Roblox continues explosive growth thanks to young fans who build virtual worlds, take meetings with CEO
Roblox CEO David Baszucki steps into his company’s downtown San Mateo conference room to listen in on an important meeting of the minds … ten-year-old minds, that is, as the Roblox office is being overtaken by a group of vivacious pre-teens armed with tablets, eager to tell the creators of this Minecraft meets digital Legos universe everything they’d like to see added to the creative experience.
“I want characters who swim,” shouts one young boy.
“I want better control of vehicles,” shouts another.
When the kids hear about plans to add rubber tires to the game to provide better traction, you can see them all beam like it’s Christmas morning.
Roblox hosts events like this every week at their office, including tours and beta tests of new games and vehicles, with the group of lucky kids not only pitching ideas to the Roblox developers, but to the CEO himself.
Ideas that Baszucki explains, not only help mold the insanely popular game, but keep the design team close to their core audience, with ideas generated by the ten-year-old brains added straight into the system.
“We are a user-generated sandbox for over 3 million monthly builders and gamers,” Baszucki tells me as I’m given the opportunity to watch one of his weekly strategy sessions. “People use this sandbox to create interesting, 3-D, multiplayer physically-simulated games to explore and play inside. We have enormous engagement with our builders, with gamers spending almost 60 million hours a month in the system. That’s almost 15 hours each.”
The Roblox portal is on both the PC and the Mac, with the company’s mobile app now accounting for 20% of overall gameplay.
“We have iOS people playing against PC which is really unique,” says Baszucki. “At any one time there are thousands of people playing, and some of our top developers have created games that have been played over 20 million times. And as these same developers get older, they go on to college and become game designers or engineers or artists. They really get their feet wet in gaming through our system.”
I ask Baszucki how his company differentiates itself from the juggernaut that is Minecraft, and he points to not only the freemium nature of his game, but that all of the creations can be easily accessed in one space.
“Everything we do is cloud based,” he explains, “so when one of our creators makes an interesting game, he can instantly spawn hundreds of copies if there’s enough demand. All of a sudden you have one, two, five thousand people playing your game, so there is a lot of scalability by being cloud based.
“We’re also physically simulated, so creators build cars and planes and trucks and all kinds of interesting inventions. And since all of our games are all in one place, we have a lot of moderators around to make for a safe environment as people create and trade with other players. I think where we’re going is the future of where gaming is headed. Collaboratively, brining PC, Mac, and iOS together, that’s the future.”
And with the numbers Roblox is pulling already, it’s pretty hard to argue, as the site has already generated over 13.4 billion pageviews in the first six months of 2013, with total engagement numbers up 230% over 2012.
“When we first launched the system, we knew we were on to something because we immediately saw users creating games that were way more interesting than anything we could build,” says Baszucki. “We were like, ‘Oh my gosh, how can we ever compete with those guys?’ It’s been building ever since.”
As for where Roblox goes from here, Baszucki says they are looking at the option of bringing the game to the Xbox One.
“That’s something to keep an eye on,” he tells me. “We very much iterate, we’re constantly improving the product, so we’re keeping an eye on whether or not we can still do that on a console. The Xbox One makes that thought more viable.”