Roblox
Developer(s)Roblox Corporation
Publisher(s)Roblox Corporation
Director(s)David Baszucki,
Erik Cassel[6]
Platform(s)Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Xbox One
ReleasePC
September 1, 2006[1][2]
iOS
December 11, 2012[3]
Android
July 16, 2014[4]
Xbox One
November 20, 2015[5]
Genre(s)Game creation system, massively multiplayer online
Mode(s)Single-player, multi-player

Roblox is an online game platform and game creation system developed by Roblox Corporation. It allows users to program games and play games created by other users. Created by David Baszucki and Erik Cassel in 2004 and released in 2006, the platform hosts user-created games of multiple genres coded in the programming language Lua. For most of Roblox's history, it was relatively small, both as a platform and a company, due to both co-founder Baszucki's lack of interest in press coverage and it being "lost among the crowd" in a large number of platforms released around the same time. Roblox began to grow rapidly in the second half of the 2010s, and this growth has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.[7][8]

Roblox is free-to-play, with in-game purchases available through a virtual currency called "Robux". As of August 2020, Roblox had over 164 million monthly active users, with it being played by over half of all children aged under 16 in the United States.[9][10]

Although Roblox has generally received positive reviews from critics, it has faced criticism for its content, chat filtration system, and microtransactions.

Overview

Roblox Studio

The Roblox Studio logo
The Roblox Studio logo

Roblox allows players to create their own games using its proprietary engine, Roblox Studio, which can then be played by other users.[11] Games are coded under an object-oriented programming system utilizing a dialect of the programming language Lua to manipulate the environment of the game.[12][13] Users are able to create purchasable content through one-time purchases, known as "game passes", as well as microtransactions which can be purchased more than once, known as "developer products" or "products". Revenue from purchases is split between the developer and the Roblox Corporation 30–70, in favor of Roblox Corp.[14][15] The majority of games produced using Roblox Studio are developed by minors, and a total of 20 million games a year are produced using it.[16][9]

Items and currency

Logo of the virtual currency "Robux"
Logo of the virtual currency "Robux"

Roblox allows players to buy, sell, and create virtual items which can be used to decorate their virtual character that serves as their avatar on the platform.[9] Clothes can be bought by anyone, but only players with a Premium membership can sell them.[17][better source needed] Only Roblox administrators can sell accessories, body parts, gear, and packages under the official Roblox user account;[18] virtual hats and accessories can also be published by a select few users with past experience working with Roblox Corporation.[19][20] There are several individuals who design items as a full-time job, with the highest-earning creators making over $100,000 a year off item sales.[21] Items with a limited edition status can only be traded between or sold by users with a Roblox Premium membership.[22]

Robux allows players to buy various items, and are obtained by purchase with real currency, from a recurring stipend given to members with premium membership, and from other players by producing and selling virtual content in Roblox.[23][24] Prior to 2016, Roblox had another currency, Tix (short for "Tickets"), that was discontinued in April of that year.[25][better source needed] Robux acquired through the sale of user-generated content can be exchanged into real-world currency through the website's Developer Exchange system.[26] There are a sizable amount of scams relating to Robux, largely revolving around automated messages promoting scam websites, scam games designed to appear to give out free Robux, and invalid Robux codes.[27][28]

Events

Roblox occasionally hosts real-life and virtual events. They have in the past hosted events such as BloxCon, which was a convention for ordinary players on the platform.[23] Roblox operates annual Easter egg hunts,[29] and also hosts an annual event called the “Bloxy Awards”, an awards ceremony which also functions as a fundraiser. The 2020 edition of the Bloxy Awards, held virtually on the platform, drew 600,000 viewers.[30][31] Roblox Corporation annually hosts the Roblox Developers Conference, a three-day invite-only event in San Francisco where top content creators on the site learn of upcoming changes to the platform.[32] The company has also hosted similar events in London and Amsterdam.[33][34]

Roblox occasionally engages in events to promote films, such as ones held to promote Wonder Woman 1984 and Aquaman.[35][36] In 2020, Roblox hosted its first virtual concert, which was compared by Rolling Stone to that of American rapper Travis Scott's virtual concert in Fortnite,[37] during which American rapper Lil Nas X debuted his song "Holiday" to an audience of Roblox players.[37][38][39] In 2021, Swedish singer Zara Larsson performed songs at a virtual party to celebrate her new album Poster Girl (Summer Edition).[40] On September 17, 2021, a virtual concert by the American band Twenty One Pilots took place.[41][42] In October 2021, Roblox partnered with Chipotle Mexican Grill to giveaway $1 million of burritos away to the first 30,000 people everyday as apart of Chipotle's Halloween Boorito promotion.[43]

