Skip to main content

Roblox is ready to grow up

Roblox is ready to grow up

/

And it’s bringing digital billboards and age guidelines to do it

Share this story

An in-game building reading Roblox High School, with students outside on the grass
In-game Roblox High School.
Image: Roblox

Roblox rode a wave of pandemic-era growth to a seven-fold value increase, an exploding user base, and a wildly popular Lil Nas X concert with tens of millions of attendees. That success largely all came thanks to Roblox’s core user base of young and highly engaged players.

Now, those kids are getting older, and Roblox is trying to grow up, too. The all-ages, user-generated gaming platform is announcing plans today to add age guidelines to its games and significantly expand its advertising business as it works to court an older demographic, expand its revenue streams, and still support the needs of its millions of young players.

The changes are a major step in how Roblox thinks of its users and how the company approaches advertising. Roblox — and the millions of people creating games for the platform — will soon have a new way to make money and the opportunity to target a slightly older demographic. Roblox’s ability to become a billion-person platform with thousands of creators supporting themselves on it will depend on whether it can translate these new features into growth and profit.

“When we got started out, the majority of the people on our platform were under 13. We’ve crossed a huge threshold now where the majority are over 13,” Roblox CEO David Baszucki told The Verge. “We’re very optimistic that long term, this type of technology is going to support people all around the world and in a wide range of ways of connecting and being together.”

Up until this point, Roblox has perhaps been mostly known for its popularity with children — at one point, the company said over half of US kids under 16 played Roblox. Now, as its user base gets a little older, Roblox is looking for ways to keep them coming back and give advertisers more targeted ways of reaching the 52.2 million daily active users.

A standing billboard in Roblox is shown with an RDC 22 image on it.
A Roblox billboard ad.
Image: Roblox

At the company’s annual developer conference today, Baszucki announced a slew of sweeping changes to the platform, among them a new immersive ads system that will allow advertisers to reach players in millions of games — or “experiences” as they’re called on Roblox. Until now, creators purchased banner ads using the in-game currency Robux, often resulting in nonsensical meme-like creations made to entice players to visit and play their games. High-profile brands have ventured into Roblox, too, by working with developers to create custom experiences: there’s Gucci Town and Spotify Island and even a virtual Chipotle restaurant, among others. 

The new ads system, meanwhile, is a way for brands to advertise across Roblox experiences through interactive billboards, posters, and other surfaces. Working initially with a group of selected companies and developers, the new ad system will allow creators to drop 3D ads into their own experiences — like a billboard in a sports stadium or on top of a cab in a game — and to get a cut of the ad revenue. In addition to ads within user-created experiences, brands will also be able to have “portals” that act like a tunnel between games, taking players to a new branded area in Roblox like a shoe store or a coffee shop. The company will begin testing immersive ads by the end of the year, with a full launch planned for next year.

“In effect, Roblox, where appropriate, will have 3D ad units that act as a massive ad server for all of these brands,” Baszucki says. “We’re very careful with who these brands are initially. But long term, this will move more and more to a self service model for appropriate brands for our platform.”

GIF shows a Roblox player entering a branded portal ad for Vans shoes. On the other side is a skate park.
A portal ad for Vans takes players into a branded experience.
Image: Roblox

Advertising in the metaverse is as of yet unproven, but brands are already eyeing it as the next place to target potential customers. In-game purchases on platforms like Roblox and Fortnite might offer a sign of the money to be made in the metaverse: Fortnite made $50 million off skins from just one partnership with the NFL, for example, and in Roblox, some players paid thousands for virtual Gucci products. But Roblox “bookings” — the amount players spend on Robux, of which the company gets a cut — missed estimates last quarter. Roblox went public last year following an explosion in popularity during the pandemic, but its stock has fallen, and it’s not yet profitable.

The push to bring more ads to Roblox is coming while there’s scrutiny of how the company handles the advertising already happening on its platform. In a Federal Trade Commission complaint filed earlier this year, watchdog group Truth in Advertising says branded Roblox experiences are poorly identified, making it hard to discern whether a game is sponsored, especially for young kids. With immersive ads, Roblox will move with “extreme conservatism,’’ Baszucki says — brands will only be able to reach players 13 years old and up, and Roblox will disclose when experiences contain ads.

