Interested in learning what's next for the gaming industry? Join gaming executives to discuss emerging parts of the industry this October at GamesBeat Summit Next. Learn more.
Roblox has 115 million monthly active players, and people engage with it more than 1.5 billion hours a month. The top games are getting more than a billion plays, and so it should come as no surprise that startups are forming to make products for this platform. It became a juggernaut by embracing user-generated content on its platform, and now it is known for having lots of games within its game world.
In its early days 15 years ago, Roblox had a reputation as a virtual world for male teens and boys. But today, 40% of Roblox’s users are female. That’s why Tel Aviv-based Toya pivoted from making content for Microsoft’s Minecraft and expanded to Roblox in the past year or so.
“There’s room for diversity, and diversity is also a business opportunity,” said Anat Shperling, cofounder and CEO of Toya, in an interview with GamesBeat. “I thought that if we would come and create games that have more female avatars, where girls can go and play and you know, familiarize themselves with characters a representing women from all over the world, it might be interesting for them to try that. Because if you go on you usually see the salesman, the fishermen and other characters that are mostly male characters. And so this is, you know, our take on the platform. ”
The company has about 20 contractors and employees in Tel Aviv, and 80% of them are women. Their mission is to create games for girls and young women on popular UGC platforms, with original stories and characters that aren’t stereotypical.
“We want to have more female characters, female avatars, and games that go beyond pink and beyond dress up and makeup,” Shperling said. “And so we decided it would be smart working with the biggest platforms out there. This platform is the opposite of traditional gaming. It comes from the bottom up, and it’s dictated by young kids, in contrast to the professionals in the industry.”
Shperling and Yifat Anzelevich started Toya in 2016 to make games for girls. In 2019, the company released four prototypes on Roblox, and two of them were successful: My Farm and My Cat Box. Without any marketing, the games have received boosts from Roblox and generated more than two million visits. Posts from social influencers, including young girls, helped boost those visits enormously.
In 2018 and 2019, Toya raised $2 million in funding from investors including Mike Vorhaus of Vorhaus Advisors. Toya is raising a round of funding now. The company is not profitable yet, but it is generating revenues.
It isn’t easy to make a lot of money on Roblox, as the platform takes a 70% slice of revenues. On the other hand, Shperling said that her company doesn’t have to spend a lot of money on user acquisition, as others must do on platforms where the owners take only a 30% cut. And the top 10 games on Roblox are generating billions of plays.
“You can get amazing organic exposure and immediate feedback from the community,” Shperling said. “And that is why we chose to start with Roblox and Minecraft.”
Shperling came from the film business. When she was 14, she wanted to create her own films. And looking back, that reminds her of how Roblox got its start, enabling children to create their own entertainment.
One of the new games coming up is a role-playing game, and another couple of prototypes are in the works. Minecraft is on the back burner for now, but the company has 18 games and skin packs available on Minecraft. Toya is targeting kids seven to 14 years old.
“We believe that the variety of representation and increasing the visibility of female characters. Both girls and boys need to be exposed to an equal world also when playing,” Shperling said.
GamesBeat's creed when covering the game industry is "where passion meets business." What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you -- not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it. Learn more about membership.