Roblox's video game creation platform is visited monthly by more than 150 million people, making it one of the most popular games in the world. However, you have probably never heard of it.
Jailbreak, one of the popular games on the Roblox platform.
Like almost every day for the past four years, Mael has been working in front of his computer to play Roblox, free software that allows you to play video games of all kinds and create them.
He is now having fun with Anomic, an online role-playing game where he plays a car dealer in an alternative and anarchist version of the 1990s. As is often the case with Roblox, the visual style is simple, but he likes this retro aesthetic.
"I like it; there's so much to do," he says in an interview with L'actualité. For this 11-year-old schoolboy, Roblox is also an opportunity to connect with other children.
"It allowed me to make a lot of friends. But I don't talk to anyone; I'm careful," he says. These meetings with young people from all over the world are an essential part of the Roblox experience. "That's pretty much how I learned English," he says.
The Roblox platform brings together more than 40 million games.
Although little has been reported in the media so far, Roblox is a real phenomenon that continues to grow among young people of Mael's age. As many as 150 million players tuned in July, up from 100 million in July 2019. As an indication, at the height of its popularity in August 2018, the Shooting Game Fortnite had reached 78.3 million players in one month.
Story Behind Roblox Popularity
Roblox has been around since 2006, but its success had mostly started in 2017. "Its growth has been extraordinary ever since," notes Matthew Ball, a strategist, and essayist interested in the world of new media.
Roblox is more popular than known games like Pokémon GO, Minecraft, League of Legends, and Call of Duty: Warzone.
According to Roblox Corporation, the American company that designed the game, Roblox would be played by two-thirds of Americans aged 9 to 12, both boys and girls.
"The media and industry tend to overlook this part of the demographics," says Ball, explaining why video games are so little known to the general public.
It must also be recognized that Roblox is challenging to categorize. Although the software is commonly considered a game, it is instead a platform that allows playing and creating games. Often, those who start out as players — whether on a tablet, computer, phone, or video game console — then become creators.
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"I started playing in 2016. Then, in 2018, I decided to learn how to create games," says Luke, 12, creator of Let's Be Well, which he designed on Roblox to raise awareness of mental health issues, a topic of particular importance for this Montrealer whose father committed suicide when he was only two years old.
Roblox Let's Be Well was created by a Montreal child to raise awareness of mental health issues among their peers.
Since then, Let's Be Well has been played more than 15,000 times. "I didn't expect that; I thought at most a few hundred people would play there. It makes me very proud to have been able to help so many people," observes the man who will enter high school this fall.
Like most other young people, Luke learned how to create Roblox games by himself, mainly by watching tutorials on YouTube. Roblox's website also includes more technical guides and documents to master Roblox Studio, the software for modeling and programming games on the platform. "I learned how to create 3D models in school with other tools, which helped me make the transition to Roblox," says Luke.
Let's Be Well is a simple game, the outlines of which were completed in just one week — Luke still tweaked his game afterward to make it prettier. However, Roblox Studio also allows for more ambitious programs.
Roblox Studio development software. Picture: Roblox Corporation.
These games, especially the larger ones, can even make money, including allowing players to buy digital clothes for their avatar or by offering them the ability to unlock certain functions (in Anomic, being a car dealership is free, but you have to pay $3.25 to have the right to sell luxury cars, for example). According to Roblox Corporation, developers on its platform are on track to raise $331 million in 2020, more than double the $145 million raised in 2019.
Roblox Is Creative
For some designers, evening and weekend sidelines have become full-time work. That's what happened to Alexander Hicks, who in 2016 launched Robloxian High School, a life simulator that has been played more than 900 million times.
The success of the game, which has amassed "seven-figure" profits, prompted the Ottawa resident to drop out of a bachelor's degree in computer science in 2018 to co-found his own company, RedManta Games.
The studio now has five full-time employees and two freelancers. "We all started developing on Roblox after playing there when we were young. The oldest of us is only 24 years old," says the entrepreneur.
While half the team continues to improve Robloxian High School, the other is working on World Zero; an open online world launched soon.
According to the company's CEO, RedManta Games didn't even consider launching its new game anywhere other than Roblox. "These are the tools we know, and no other platform allows me to reach such a large audience so quickly," says Hicks.
It is the success of such developers that often prompts children to swap their role as players for that of the creator. "With the containment, I had more time, so I started learning how to code on Roblox," says Mael, who had no programming experience until last spring.
"I make small schedules: there are days when I play, others when I create games, or I improve the ones I've already done. I'm just getting started, but I have one that's already been visited 400 times," he says proudly. And summer isn't even over yet.