Roblox vice president of developer relations Matt Curtis believes that the future of gaming is user-generated content (UGC), and he delved into the gaming world to show why in a talk at our GamesBeat Summit 2020 event this week.

In fact, Curtis said in his talk that this explosion of UGC lead us to the Metaverse, the universe of virtual worlds that are all interconnected, like in novels such as Snow Crash and books and movies such as Ready Player One. It’s the same goal that Epic Games, maker of Fortnite, is reportedly chasing after as well, as are numerous other companies who spoke at our event.

It’s not an outrageous claim to believe that UGC can grow so big, as Roblox has more than 115 million monthly active players who enjoy more than 2 billion hours a month of UGC gameplay. Roblox was able to raise $150 million in February on the strength of its user base in a round that venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz led.

“Our belief is the metaverse will become the primary engagement vehicle,” Curtis said.

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UGC has taken video (as evidenced by the popularity of YouTube) by storm, as well as music. But gaming is lagging behind in the trend, Curtis said. Roblox is an exception, as it has millions of people who create entertainment for others to enjoy. The experience that succeed are unique, social, and intricate.

Above: Roblox wants players to build the metaverse.

Image Credit: Roblox

At its core, Roblox is a social network. But it also has unique content in the form of user-created goods that are for sale in a marketplace. Creators can take that and create things that the rest of users can play. Roblox’s focus is to make it easier to create things, and the measure of its success is its engagement hours, which really hit critical mass around 2016. It’s a living, evolving ecosystem, Curtis said.

Roblox is now more than 40% female. Sixty-eight percent is overseas. Fifty-one percent engage on the desktop, 44% on Windows PC, and 5% on consoles. Fifty-nine percent of the players are under 13. That’s probably one reason it is doing so well during the pandemic, as kids are out of school and are able to play more at home. Still, the teens and adults are growing dramatically now, Curtis said.

“What’s really cool is we are starting to see creators from different geographies getting global success,” he said. “It’s not just in their home countries.”

Sixteen of these Roblox games have more than a billion plays. This means these games are among the biggest in the world. The top games on Roblox have more than 10 million monthly active users, and 5,000 games have more than a million plays.

The Roblox UGC title Adopt Me! broke 1.6 million concurrent players in April, and it has had 5.7 billion plays since its launch in 2017. Developers — many of them kids and teens — earned more than $110 million in cash in 2019. Roblox has more than 2 million developers, and 35,000 of them make money. 315,000 monthly active creators are updating and publishing new worlds.

“We’re getting new creators every day,” Curtis said.

Where’s this leading? Curtis believes it is heading toward the metaverse, a concept that author Neal Stephenson first described in the sci-fi novel Snow Crash from 1992. To facilitate this, Roblox believes the metaverse has eight requirements. First, it has to be a persistent world, or a place where you can visit it over and over and it’s the same world. You need a sense of identity. You need an underlying social fabric. It has to be vast and diverse. The experiences have to be immersive, and they have to be frictionless. The economy has to be integrated, and the places have to run on rules and order.

To get there, Roblox is working on platform technology, developer tools, and developer economics. Platform technology includes mega servers, which enables you to support 200 players with the click of a button on Roblox. It’s free, and you can create a real-time synchronous play right out of the box. This backend infrastructure is available to creators in Roblox at no charge, and anyone can leverage this right out of the box.

Above: Roblox’s experiences are already played billions of times.

Image Credit: Roblox

Curtis said that immersive 3D experiences have to be dynamic, where the worlds, while persistent, can change. These should run on any platform, like the consoles or the PC or mobile, he said. Anything you create in these works should seamlessly work with those platforms. It’s hard to solve this problem, but it is key, Curtis said.

Identity is a foundational element of the metaverse as well. You should be able to create a high-fidelity avatar without to much difficulty. That avatar should be able to express real emotions, which is a requirement of really being immersed in a world. The developer tools have to enable players to build worlds fast and easily. Large teams should be able to work on things together, even if they are in different locations.

With collaborative editing, script creators can code in real time without interrupting each other. That’s a step in virtual collaboration, and it’s one of the things Roblox is working on. Roblox is also creating fully automated translation so that a game created in one region can be enjoyed all over the world.

And the developer economics part is getting advances with improvements in the UGC marketplace. Creators can share their wares to others and allow those creators who buy them to move on without reinventing the wheel. Roblox recently unveiled engagement-based earnings, or the ability to make money based on how much their creations are used.

“We provide revenue streams based on engagement,” Curtis said. “New developers can learn what works best” by watching what gets used the most.

Brands are already starting to invest in supporting the creators in Roblox. As the platform evolves and UGC matures, the Metaverse will come and brands will be there, Curtis said.