Microsoft just spent $2.5 billion to buy Minecraft and its developer, Mojang, but this isn’t the only game that has a huge dedicated audience of young players who also use it as a creation tool. Another game is hoping to continue building its audience by sharing some of its ad revenues with its players.
Roblox is one of gaming’s quietest success stories. Since debuting in 2006, it has grown to around 4.5 million monthly active players that love Roblox’s user-created games and worlds. Like Minecraft, Roblox is all about building stuff, but the game also enables amateur designers to easily make their own experiences. These include shooters, adventure games, and platformers that all use Roblox as the foundation. These are simple, blocky-looking games, but they attract a huge audience of kids, teenagers, and more.
“I think we’re in an interesting time,” Roblox chief executive David Baszucki told GamesBeat. “We’re very early in the days of a whole new class of game platforms for user-generated content.”
Baszucki believes that Minecraft is just the beginning of this new class of game platforms. He says that Minecraft’s $2.5 billion valuation makes sense because players feel connected to something that they can help create, but he suspects that Minecraft is just the start of a major shift toward games that rely on their audience to create the experiences.
“Minecraft is still a lot smaller than some of the bigger game companies,” said Baszucki. “But I believe that as the quality of these platforms gets better, and as products like Roblox start to look and feel more like a Pixar movie, you’re going to see the span of these platforms get bigger, and ultimately I believe there will be a platform company that’s as big if not bigger than the publicly traded game publishers.”
Right now, Roblox does not look or feel like a Pixar movie, but that isn’t stopping it from making money. Roblox Corporation (the company shares the game’s name) makes money by showing pre-roll video commercials before each game and by selling digital currency that players can use to buy user-generated games. The studio has started sharing those revenues with its top community creators. Already, the company has paid out a total of $600,000 to hundreds of user creators who are building original games using the Roblox platform.
“As our platform gets technically better, coupled with allowing developers to make real money on Roblox, that’s created a virtuous cycle where the quality of Roblox games is continuing to go up and up,” said Baszucki. “And where developers who may have approached Roblox in the past as a hobby or something to show off to their friends are now viewing Roblox as a replacement for a job while going to college, or in some cases as a career, as you get into these $10,000 and $20,000 per month developers.”
That virtuous cycle has led to new games on the Roblox platform that are “light-years ahead” of what was available just a few years ago, according to the Baszucki.
“It’s due to way better tech, but it’s also due to people seeing that they can view Roblox as something more than just a hobby or just for fun,” he said. “When some of our top community developers are viewing this as a profession, that is contributing to an increased quality across the board.”
The “virtuous cycle” extends even further. Community creators start making more money, and that creates an aspirational aspect of Roblox where gamers start to believe that they could make the next big game on the platform. That ends up attracting even more players and more money.
Tips for making money with Roblox
Since we had Baszucki with us, we decided to ask him what user-creators on Roblox should do if they want to start making some real cash.
He says that the only real secret is to not make any excuses and to begin creating as soon as possible.
“The first thing is, everyone starts by making something and just sharing it with their friends,” said Baszucki. “Roblox is free. The dev tools are free. Anyone can come in and play with Roblox Studio and make a game and push it to our cloud and have it be playable.”
He notes that it’s possible that if you go in just to make money, you may not end up with something fun.
“I think all of the great developers start not with the intent to make money, but with the intent to make something fun that’s in their passion zone,” said Baszucki. “As they get better, they think, ‘Oh, look at this. I’m following my passion and I can make money at the same time.'”
Basically, the big things to keep in mind are to make the game you want to play and to get started immediately. If you do that, learn the tools, maybe you’ll start earning a monthly check from the Roblox Corporation as well.