On Roblox, kids learn it’s hard to earn money making games

Roblox is a videogame giant, dominating the gaming world for kids in recent years and generating $454 million revenue in the last quarter alone. According to a new report, Roblox's success can be attributed to the exploiting of young game developers (many of whom are children) who create content for the game.
Roblox is a platform that allows gamers to create and share an unfathomable number of experiences. These include running a restaurant, climbing a huge stairway, or escape from a prison cell. Roblox hosts tens of millions more games than Steam. These games are played by 43 million people every day, most of them children. These are some of the most loved experiences, which have earned their creators millions of dollars annually.

A new report claims that this model, which is behind Roblox's huge success, may be exploiting young game developers. People Make Games, an independent YouTube channel that covers games journalism, published How Roblox is Exploiting Young Game Developers on Thursday. It examines the promises of Roblox and argues that it actually makes it difficult for young developers to succeed.

Roblox has become a publicly traded company and is now worth more that Electronic Arts, Quintin Smith, producer of People Make Games, tells WIRED. In a direct listing, the company was valued at $45 million earlier this year. We were concerned that the majority of games on the platform were made by minors, with a revenue split that is only one-third of industry standards. Roblox offers developers only 25 percent and pays out based on engagement.


People Make Games' analysis of Robloxs economics reveals the disconnect between Robloxs promise to kids as a way to develop games and reality. Roblox makes money from people trying.

There are few things more appealing than working in the bank and doing what you love. With the rising value of the gaming industry, young gamers have the opportunity to work for a game developer studio, stream on Twitch and compete professionally in esports. The games industry has faced a variety of poor labor practices over the past decade. These include 12-hour work days at top studios to ludicrously inequitable contracts with managers. Low wages and poor workplace conditions are not uncommon. Gaming addicts are easy targets for exploitation because of the all-consuming passion they feel for their media.

Roblox's marketing copy focuses on the possibility of financial success when developing games. Roblox Studio's developer engine advertises its three tenants to young developers: Make Anything; Reach Millions of Players; and Earn Serious Money. Roblox also notes that the platform has helped top developers make more than $2 million per year. Roblox's developer testimonials highlight how the platform helped them overcome the financial challenges of college students and even hint at the possibility of a career in games. Roblox's YouTube channel promotes mini documentaries that highlight the most successful developers. Forbes and BBC both publish stories on Roblox developers who have paid off their parents' mortgages or paid for college tuition.

Roblox offers a lot to its developers: server space and marketplace infrastructure. Roblox Studio, just like the game itself, is free. Roblox's Developer Exchange program gives developers 25% of the game's earnings. Developers can also make money with Roblox. Roblox's large investment in infrastructure to support these devs is part of the reason for this split. AListDaily was told by Roblox's vice president of marketing in 2018. It all started with kids creating games for other children.


Roblox's user base is dominated by those under 18 years old, with only a third of them being between 9-12. Emil, 11 years old, told People Make Games that he was inspired by other developers who were able to make money with Roblox. A developer must earn at least 100,000 Robux to withdraw the money earned by microtransactions within a game. 1,000 Robux is required to purchase 100,000 Robux from Roblox's store. You can sell 10,000 Robux back at Roblox for just $350 If these developers do not pay a $5 monthly fee, withdrawal is impossible. (Second Life, Entropia Universe and Entropia Universe have respective $10 and $100 minimum withdrawal amounts.

Smith says that it is unacceptable to expect minors doing the same job to be treated better than adults. This is especially true when you consider that the platform encourages kids to work for it.

Smith believes that this system discourages Robux users from withdrawing them. These Robux are devalued off-platform so why not use them for other Roblox games. Smith likens Roblox's currency to the company scrips of miners, which is now illegal. They are used to buy goods at company stores. Because the scrip was not available elsewhere, miners were encouraged by their employers to spend their money on their employer's goods.

Roblox spokesperson told WIRED that Roblox's experiences teach the fundamentals of programming, digital civility and entrepreneurship. Over 600 Roblox developers make over $85,000 per year from their Roblox creations. Roblox also offers Developer Relations professionals who can help developers succeed.

Roblox's huge valuation and extraordinary success can be attributed in part to Roblox's large number of children who are looking to make a living from games. However, children can't organize for better working conditions. In fact, the adults in games industry have difficulty reaching quorum.

It's not bad for the company if kids work too hard and have unreasonable expectations. Smith explains that this is what drives Roblox's success. It convinces young users that it is possible to make money on the platform, which attracts hundreds of thousands of young people who are enthused about creating the next Roblox success story.

This story first appeared on wired.com