To start, games will have three tiers: 13 and up, 9 and up, and all ages

If immersive ads are to be a boon to Roblox’s business, the same promise exists for the developers responsible for making the games. Roblox developers have a handful of ways to make money on the platform: they can create and sell items like clothes for avatars or offer in-game purchases, which players can buy using Robux. In 2020, Roblox introduced premium payouts, which pay game developers based on time spent in the experience they’ve created. Roblox says it paid out $538.3 million to creators in 2021, and over 2.7 million were earning Robux in June. In terms of creator payout for ads, Roblox will “stay very consistent with the way we share revenues with the community today,” Manuel Bronstein, chief product officer, says. 

Currently, after app store fees and Roblox taking its own cut, creators are left with around 30 percent of revenue from in-app purchases — significantly lower than on other platforms. Some creators say that despite pouring time into developing games, it was difficult to make a profit, especially for the millions of kid developers who start out doing something they love only to get burnt out trying to make their game successful. The top 1,000th developer is making around $32,000 a year, and the vast majority of developers monetizing on the platform are over 18, according to Roblox.

At launch, the company is thinking about immersive ads as being a product for players ages 13 and up, and it will go hand in hand with new age guidelines on the platform that will designate certain experiences as being suitable for different age groups. To start, games will have three tiers: 13 and up, 9 and up, and all ages, with descriptions of what kind of content each game contains, like violence or blood. Parents will then be able to select which type of game they want their child to see.

Roblox is seeing the fastest growth in players who are in their older teens to mid-20s

“In the movie business, we have G, PG, and PG-13…  And I think that’s a good metaphor for where we’re going,” Baszucki says. “There’s no R-rated content on Roblox. We think everything is really reasonable and no different than what we might find on streaming video or other channels like that.”

Children still make up a large portion of Roblox players — just 52 percent of users are over 13 years old, according to Fortune. But Roblox is seeing the fastest growth in players who are in their older teens to early-20s, and Baszucki says the vision of Roblox as a platform for children is changing.

“As we look at the growth in the 17 through 24 [year old group], which is primarily people still socializing and playing, that perception is going away,” Baszucki says. Some events, like certain concerts in Roblox, tend to draw an older crowd. And in the far distant future, there could be Roblox experiences aimed at adults — working in digital spaces, for example, or games more suited for people 17 and up. 

Many Roblox users go to the platform to hang out with friends, and the company announced several updates to its avatar and social features at the developer conference. Avatars will be more expressive, with facial expressions like smiling and winking, and soon, Roblox players will be able to chat with each other using avatars, with their camera animating their avatar’s expressions. The company will also begin testing voice chat with filters for players under 13 years old in addition to a 13-plus option with fewer restrictions.

Roblox relies on developers — from hobbyists to full-fledged studios — to build its attractions that bring in players. The company’s $25 million game fund, which gives developers money and support to make the next big Roblox game, will also get an additional $10 million boost, Bronstein announced today.

The addition of immersive ads, age guidelines, and more social features signals that Roblox wants to prove it’s not just for little kids anymore. Its goals to grow — and have “thousands” of developers making enough money to support themselves — depend on expanding its audience beyond the people who made it big in the first place.

“We have a mission statement where we want to connect a billion people with optimism and civility,” Bronstein says. “But for us to reach that amazing goal and that amazing mission, we definitely need to age up, grow internationally, and all those things.”

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed An hour ago Dimorphos didn’t even see it coming

R
Twitter
Richard LawlerAn hour ago
A direct strike at 14,000 mph.

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) scored a hit on the asteroid Dimorphos, but as Mary Beth Griggs explains, the real science work is just beginning.

Now planetary scientists will wait to see how the impact changed the asteroid’s orbit, and to download pictures from DART’s LICIACube satellite which had a front-row seat to the crash.


M
The Verge
We’re about an hour away from a space crash.

At 7:14PM ET, a NASA spacecraft is going to smash into an asteroid! Coverage of the collision — called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test — is now live.


E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 26
There’s a surprise in the sky tonight.

Jupiter will be about 367 million miles away from Earth this evening. While that may seem like a long way, it’s the closest it’s been to our home planet since 1963.

During this time, Jupiter will be visible to the naked eye (but binoculars can help). You can check where and when you can get a glimpse of the gas giant from this website.


