Here’s a fun statistic: Over half of U.S. kids under age 16 played Roblox in 2020, yet many people still don’t know what Roblox is.
But now, the world has been set aflame with Roblox fever. Major outlets like The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and CNN are all suddenly writing about this thing called Roblox. Google searches for Roblox stock have skyrocketed in March, and even celebrities like Reese Witherspoon are making jokes about it. But maybe you don’t know why Roblox has gained mainstream hype in 2021.
Well, I’m here to explain everything.
What is Roblox?
Roblox is an online platform and storefront where users go to play games. Roblox is not a game, it is a place where people play games made by other developers. In this sense, it is more similar to PC platform Steam than it is to any online children’s game.
What makes Roblox different from anything else in the games industry — including a storefront like Steam — is that all the games are made by its users. On Roblox, the fun doesn’t just come from playing games, it also comes from making games. These games are not formally developed by Roblox Corporation, but by users of the platform. Currently, the official website boasts that its users have published over 20 million games on the platform.
Why is everyone talking about Roblox right now?
Because anyone, including kids, can make a ton of money on the platform. Some developers can earn as much as $1 million in a single year by monetizing their games. Although Roblox and all its games are freely available, many kids buy and spend a virtual currency called Robux on aesthetic items in Roblox games. Roblox developers get to keep a portion of these transactions in the form of Robux. Once a developer makes enough money in Robux, they can use a program called the Developer Exchange (also called DevEx) to convert Robux to real money.
It’s not just individual creators who are cashing in. Roblox Corporation itself is worth a surprising amount of money. Roblox Corporation went public on Wednesday, meaning that it has opened up sales of its shares. Its stock ($RBLX) had a great first day, starting off with a $45 reference price and closing at $69.50 a share. The company ended up with a market capitalization of roughly $45 billion, per a report from The Wall Street Journal. To give you an idea of how huge that is, Epic Games, maker of the ever-popular Fortnite and Unreal Engine software, was valued at $17.3 billion in late 2020. (Epic Games is still a private company.) Roblox’s success on the market, coupled with the fact that the Roblox economy is almost entirely run by young people who can make a lot of money, has intrigued many people.
How popular are Roblox games?
Incredibly popular, in some cases. Adopt Me!, a pet simulation game where kids buy and take care of animals, broke over 1.6 million concurrent players in April 2020, its developers said, and has been visited by players over 20.4 billion times. (Numbers for unique logins have not been publicly disclosed by the developer.) Another game called Brookhaven currently has the most concurrent users, with over 420,000 people playing it at the time of publication.
Who makes Roblox games?
Anyone can make games on Roblox. The platform gives young people a way to bring their own game ideas to life. It does this by providing a suite of game development tools that almost anyone can learn to use, including kids. If a game takes off, it’s possible for these developers to scale, since Roblox also makes it easy to turn your creation into an online multiplayer game.
The games use a scripting language called Lua, which is easier to learn than most other programming languages. The company provides developer forums where makers can troubleshoot, as well as learn new skills. With Roblox, developers don’t need to worry about logistics like how to set up servers; they just make the game, and then players can play their game through online multiplayer. How deep you get into game creation is up to each developer.
What does the average Roblox game look like?
The most straightforward answer to this is that there is no “average Roblox game.” Roblox is a platform where people can make whatever they want. There is a wide variety of games, from single-player platformers to first-person shooters. That being said, the most popular games tend to be simulators in which people can role-play different scenarios, like going to school or visiting a pizza shop.
Is Roblox free?
The platform and the games on it are free to download. However, Roblox games can offer in-game purchases of cosmetic items, skins, or other upgrades. For example, in Adopt Me!, players adopt and care for pets, a child can buy an egg that will hatch a pet. Each game is unique, so in-game purchases will vary.
What’s the future of Roblox?
The colorful and whimsical worlds of Roblox have long been siloed off from the games industry at large. Somehow relegated to the niche audience of “children’s games,” the company remained relatively unnoticed since its founding in 2006. Over time, the company has continued to grow and support the young developers who distribute the games they make on the Roblox platform. By doing this, the company created a platform that has functioned like a parallel games industry. Roblox has its own games, its own developers, and its own conferences.
Now, the company’s current valuation has many makers on the platform feeling optimistic. Some developers are already talking about buying their own stock now that the larger company has gone public. Alex Hicks, the cofounder of a Roblox studio called Red Manta, told Polygon that he’s excited about the public offering because it is “definitely bringing more attention to studios.” He continued: “Lots of kids already know what Roblox is, but they’re just scratching the surface with the older audience.” Roblox has already been growing for a while, and its creators will likely get some more widespread recognition in the future.