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Brand Deep DivesJune 30, 2022

How Creativity & Deep Audience Knowledge Made Roblox A Sensation

June 30, 2022
Michael Metcalf Photo
Michael Metcalf
Content Strategist & Freelance Writer

Did you know that three out of four American children aged nine to twelve have created an avatar in Roblox? If you spend time with kids and teenagers, chances are you’ve heard about it. And even if you haven’t — they certainly have.

Roblox is an online platform connecting millions of gamers all around the globe, and quite frankly, the scale of it is astonishing.

It features a proprietary game engine with which users can create their own games and share them with the world. Each game hosted on the Roblox platform is known as an “experience,” and there are literally millions of experiences for players to choose from.

The game was released in 2006 and found moderate success in its first few years. It slowly picked up speed in the mid and late 2010s, seeing a huge surge in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When it went public last year, the company’s stock shot up to $69.50 on the first day. Roblox’s current net worth is valued at a staggering $41 billion. For comparison, Activision Blizzard is valued at $68 billion and Nintendo at $95 billion. Not bad for a kids’ game, right?

So, let’s explore the growth, success, and challenges that Roblox has experienced in this brand deep dive.

How Does Roblox Work?

Source: Der Standard

You can think of Roblox as a game of games. Players create a unique avatar when they first join the platform and can choose to enter any of the 20+ million experiences with their own set of levels, rules, and mechanics. The graphics tend to change from game to game, but the default style is defined by blocky assets, much like Minecraft.

Adopt Me! is one of the most popular games on the platform, which has players collect and care for thousands of cute pets. Brookhaven RP puts players in a Sims-like world where they can choose to be anything from a chef, a student, a dancer, a babysitter—you name it.

Murder Mystery 2 is a classic whodunnit game, with players taking on different roles as they try to identify the killer. There are also shooters and fantasy RPGs, build-your-town simulators, racers, fighting games, and pretty much anything else you can think of.

The opportunities are endless, and all games are free to play. That said, many experiences include special in-game, real-life currency purchases of cosmetics, ammo, consumables, and other bonuses determined by the developer. Roblox takes a significant cut of that money, giving some of it back to the game’s creators.

Over the years, Roblox’s monetization tactics have raised concerns though, especially considering the platform’s primary demographic — children aged 6-16.

Building a Platform for the Young Ones

Mature gamers sink most of their time into a few select games. But younger gamers prefer quicker, more diverse experiences that can excite their fantasy and imagination. That’s why Minecraft is so popular with kids and teenagers, as the experience is varied and highly customizable.

And that’s also why Roblox has taken off in such a spectacular fashion over the past few years.

Social interaction is an essential aspect of gaming today. Especially for the young ones, it’s a way to make friends, share experiences, and go on all kinds of unique digital adventures. Roblox’s community consists of over 200 million players, and the number just keeps growing. Some of the platform’s most popular experiences garner over 250,000 regular users, which is, by all means, mind-boggling.

Most Roblox games incentivize group play — meaning playing with friends online is really easy. Anyone can join in on the action across multiple platforms, including PC, Xbox, and most Android and iOS devices. Cross-play is missing from many online games today, and even if a title is released on multiple platforms, its versions vary greatly — and they’re often hosted on different servers.

The Creativity Element

Creativity and variety are key to Roblox’s immense success. There are no limits to what developers can do with the Roblox engine, and players can easily switch between vastly different genres (e.g., role-playing, shooting, puzzle, actions, sports, racing) with the click of a button.

There are also recreations of classic and popular games, such as Pokémon, Sonic the Hedgehog, Mario, and more.

Source: Nintendo-Connect

Creating your own experiences isn’t too difficult either. Roblox’s engine is based on the Lua programming language, which is relatively easy to learn. With some help (Roblox’s dev team offers plenty of instructional videos on their official YouTube channel), players can create and share their own games with interested communities.

Experiences have the potential to make developers quite a bit of cash, as well. Roblox paid out $500 million through the Developer Exchange Program in 2021, and the most popular developers have earned over a million dollars by creating games on the platform. However, as you might expect, it’s not all roses in the world of Roblox.