History and development

The first Roblox logo, designed in 2004[44]
The Roblox logo used from 2005 to 2006[44]
The Roblox logo used from 2006 to 2017; it had numerous variations, but mostly remained the same.[44]
The Roblox logo used from 2017 to 2019[44]

The beta version of Roblox was created by co-founders David Baszucki and Erik Cassel in 2004 under the name DynaBlocks.[45] Baszucki started testing the first demos that year.[46] In 2005, the company changed its name to Roblox,[46] and it officially launched on September 1, 2006.[1] In March 2007, Roblox became compliant with COPPA, with the addition of safe chat, a change that limited the communication ability of users under the age of thirteen by restricting them to selecting predefined messages from a menu.[47] In August, Roblox applied server improvements and released a premium membership service named "Builders Club".[48] This paid membership feature was rebranded as Roblox Premium in September 2019.[49]

In December 2011, Roblox held their first Hack Week, an annual event where Roblox developers work on outside-the-box ideas for new developments to present to the company.[50][51] On December 11, 2012, an iOS version of Roblox was released,[3] and on July 16, 2014, an Android version was released.[4] On October 1, 2013, Roblox released its Developer Exchange program, allowing developers to exchange Robux earned from their games into real-world currencies.[52]

On May 31, 2015, a feature called 'Smooth Terrain' was added, increasing the graphical fidelity of the terrain and changing the physics engine from a block-oriented style to a smoother and more realistic one.[53] On November 20, Roblox was launched on Xbox One, with an initial selection of 15 games chosen by Roblox staff.[5] New Roblox games for the Xbox One have to go through an approval process, and are subject to the Entertainment Software Ratings Board standards.[54]

In April 2016, Roblox launched Roblox VR for Oculus Rift. At the time of release, more than ten million games were available in 3D.[55] Around the same time period, the safe chat feature was removed and replaced by a system based on a whitelist with a set of acceptable words for users under 13 years old and a set of blacklisted words for other users.[56][failed verification] In June, the company launched a version compatible with Windows 10. While the game platform has had a presence on the PC since 2004, when its web version was created, this was the first time it was upgraded with a standalone launcher built for Windows.[57]

Throughout 2017, Roblox engaged in a number of updates to its server technology, as the technology they were operating on until that point was out of date and led to frequent outages.[58] In November 2018, the ability for a player to play as a "guest", without an account, which had been progressively restricted over the previous two years, was removed entirely.[59] In July 2020, Roblox announced the creation of “Party Place”, which functions as an online hangout. The feature was created using new technology that had been used during the 2020 Bloxy Awards, and was designed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.[60] Roblox was granted permission to release in China on December 3, 2020.[61] In 2021, Roblox bought chat platform Guilded.[62] In October 2021, Roblox experienced its longest downtime to date, with services being unavailable for three days.[63][64][65]

Community and culture

Activism

Users of Roblox have been noted for their efforts against racism, with numerous regular users and co-founder Baszucki having declared their support for the George Floyd protests and Black Lives Matter.[66][67] In August 2019, an investigation by NBC News revealed over 100 accounts linked to far-right and neo-Nazi groups. After being contacted about the accounts by NBC, Roblox moderators removed them.[68]

Effects of the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected Roblox in numerous ways. Due to quarantines imposed by the pandemic limiting social interaction, Roblox is being used as a way for children to communicate with each other.[69] One of the most noted ways that this method of communication is being carried out is the phenomenon of birthday parties being held on the platform.[70][71] COVID-19 has caused a substantial increase in both the platform's revenue and the number of players on it, in line with similar effects experienced by the majority of the gaming industry, as players forced to remain indoors due to COVID-19 lockdowns spent more time playing video games.[72][73]

"Oof" sound effect

From its release to November 2020, Roblox's sound effect for when a character dies was an "oof" sound, which became a substantial part of the platform's reputation due to its status as a meme.[74] The sound was originally produced by video game composer Tommy Tallarico for the 2000 video game Messiah, and he and Roblox entered into a copyright dispute. The dispute ended when Roblox agreed to pull the sound from their platform and replace it with another death sound, and Tallarico agreed to allow Roblox to release the sound again at a later date on its marketplace, which game developers on the platform would be able to purchase for a price of US$1.[75][76]

