s origins, Bhaumik said that, “Roblox was formed about 10 years ago, and the idea of it was to build a physics engine. As we developed the company, what we realized was that our users and players could create games that were more inspiring and creative than anything that we could build. So, we are a 100 percent user generated content company. You can say that Roblox is a little bit like YouTube for gaming. We don’t produce any content; we are a technology platform that enables content development for games. Every month, we have about 48 million active players, globally.”
Bhaumik continued by describing Roblox as “a virtual amusement park for kids. Kids are able to run around to different experiences and different social engagements. In the game, you’re able to chat with one another, play with friends, and create games together. So, it’s a very social platform in addition to all of the things that we do from a creation standpoint.”
This amusement park isn’t just for playing around. Kids are discovering a passion for coding and they’re learning to make money from their talents. Bhaumik explained that “about two years ago, we developed a monetization strategy where we would allow kids to buy virtual currency called robux. What you can do with it is buy things such as avatar clothing and special powers within games. Our developers get to choose what kind of experience they have for monetization in their games and we do a revenue share with them.”
That might sound pretty straightforward, but these kids have the potential to make a serious income from the Roblox platform. “Some of our developers are making over $50,000 a month and they’re really discovering new careers,” said Bhaumik. “They might start on our platform when they’re ten, and we’ve seen some of these kids grow up and become legitimate game developers. Some of them we’ve hired internally and some of them have gone on to create their own unique studios and hire others on their platform. It makes us very proud to see a lot of these developers paying for their college tuition, buying cars, or buying homes and discovering new career paths.”
When asked about how the company initially got the word out and grew, Bhaumik said: “When our CEO and founder, David Baszucki, started out it was all about allowing kids to develop their own experiences. From the very beginning, it was about having kids develop games for other kids. We barely spent any money on user acquisition—it was all viral. It’s young developers making games for their friends.”
Given the company’s success over the past decade, we asked Bhaumik if there were any plans to go beyond word-of-mouth. “We like to say that we’re the best secret around because the virality of Roblox is so authentic. It’s friends sharing with other friends, and there’s nothing that’s more powerful. Our philosophy is that we don’t buy a lot of our users—we provide the toolsets to make sharing easy. We’re very lucky to have a lot of very excited video influencers who love to play Roblox and stream it on YouTube and Twitch. Providing support to them and teaching tools that allow them create better experiences and more easily share and stream content is something that we’re focused on.”
Bhaumik also stated that being cross-platform has been a tremendous asset. “You have an Android, he has an Xbox, and I have an iPhone,” she said. “We can jump into a game together and play. That’s something that’s not necessarily available out there [for others].”
So, what are the next steps for the Roblox platform? “One of the great things about Roblox is that the creativity with our players and users is unlimited, given our cross-platform capability,” said Bhaumik. “I think our goal is to continue focusing on that immersive experience and making sure the players can come together anywhere at any time. Our focus is on building and maintaining a strong foundation by improving our tools and the overall experience. We have a very large focus on continuing to improve our mobile experience and we have international aspirations for global language localization this coming year. We are global company, but I think there are a lot of things that we can do to better support our player and developer communities using language localization.”
Another point of focus is remaining relevant in the fast-changing world of game development. “We have a very strong developer relations program and department,” said Bhaumik. “Their goal is to talk to developers and get their feedback so that we can continually be on the cutting edge. We have our ears to the ground as to what’s new and what’s on the horizon. We take a lot of that feedback and bring it back to our product development and engineering groups to continually evolve the platform.”
Although Bhaumik doesn’t go into detail about the funding, she does discuss how developers stand out on the Roblox platform, which is indicative of what might be in the future for this unique community.
“As users progress through the Roblox system, going to different experiences and games, they naturally discover our studio product and maybe start to edit code, eventually creating their own unique code,” she explained. “Our founder, David Baszucki, likes to say that it’s a little bit like the American Idol for the developer community. We can find the best and the brightest because they naturally bubble up. That’s why I think our platform is so compelling. It’s because we’re not throwing millions of dollars at anything to focus on one game or platform. Game content and developers naturally bubble up based upon the playability and popularity of the gameplay. There’s a natural progression that incorporates and propels that engagement.”