The Darker Side of Roblox

Roblox’s vision has been clear since its launch in 2006: Create an accessible platform where players of all ages can enjoy unique gaming experiences based on their interests. Roblox has thus established itself as a family-friendly platform, appealing mainly to younger audiences.

But with a platform that huge, it’s almost impossible to closely monitor all games. Many experiences feature inappropriate content, often in short-lived games known in the community as “condos.” According to the BBC, Roblox’s “sex problem” is extensive — with some condos simulating strip clubs, brothels, and other sexually explicit experiences.

Source: BBC

Although quite a few of these games pop up here and there, they’re quickly shut down by Roblox’s monitoring team, which has been forced to become extra vigilant. Roblox has also introduced parental control tools that restrict children’s access to specific games and limit their interaction capabilities with other users.

The Developer Issue

The popular YouTube channel People Make Games explored similar concerns in a video they posted back in December 2021. Aside from the safety concerns, the channel focused on the questionable development practices and lack of regulation that plagues the platform.

Although Roblox was initially designed to be a tool individual creators could use to craft unique experiences, as the years went by (and games started generating more revenue), many young developers found themselves working with ever-expanding teams.

As these teams communicate and operate outside of the Roblox platform itself (e.g., through Discord or Twitter), developers are often exploited by not being compensated for their work. There are also plenty of incidents of sexual harassment taking place within those online communities.

Unfortunately, the issue has become so widespread that Roblox hasn’t figured out a way to properly address it.

12-Year-Olds Probably Shouldn’t Be Using Credit Cards

The game’s developers make money by selling various in-game items, bonuses, and upgrades for real-life money. That’s fair, considering that all experiences on Roblox are available to players for free.

The obvious issue that arises is that these monetization tactics target mainly children and young teenagers. These systems put their parents’ credit cards at risk and teach children that it’s alright to spend real-life money on digital items.

Of course, parents should monitor what their children do when they connect to the internet, but a platform with childish blocky graphics and cute pets is unlikely to sound the alarm. Luckily, Roblox allows parents to stay in control of their child’s spending with monthly restrictions. Those who want to disable payments on the platform should ensure that their credit card is not associated with their account.

What Can We Learn from Roblox?

Source: Xbox

Here are some lessons Roblox’s phenomenal success has taught us:

1) Know your audience.

From the beginning, Roblox was designed to be a platform for young gamers to explore their creativity and have fun with their peers. Game development isn’t something we often hear children talk about, but Roblox has proved that kids want to create games as much as they want to play them. It’s a playground of endless possibilities that keeps growing by the day.

If you want to learn more about this topic, you can check out our article on the link between target audience knowledge and brand awareness.

2) Stay true to your mission.

Despite Roblox’s meteoric growth, its core mission remains the same. Yes, game development issues are evident, but the company hasn’t hired large studios to increase revenue. The game engine is open to all, and anyone can use it to create unique experiences. Roblox is truly a platform created by people who understand what gamers care about.

If you want to see how having a mission can help you stand out and make a difference, make sure to check out the unique story of Tony’s Chocolonely.

3) React to crises quickly and decisively.

Roblox is no stranger to scandals, but every time they’ve been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons, they’ve managed to pull through by quickly taking action. After the BBC article went viral, Roblox initiated a huge ban wave that affected thousands of accounts.

The monitoring team has since been on high alert, shutting down more “condos” and other inappropriate experiences quicker than ever before. Responding to crises sensitively is a crucial skill for brands wanting to avoid a scandal.

Final Thoughts

Roblox’s climb to the top hasn’t been easy. The platform serves a potentially vulnerable demographic, so it doesn’t really come as a surprise that it’s come under intense scrutiny, facing criticism since day one. Still, somewhat against the odds, Roblox has been continuously improving its standout features over the past two decades and continues to do so in 2022.

The key to its success is a solid understanding of its target audience, a strong will to deliver fun and unique game experiences, and quick reflexes in the face of sudden adversity. If the brand wants to sustain the goodwill of children and parents alike though, Roblox will need to step up its efforts to stay squeaky clean.

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