Roblox, the secrets of the most popular mysterious game in the world

Roblox, the secrets of the most popular mysterious game in the world
Roblox is a gigantic paradox, being at the same time one of the most popular and played video games in the world but remaining substantially obscure to most of the adult audience, having never been covered that much by the specialized press which has evidently underestimated its potential. Just take a ride on the internet in search of information: some insights are emerging now but above all because of the impressive numbers that the game continues to grind, practically without ever touching traditional marketing channels or even standard criticism. Eventually, the elephant in the room became so gigantic that it couldn't be ignored, with over $ 2 billion raised on the mobile version alone and a monthly active user base reaching 100 million on average, so let's try to understand a bit of what it is, also because being played mainly by children it is easy for the title to creep into homes, whether you know what it is or not.

The premises of Roblox are really interesting, having been born as a sort of game maker: it is a platform that allows you to build games and share them with the community. In essence, it is a huge container of products generated by users for the players themselves, in an interesting videogame parallel with social platforms such as YouTube and the like, focused on the initiative of the community and on the activity of this within the platform itself. Its story begins in 2006 and from its foundation onwards it has been a continuous growth, always remaining strangely on the background of the videogame industry, far from the spotlight reserved for other phenomena such as Minecraft or Fortnite, despite having absolutely nothing to envy to these. in terms of popularity and numbers. Its "problem", in terms of visibility, is precisely the fact that it does not have a precise and easily communicable identity, being essentially a tool for creating different gaming experiences.

How it works

Once you have registered an account, it is possible to create one or more avatars through an editor that includes numerous customization possibilities, further increased by the presence of skins and additional elements that can be purchased separately through the Robux, or the in-game virtual currency that can be purchased with real money. From here on, the two different paths of Roblox start, which on the one hand allows users to create games from tools and assets contained in Roblox Studio on PC and Mac, while on the other it simply allows you to play, taking part in one of the hundreds of thousands of games (or "experiences" of some kind) made available. Clearly, the latter is the path chosen most frequently by millions of gamers every day, but there are also many creatives who try the path of "development".

Roblox is free on PC, Xbox One and mobile platforms (Android and iOS), allowing free access to thousands and thousands of mini-games of different types, ranging from third-person action games to simulations or even more complex types. The whole economy of the system is based on micro-transactions, which allow the purchase of skins or special items to be used in individual games and are apparently also quite used by users, considering the turnover that maintains the entire structure .

Even the creation of the games is free, with a certain level of control over the contents so that they can be offered to a young audience, but otherwise there are no limits to users' creativity, which in itself is very positive. Out of the thousands of works introduced in the database, some become so popular that creators become rich through micro-transactions, given that once a certain share of players is reached, a part of the profits are obtained from in-app purchases: this is the case, for example, of Game Dev Life, which made eighteen-year-old creator Josh Wood a very successful developer, or a few other examples seen so far. In most cases it is possible to obtain some marginal gains through the conversion of the Robux earned into real money, while still allowing interesting income as evidenced by users like OzzyPig who made himself known with his The Hunger Games or BobBrick of Atlantic Cruise Ship and Super Hero City.

The games

As far as games are concerned, these range over an enormous amount of different possibilities: in general they are usually third-person action games, or simulations of some kind that recreate more or less crazy trades or situations, but you can also find digressions of any kind, in some cases even real thefts from other games with a precise work of copying and pasting assets, such as versions Pokémon housewives or other popular titles. The more experienced users now know how to orient themselves precisely in the thousands of proposals that fill the initial selection screen, also interpreting them through ad hoc categories that fall into a sort of specific code linked to Roblox: we therefore find "Hobby" or "Simulations", or other definitions of the kind that do not necessarily match the standard ones but that find their own place in the system of sub-genres on which the game is based.

With third-person or subjective shot, we are faced with usually rather spartan scenarios in which the most disparate game actions take place: ranging from platform to simulation, from management to adventure, all obviously rather botched by adapting assets and patterns preset in order to adapt to various needs. In short, creative freedom is not exactly unlimited, and this is reflected in the need to re-enter anyway in some strands that in some way work in accordance with the development tools. The management "Tycoons" work (like the well-known Restaurant Tycoon and its sequel), as do the simulations of specific jobs such as pizza chef or taxi driver, or particular reinterpretations of simple third-person actions within scenarios with imminent dangers or rudimentary platforms in landscapes strewn with obstacles (the "parkours"), as well as games based on construction or survival in the style of Minecraft.

