Question: Talking about children and education, what are your views as far as how you protect yourself with user-generated content when you’re dealing with people creating stuff on a platform that can reach a young audience?
Baszucki: Unlike some others in this space, because we run in the cloud, we have an envelope around this content. … Just as YouTube does, we have … big moderation stuff, computer filtering, highly responsive feedback. No images or sounds go direct to the platform, ever. Everything is moderated and human viewed before it gets there. We have [Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)] compliance, all of those things. It’s a fair amount of work to keep a platform like this well-groomed and safe.
Depending on the type of content and how risky that content is, you can upload images in Roblox. Every image has to be filtered. Fourteen-year-olds will find out ways of cutting images into puzzle pieces and trying to put them back together. Everything imaginable, we’ve seen it. Images, sound, 3D content, it all has to be pre-filtered. Right now, we probably have 10 moderators working with a 30-second response time if something gets through and needs to be taken down.
GamesBeat: Todd, you have a similar issue with moderation — not so much what people are showing, but what they’re saying.
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Hooper: What’s interesting in our world is that what they’re showing is in the context of a game. There are no cameras. It’s a completely virtual environment. Although, as you said, people find ways. Then it really comes down to content. It falls into what you see with YouTube or Twitch, with a use code that’s pretty broad. This is mostly not a COPPA audience. This is mostly 14 and up.
GamesBeat: Going back to my roots, what we now call social games were multiplayer games back in the day. They came in two forms. There were social games like what we’re talking about, people doing things together, and then competitive, which gave rise to esports. Both of these things are becoming bigger. Do you think one is better suited for VR than the other?
Baszucki: I feel like social is potentially bigger in the end. The ultimate super universe is social, just as five or eight years ago Facebook was a platform for social gaming. As VR gets social, the ecosystem of social communication — gaming will fit in that infrastructure. Personally, I’m a big advocate of a market that’s potentially bigger than gaming in VR.
Hooper: I’m laser focused on gaming because gamers are the early adopters in this market. There’s a revenue model there. I agree that there is a big market elsewhere. There are interesting, different verticals. But we get a lot of people coming in and saying, “Hey, can I use this technology for something else?” Absolutely. At some point we may make it more available to other people. But one thing I’ve learned about creating companies is focus. Our focus is on gaming.
In terms of social versus competitive, it’s hard to pick. At the moment, it is more social because there’s a lack of highly competitive games in VR. You haven’t seen a lot of people invest that kind of capital yet in those titles. They are coming. But even if you look at, say, the Ubisoft titles, like — technically, it’s a multiplayer game, but it’s a cooperative multiplayer game. It’s not a competitive multiplayer game. We’ve not yet seen a real dedicated, big-budget multiplayer title in VR. It’s probably a couple of years out.
GamesBeat: Does it have to be a made-for-VR competitive title, or do you think we can add a VR spectator mode to something like a League of Legends?
Hooper: Everyone always asks me that question. It’s extremely difficult to retrofit VR on existing titles. We’re talking about titles that are not designed for VR in the first place. There are interesting ways to get around that in some respects, but in general, I prefer to look [at] what’s coming.
My philosophy will be that there will be Riots and Bungies and Blizzards in VR, but they’ll be new companies that we haven’t heard of yet. Some small company is prototyping something right now, and they’ll get traction in the near future.
GamesBeat: You don’t think Blizzard will be the Blizzard of VR?
Hooper: There will be big publishers in VR as well. But what’s attractive about it to developers, just like mobile … I remember in 2011 at Casual Connect, there were these guys calling themselves Supercell running around. No one knew who they were. Just these guys from Finland. Now look where they are. VR will have the same kind of affinity for people who come in and disrupt things.
Question: Have you seen different countries or areas where UGC is developing particularly well on the VR side?
Baszucki: We’re seeing it around the world. We have servers around the world, and we’re seeing good growth everywhere from Singapore to Japan to northern Europe to Brazil to the Philippines. I feel it’s pretty universal. Our overall user base is still weighted to the U.S., though.
Question: How do brands tend to feel about user-generated content and people interacting with them in that environment?
Baszucki: Most brands love it. Disney, Hasbro, Mattel, Lego, Fox, they all send us big six-figure checks to promote their products in our virtual environments. That’s really cool. There’s a parallel to that, too, where just as on YouTube, a very small smattering of brands that think differently can sometimes issue a [Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)] takedown, in which case we’ll remove their presence happily. But it’s really just DMCA on one side and huge advertising opportunities on the other side. Rather than banners or video, you can immerse players with a brand you consider cool, acceptable, good for them and enter that brand into the 3D space.
Question: How do you see the breadth of content creation? Is it coming from a relatively small number of people, or do you have a more considerable base?
Baszucki: Of 20 million monthly players on Roblox, about 500,000 are creating content. Of that 500,000, about 11,000 are creating content that’s good enough for people to spend virtual currency in that content. Of that 11,000, I’d say there are 400 creators who are making reasonably good experiences. The content is still not as high quality as triple-A gaming or what have you, but our top creators are making half a million dollars a year right now on the platform. They’re not making millions. But we are seeing those top creators banding together, starting to form studios. We have a vision of those top creators migrating to places where they can make millions a year, and we think the quality of content will go up.
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