Asian America learns how to hit back

The desperate, confused, righteous campaign to stop Asian hate

Esther WangSep 26
E
Twitter
Emma RothSep 26
Missing classic Mario?

One fan, who goes by the name Metroid Mike 64 on Twitter, just built a full-on 2D Mario game inside Super Mario Maker 2 complete with 40 levels and eight worlds.

Looking at the gameplay shared on Twitter is enough to make me want to break out my SNES, or at least buy Super Mario Maker 2 so I can play this epic retro revamp.


R
External Link
Russell BrandomSep 26
The US might still force TikTok into a data security deal with Oracle.

The New York Times says the White House is still working on TikTok’s Trump-era data security deal, which has been in a weird limbo for nearly two years now. The terms are basically the same: Oracle plays babysitter but the app doesn’t get banned. Maybe it will happen now, though?


R
Youtube
Richard LawlerSep 26
Don’t miss this dive into Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion Pinocchio flick.

Andrew Webster and Charles Pulliam-Moore covered Netflix’s Tudum reveals (yes, it’s going to keep using that brand name) over the weekend as the streamer showed off things that haven’t been canceled yet.

Beyond The Way of the Househusband season two news and timing information about two The Witcher projects, you should make time for this incredible behind-the-scenes video showing the process of making Pinocchio.


R
External Link
Russell BrandomSep 26
Edward Snowden has been granted Russian citizenship.

The NSA whistleblower has been living in Russia for the 9 years — first as a refugee, then on a series of temporary residency permits. He applied for Russian citizenship in November 2020, but has said he won’t renounce his status as a U.S. citizen.


E
External Link
Emma RothSep 26
Netflix’s gaming bet gets even bigger.

Even though fewer than one percent of Netflix subscribers have tried its mobile games, Netflix just opened up another studio in Finland after acquiring the Helsinki-based Next Games earlier this year.

The former vice president of Zynga Games, Marko Lastikka, will serve as the studio director. His track record includes working on SimCity BuildIt for EA and FarmVille 3.


A
External Link
Vietnam’s EV aspirant is giving big Potemkin village vibes

Idle equipment, absent workers, deserted villages, an empty swimming pool. VinFast is Vietnam’s answer to Tesla, with the goal of making 1 million EVs in the next 5-6 years to sell to customers US, Canada and Europe. With these lofty goals, the company invited a bunch of social media influencers, as well as some auto journalists, on a “a four-day, multicity extravaganza” that seemed more weird than convincing, according to Bloomberg.


J
James VincentSep 26
Today, 39 years ago, the world didn’t end.

And it’s thanks to one man: Stanislav Petrov, a USSR military officer who, on September 26th, 1983, took the decision not to launch a retaliatory nuclear attack against the US. Petrov correctly guessed that satellite readings showing inbound nukes were faulty, and so likely saved the world from nuclear war. As journalist Tom Chivers put it on Twitter, “Happy Stanislav Petrov Day to those who celebrate!” Read more about Petrov’s life here.


Soviet Colonel who prevented 1983 nuclear response
Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images
J
The Verge
James VincentSep 26
Deepfakes were made for Disney.

You might have seen the news this weekend that the voice of James Earl Jones is being cloned using AI so his performance as Darth Vader in Star Wars can live on forever.

Reading the story, it struck me how perfect deepfakes are for Disney — a company that profits from original characters, fans' nostalgia, and an uncanny ability to twist copyright law to its liking. And now, with deepfakes, Disney’s most iconic performances will live on forever, ensuring the magic never dies.


E
External Link
Hurricane Fiona ratcheted up tensions about crypto bros in Puerto Rico.

“An official emergency has been declared, which means in the tax program, your physical presence time is suspended,” a crypto investor posted on TikTok. “So I am headed out of the island.” Perhaps predictably, locals are furious.


R
The Verge
Richard LawlerSep 26
Teen hacking suspect linked to GTA 6 leak and Uber security breach charged in London.

City of London police tweeted Saturday that the teenager arrested on suspicion of hacking has been charged with “two counts of breach of bail conditions and two counts of computer misuse.”

They haven’t confirmed any connection with the GTA 6 leak or Uber hack, but the details line up with those incidents, as well as a suspect arrested this spring for the Lapsus$ breaches.