Reception and revenue

Critical reception

Roblox has generally received positive reviews. Common Sense Media gave it 4 out of 5 stars, praising the website's variety of games and ability to encourage creativity in children, while finding that the decentralized nature of the platform meant game quality varied, and recommended disabling chat functions for young players to prevent possibly harmful interactions.[77] Patricia E. Vance of the Family Online Safety Institute advised parents to monitor their child's interactions on the platform, but praised the platform for "allow[ing] kids to play, explore, socialize, create and learn in a self-directed way", and granted especial praise to Roblox Studio for its ability to encourage children to experience game development.[78] Trusted Reviews, in its overview of the platform, also praised Roblox Studio, stating that “for anyone seeking to develop their computer science skills, or create projects that will instantly receive feedback from a huge audience, the appeal is obvious”.[79] Craig Hurda, writing in Android Guys, gave a more moderate review, praising the number of games available and finding that the game was entertaining for children, while also finding that the platform's audio was "hit-or-miss" and declaring that it had limited appeal for adult players.[80]

Criticism

Roblox has received widespread criticism for its chat filtration system.[81][82] Although Roblox's filtration system, Community Sift,[83] censors and removes most inappropriate messages and content, some can still avoid the system. To combat these issues, Roblox has 1,600 people working to remove such content from the platform.[81] Roblox offers privacy settings; parents can limit what people a user can contact, restricting access to private servers, and turning on parental control.[84]

Though sexual content is prohibited on Roblox, the platform has received substantial criticism for the presence of sexually explicit games and imagery within it. This content includes items like virtual sex clubs and nightclubs, with creators of said content largely communicating through third-party platforms which cannot be regulated by Roblox moderators.[85] A 2020 investigation by Fast Company found that sexual content was still prevalent within Roblox, with attempts by moderators to remove it being likened to "whack-a-mole",[86][87] though it was also found that the situation had generally improved in the recent years prior to the report.[86]

Some extremist role-playing communities and scenarios present in Roblox have caused controversy.[88]

Roblox has also been criticised for making it easy for children to spend large sums of money through microtransactions, leading to numerous instances where children have spent large sums of money on the platform without parents' knowledge,[89][90] and deleting the accounts of players who file chargebacks or request refunds for Robux payments through their banks, card issuers or other third-party companies.[91]

Roblox has been accused by the YouTube channel People Make Games of "exploiting" child game developers by promising them huge amounts of money when they monetize their games, while only giving them little to no money in return by having high revenue cuts, an exchange rate in selling Robux lower than the rate for buying Robux, and lack of methods to make their games easily discoverable. This was likened to company scrip.[92][93]

Games

See also: List of Roblox games

Due to its status as a games platform, Roblox has a variety of popular games. As of May 2020, the most popular games on Roblox had over 10 million monthly active players each. As of August 2020, at least 20 games had been played more than one billion times, and at least 5,000 have been played more than one million times.[94] TechCrunch noted in March 2021 that Roblox games are largely distinct from established traditions in free-to-play video games, finding that successful Roblox games were geared towards immediate satisfaction, and finding that the addition of tutorials significantly decreased player engagement, contrary to established wisdom about free-to-play games.[95]

Revenue

During the 2017 Roblox Developers Conference, officials said that creators on the game platform, of which there were about 1.7 million as of 2017,[96] collectively earned at least $30 million in 2017.[97] The iOS version of Roblox passed $1 billion of lifetime revenue in November 2019, $1.5 billion in June 2020 and $2 billion in October 2020, making it the iOS app with the second-highest revenue.[98][7] Several individual games on Roblox have accumulated revenues of over $10 million,[99] while developers as a whole on the platform were collectively projected to have earned around $250 million over the course of 2020.[100] It became the third highest-grossing game of 2020, with a revenue of $2.29 billion, below the Tencent titles PUBG and Honor of Kings.[101]

Toy lines

In January 2017, toy fabricator Jazwares partnered with Roblox Corporation to produce toy minifigures based on user-generated content created by developers on the platform.[102] The minifigures have limbs and joints similar to that of Lego minifigures, though they are about twice the size.[103] The minifigures have limbs and accessories that are interchangeable. The sets included a code that was used to redeem virtual items, as well as blind boxes that contained random minifigures.[104][105] In 2019, Roblox Corporation released a new line of toys, branded the "Roblox Desktop" series.[106] On April 13, 2021, Roblox partnered with Hasbro to release Roblox themed Nerf guns and a Roblox themed Monopoly edition.[107]

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