If you're under 18 or know somebody who is, there's a pretty good chance you've heard of Roblox, a massively popular online gaming platform with 64 million players that also turned three teens into dollar millionaires last year
This weekend, Roblox is hosting its annual Roblox Developers Conference event in California, where it will tell the four million developers building games for its platform that it's on track to pay them out a collective $70 million, or well over R900 million, this year alone.
That's up from the $30-plus million it paid out in 2017.
"There's enormous upside in the size of our opportunity here," Roblox CEO David Baszucki tells Business Insider.
Some of that upside is for the company itself. Earlier this year, Roblox announced that it was cash flow positive for the first time, with "hundreds of millions of dollars in bookings" in 2017.
More recently, Recode reported that Roblox is fundraising at a valuation of up to $2.4 billion, citing a company filing. Baszucki declined to comment.
Unlike Fortnite or most other smash-hit video games, Roblox is entirely created by its users. All 40 million Roblox games, including smash-hits like "Meep City" and "Jailbreak," were created by its base of mostly-younger independent developers. If a player chooses to spend the premium, virtual Robux currency in a game, the developer gets a cut.
And that's meant big opportunity for Roblox developers: In 2017 alone, one top creator cleared $3 million in earnings, while two more claiming $2 million. Others are starting companies to make more Roblox games.
Now, says Baszucki, as the platform grows, so too has the opportunity for developers. While not every Roblox creator can make millions, he says that "the long tail of developers who are making a living has grown exponentially" over the last year or so.
To keep the momentum going, Roblox has hired on former Activision exec Enrico D’Angelo as vice president of product for the developer platform. The goal is to keep building the behind-the-scenes tools that developers use to build their games, in pursuit of what Baszucki says is the ultimate, ambitious goal of the Roblox platform.
"We have an enormous vision for a new category for human interaction, and ultimately, immersive entertainment," says Baszucki.
Further to that end, Baszucki also highlights the company's educational efforts: This summer, Roblox has or will run over 500 coding camps and other introductory classes, using its platform as a learning tool.
Importantly, those classes are both in the United States, and abroad in countries including Canada, Brazil, and the United Kingdom (though not yet South Africa), highlighting what Baszucki sees as a major opportunity to bring the platform to international audiences.
For more established developers, Baszucki says Roblox is working on ways to engage with developers and help them be more successful. For instance, the company has begun inviting developers to come in to its Silicon Valley offices for two- or three-month residences, giving them direct access to the people who make the platform.
"We're developing a lot of resources for developers to build their knowledge," says Baszucki.
Finally, Baszucki says that if Roblox is going to really reinvent entertainment as he believes it will, the company will continue doubling down on finding other ways for developers to monetize that goes beyond their games. The company recently got into the action figure and apparel business, licensing out popular characters from top Roblox games — he says that there's no reason why Roblox games couldn't inspire movies, TV shows, or a web series, either.
"[Developers'] vision goes beyond creating gameplay," says Baszucki. "There's enormous value in their stories, avatars, and situations.
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