It is clear that, as these are productions developed in totally amateur way, in most cases these are very rough games, which moreover generate chain clones as soon as a good idea manages to emerge more than others, creating further chaos and generally keeping the average quality level of the offer low. However, it would also be unfair to label everything as a cauldron of bad gameplay sketches: we must certainly accept a very low average technical level, clipping problems, bugs and frame-rates, but in many cases we are also faced with genuine attempts to build something fun on the part of other users without any pretension to make way in the world of videogame development, or to draw money.

From this point of view, we would perhaps need more powerful development tools, perhaps further updates and expansions to Roblox Studio in order to provide additional creative possibilities, as developers often resort to assets imported elsewhere and also run into possible copyright problems, as happens in various cases with Nintendo productions.

Reasons for success

Roblox's incredible success comes from a combination of factors, including the fun that came from the co itself is only one aspect, perhaps even marginal. It is a complex system, a real platform with integrations ranging from its own internal marketing to social aspects to be taken into consideration, so it cannot be compared to a standard game like the others, even if complex and multifaceted as it can be. a Minecraft. The participatory aspect is certainly important: the fact that Roblox is based on the contents developed by the users themselves through a rather simple procedure can already represent an element of great charm, at least as regards the first experiments before realizing that the creation and above all the visibility of one's products implies a rather complicated system of marketing and promotion with which it is difficult to establish oneself.

Then there are the immediacy of the gameplay and the variety experiences, characteristics that for the younger audience can represent elements of greater charm than the technical refinement or the structural depth of the games. According to Craig Donato, chief business officer of Roblox Corp., the popularity of the game among children is mainly due to the fact of proposing an "unstructured game", which represents an important diversion in a society in which social interactions, sports and even play are often heavily encoded by complex rules and layered structures. In short, Roblox would be a return to childhood games in which freedom of action and creativity are dominant, in a vision that has undoubtedly plausible elements even if it can be a little sweetened, given that a certain system of genres and real fashions however also emerge within the platform.

Finally, the usual digital tam tam performed by youtubers and streamers must be taken into great consideration: confirming again once their position as modern opinion leaders especially for the younger ones, their role is of capital importance in spreading a game beyond the normal outdated promotion schemes. As we are seeing recently also with Among Us, influencers can transform a niche product into a global phenomenon, if it has a formula that is well suited to streaming with lots of gags attached and Roblox from this point of view can be a mine. gold.

The dark sides

Like any game that can attract millions of children, safety should always be first and foremost this aspect Roblox has tried to adapt and evolve in order to eliminate the threats as much as possible, but only going so far. In theory, an account can only be created by an adult, who can give consent to the use of the game to a minor while acting as a controller and from this point of view the game places various control tools in the hands of parents, with the log of messages, chats and transactions recorded and saved on the servers and with the ability to prevent contact with strangers based on various parameters. The problem is that a total and effective control is not simple: the system should automatically restrict the possibility of providing information to other users, i.e. sensitive data such as name, surname, gender and age, but these are all blocks that can be easily circumvented right from the composition of the name of users, which may already contain such information, moreover by default the various security systems are not active.

Roblox allows its use in total anonymity and this can encourage dangerous behavior, in fact by not placing technical limitations (unless they are actively set) on the exchange of private messages and information between strangers, which can lead to cyberbullying or the possibility of luring younger users, perhaps by referring to online meetings through different platforms . These are all elements that, to a certain extent, are beyond a possible control by the platform itself, but it must be said that it is still quite easy to circumvent the restrictions and perhaps even create an adult account (in truth, scanning is only between over or under 13 years old). Moreover, it is rather strange that it is rather complicated to completely delete an account, with a procedure that is not exactly intuitive which implies an explicit request to customer assistance.

Other doubtful aspects concern the presence in certain cases invasive of micro -transactions, which are not required to take part in the games but can be applied in a more or less subtle way, quickly referring to the in-app purchase screens. Furthermore, the control over the contents is obviously not very simple given the constant contribution of millions of active users in the creation of games, so it is possible that some of these contain elements not suitable for an underage audience but that the thing is not adequately reported. . As far as parents are concerned, all the information on the safety systems that can be used in Roblox are contained in the special For Parents section of the game's official website, which can be consulted in different languages ​​but not in Italian.

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