Roblox has been a pillar of the games industry for 15 years.
For a long time, the platform was given the cold shoulder by the industry at large, considered a playground for children that paled in comparison to Minecraft.
But as the platform slowly became more and more successful, and a legitimate way for young developers to earn their stripes, several success stories emerged. One such success story is Adopt Me.
When we talked to the team behind the title in 2020, Adopt Me had reached an audience of 50 million monthly active users. No doubt it's grown since, with the developers unveiling a new studio, Uplift Games, earlier this year to serve as a hub for ongoing development on Adopt Me.
While game engines are becoming more and more accessible, as we've explored at large in our series of guides dedicated to the tools of the trade, Roblox is a good way to ease into games development.
The GamesIndustry.biz Academy talked to Uplift Games' head of marketing David Statter about best practices on the platform and how to make it on Roblox.
Vibrant community and low barrier to entry
One of the biggest advantages of Roblox, if you're considering it to develop your game, is its vibrant community.
As of May 2021, the platform had 42.1 million daily active users -- a number that was up 79% year-on-year, with a slight majority of them, 21.3 million, being under the age of 13.
"A huge benefit to releasing on Roblox is its preexisting social community that games can tap into when initially trying to acquire feedback and users for their new title," Statter says. "A low barrier to entry for new game developers allows you to quickly take a concept to market and I've seen many examples of overnight success stories that have changed the lives of the individuals involved."
"A low barrier to entry for new game developers allows you to quickly take a concept to market"
It's worth mentioning that Roblox's community is getting older. In 2020, the platform's 16-to-24 age group grew faster than its core under-13 group, said chief business officer Craig Donato.
"The biggest misconception is definitely that the Roblox development community is mostly made of teenagers and children," Statter continues. "The majority of top games are run by small to medium teams of adults. Roblox launched in 2006 so several projects are being designed by developers with 15 years of experience.
"Roblox provides the support and infrastructure to allow game development to be accessible to people of all ages with limited-to-no previous experience which is great for an aspiring game dev who is confused as to the best route to enter the industry. Roblox skips all that and just provides you with an out-the-box solution to get started by yourself."
It's worth mentioning that game engines such as GameMaker and Unity are very accessible to young developers, both coming with their own plug-and-play systems for making games with no programming experience needed. So they're both options also worth considering for beginners.
However, Roblox has other advantages, including the community we already touched upon.
"The great thing about Roblox is that you are given a blank canvas to start with so you can really make what you want in the space you are initially presented with"
"The best thing about Roblox is its established and highly supportive userbase -- it's by far one of the most wholesome communities that I have been a part of," Statter adds.
He points to the fact that Roblox gives developers a great freedom to create, all while providing a healthy amount of hand holding, making certain aspects of game development more user friendly, such as multiplayer.
"The great thing about Roblox is that you are given a blank canvas to start with so you can really make what you want in the space you are initially presented with," Statter says. "There are millions of experiences on the platform, of which many are games, but you'll find development teams dabbling in a variety of formats you are familiar with across all genres of video games. Some are certainly more popular than others with roleplay and simulation games being some community favourites.
"It's also easier to create multiplayer games without dealing with complicated network code or server hosting -- which is all provided by Roblox -- which allows developers to iterate much more quickly and focus more on the creative aspects of their games."
However, there are also downsides to using Roblox. It would be unfair not to mention the recent criticism that was addressed to the platform concerning its business model, including low revenue shares and unreasonable policies for cashing out.
This report from People Make Games pointed out that Roblox developers earn 24.5% of their revenue on average, versus 70% on Steam, and 88% on the Epic Games Store.
On the development side, Statter mentions that "Roblox's graphics aren't yet as aesthetically pleasing or customisable as engines like Unity or Unreal."
He adds that this has partly come from a "desire to make games more performant and accessible on low-end mobile devices."
He continues: "Roblox doesn't support industry-standard open-source tools out of the box like git, vscode, and so on -- they have a strong focus on their own tools. This is great for new developers and young developers, but not so great for studios like ourselves that hire professionals from the broader games industry that want to use their preferred, more comprehensive tools."
Making your game visible on Roblox
Making a game on Roblox is only half the battle. Having such a big community means that a lot of games are competing for attention on the platform, and discoverability on Roblox is a challenge.
The report from People Make Games highlighted such issues, and pointed to Roblox's very limited discovery features.
"When first starting out, make use of as many of the native Roblox ad tools as you can," Statter advises. "The easiest way to attract players to your game is to be marketing to users already familiar with the ecosystem and the place with the most Roblox players is, of course, Roblox.
"From banner ads to community groups, Roblox is always tweaking its ways of getting your game out there. You should also use as many of the standard social media platforms and digital marketing methods as your time allows as while the Roblox tools are highly targeted and great for blanket coverage, the best way for providing a space for conversation and general news and engagement is TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube."
"The algorithm that feeds the front page with top gamesis complicated and not widely public on what elements will positively affect a Roblox experience"
If you need help with digital marketing, the GamesIndustry.biz Academy has several guides that can help, including tips for indie developers who hate marketing, how to map social media to your marketing funnel, a look into the social media strategy behind Fall Guys, and Jenny Windom of Wholesome Games talking about how to promote games on TikTok.
Statter adds that players want consistency, quality, and creativity, and these are the key to being successful and visible on the platform.
"I mentioned it's easy to get started on Roblox, but that also means that it can be easy to start another project which leads to a lack of support for the existing experience and its audience dwindles to nothing. With a high demand for new and interesting content comes the desire to deliver on unrealistic goals and it's easy to be caught up in the excitement of your community to the point where you are releasing regular updates but at the detriment of you and your team.
"The algorithm that feeds the front page with top games and fresh releases is complicated and not widely public on what elements of a game (or its marketing) will positively affect a particular Roblox experience."
However, he adds, there are three main metrics you should consider focusing on:
- The average time a user spends in-game
- Your feedback score percentage
- Daily/monthly active users
"Obviously, this boils down to, 'if your game is popular (whether as a trend or longer-term) it will place well' but if you keep these points in mind during the creation of your game, you will soon pick up on the types of updates that boost your front page coverage," he adds.
"Like with all games, my advice is to pay attention to what your community is asking for. If you make what your community wants then they will pay you to continue producing this content. On Roblox, you have to be conscious that a lot of your players are younger than the standard gamer and while it is important to monetize your updates, you will find a large percentage of any experience's community will be free-to-play users and it is actually more important to cater to this audience in general.
"As I mentioned before, the secret to longevity on the platform is to have an active and engaged community so while the minority will provide you with the majority of your revenue, it is the majority of your players that will form the core of your net promoters so a balanced combination of free and premium content is the way forward."