The metaverse is top of mind for big companies like Facebook — recently rebranded as Meta — but it also has significant implications for eCommerce companies of all sizes. While the metaverse concept is not fully fleshed out, it will likely take the form of some kind of virtual platform or marketplace, like Roblox.
While not everyone knows what Roblox is, chances are it will almost certainly ring a bell for parents of children under 16. Over half of U.S. children have played Roblox. With a successful IPO last year, Roblox is sailing in uncharted metaverse waters. But, for savvy eCommerce brands, Roblox represents an opportunity to reach new markets.
Here is what you need to know about Roblox, including what it is, who is participating in it and how interested brands can use the platform for marketing and in-platform selling.
What Is Roblox?
Similar to Steam, Roblox is an online platform and marketplace for video games. What sets it apart from other similar platforms is that the games are created and developed by users, including children and teenagers. The platform currently boasts over 40 million games.
Many of the games on the platform have metaverse features, including interacting with other players and creating private and public servers. Players create unique digital identities with customization for body shapes, hair, clothing and accessories. Some games have regular releases with new content and features. Most games are free upfront but have additional content that costs money (more on that later), but a few games do require an upfront cost of pre-game currency.
Who Plays Roblox?
The bulk of Roblox’s user base is children and teenagers. In a 2020 piece for Bloomberg, Roblox reported that two-thirds of all U.S. kids between 9 and 12 years old use Roblox, and it’s played by a third of all Americans under the age of 16.
But, Roblox is not only for children. Its fastest-growing demographic is players between the ages of 17 and 24. Roblox’s 2021 year in review data also reveals interesting information about the demographics of Roblox players. In 2021, the number of new female creators using Roblox Studio for the first time grew 353% year over year — compared to 323% growth for new male creators.
Roblox appeals to these age groups likely because it is simple and does not require deep technical expertise to create content or games. Growth surged during the pandemic when students were at home and looking for ways to connect with peers while in-person interactions were limited.
How Roblox Generates Revenue
Roblox’s in-game currency is called Robux, and it is the key monetization component on the platform. Players purchase Robux using real-life currency and then use their Robux to buy special features for games, accessories or anything else for sale in-game.
Developers get paid using Robux, and once they reach specific criteria, those Robux can be cashed out. Developers must work within the official Developer Exchange, be over the age of 13, have a current paid Roblox Premium membership and have a minimum of 100,000 earned Robux in their accounts.
Roblox developers have the opportunity to rake in lots of cash, even millions of dollars, with their games or paid items.
Since many players are too young to have full-time employment, parents and grandparents foot the bill for in-game spending. Some families have a credit card or other payment method attached to their Google Play, Apple App Store or Amazon Appstore accounts. Still others purchase gift cards to limit spending.
What Roblox Tells Us About Platform Marketing and Selling
As Roblox grew dramatically in 2020, several brands took advantage of the captive audience. Brands either collaborated with popular developers to offer branded in-game features or brand new worlds and games to explore. Here are just a few examples:
Nike recreated its IRL headquarters in Roblox. It offers players the opportunity to explore arenas, play minigames and use the NIKELAND toolkit to design their own games.
Nike is also taking virtual play in-person by creating their gameplay around movement. Many games incorporate jumps or running using device accelerometers. And, to keep access available for all players, NIKELAND is free.
Jailbreak is one of Roblox’s most popular games. It is a cops and robbers style car chase game reminiscent of Grand Theft Auto with a child-friendly spin. Players can orchestrate a robbery or prevent the bad guys from getting away.
In November 2021, NASCAR debuted a Next Gen race car for players to use in-game. Players can design custom skins or choose from pre-made options. Nick Bend, Managing Director of Gaming & Esports, said, “Roblox has one of the most passionate communities out there, so when we began collaborating with Jailbreak and its development team, Badimo, it only made sense to add an element of customization to the race car to get players involved and excited for this upcoming drop.”
Brand collaboration with Roblox has even reached the luxury brand market. In 2021, Gucci created a 2-week limited edition fashion experience on Roblox. The Gucci Garden Archetypes started players as blank mannequins. As players move through the different rooms in the exhibition, they take on different elements. At the end of the experience, the mannequin took on different textures, patterns and colors to be a unique creation. Gucci’s gardens also hosted a store where players could purchase limited-edition avatar items to wear, even after the exhibition ended.
For brands looking to break into the metaverse, Roblox provides a unique opportunity to build or collaborate with developers. Whether it’s building a new world, developing games or creating custom apparel, brands can be as entrenched as they want. Free items and games allow for more accessibility, but in-game stores create exclusivity for players. Roblox and platforms like it allow brands to take ecommerce even more virtual and remove a significant amount of overhead. Delivering in-game items eliminates warehousing and logistics concerns and delivers content to players instantly.
To learn more about the metaverse, NFTs, and virtual goods, download our 2022 DTC Hype Report: Revealing the Metaverse.