ROBLOX recently filed their S-1, and there has been a ton of analysis performed on their astonishing numbers. 31m DAU, $1.2b bookings, $589 revenue, $209m paid to creators. It’s fair to say not only is their S-1 a first for a UGC game, it’s also a significant first. It backs our belief that game studios really need to consider their UGC strategy, because UGC can be so much more than a “content creation and engagement” mechanism.
How does the ROBLOX economy work?
As an adult, ROBLOX is really hard to relate too, because the game is played mainly by a young demographic, and it very much looks like a game that was designed 15 years ago. The best way we’ve found to describe ROBLOX is to think of it as a digital theme park. You pay for your admission ticket (ROBUX subscription), you can buy or trade your “Mickey Mouse” t-shirts and hats (with ROBUX), and you can pay to go on unlimited rides each designed by someone new, with different ROBUX costs attached.
UGC is more than just cosmetics and content
The many ways to participate in the economy is important because it means ROBUX is continually circulating among players, but the real secret sauce is that ROBLOX gives UGC creators complete and total control over everything, with a persistent live-services system attached.
The largest game on ROBLOX (Adopt Me) wouldn’t exist without this functionality, and nor could it be created in the same way in any other game. The entire premise of Adopt Me is that you build homes and raise cute pets; persistence is critical so players can return each day to tend to their creations. It wouldn’t be fun if you had to start from scratch every time or you couldn’t share your pet with others.
I like to imagine what will happen when other games start to incorporate similar functionality for their modders (it’s something we are working on at mod.io). Games we work with like Skater XL or SnowRunner could allow their creators to start tracking the number of crashes, kilometers travelled or tricks performed. Maps could change over time as more people drove over the terrain and triggered events. It would open up an entirely new dimension of possibilities, and history has continually shown modders are incredible at inventing new concepts when given the right tools.
Why is UGC revenue so significant in ROBLOX?
A user-created marketplace has to be the holy grail for game developers, because it eventually becomes a perpetual self-fulfilling prophecy. Ignoring the fact that ROBLOX is a sandbox (it helps but we believe any game FPS, RPG, MOBA etc could do similar things), there are a lot of smart ways in which their system works that has made their UGC economy so large:
- It’s cross-platform, they can tap into massive audiences on PC, console and mobile and provide a consistent account and payment system on each.
- Everyone gets access to ROBUX either via subscribing, trading or creating. Buying is frictionless and becomes a normalized gameplay experience.
- Creators are in control of monetization. In every other marketplace, usually all creators can do is sell their item for a fixed price, in ROBLOX creators can trigger the in-app purchase flow when it makes the most sense for their game. Want to buy a special pet in Adopt Me? You can.
- Having kids as the core demographic helps because kids are used to buying and creating lego, and ROBLOX is digital lego. Adults don’t have the time or patience.
ROBLOX is proof that UGC economies can be massive and simultaneously really rewarding for their creators and players. The key once again is giving creators control and eliminating friction everywhere you can.
What’s next for UGC
The most significant shift in gaming over the last decade has been the growth of games as a service, and ROBLOX has been giving this functionality by default to all of their creators the entire time. Imagine being able to scale to millions of players without lifting a finger or paying a bill, having access to a consistent payment flow, and compare this with how hard it is to achieve the same in Unity or Unreal.
There is a lot to be learned from ROBLOX’s success, but we very much see it as repeatable for studios of all shapes and sizes, once games start making it easy for their UGC creators to do more than just static content changes. It’s a future that excites us, and the very reason mod.io exists to make it easy to launch cross-platform mod communities, that in-time will provide the persistence, data and economy features that have made ROBLOX such a powerhouse. Contact us if you’d like to learn more.