If you're like I was a few scant weeks ago, you may not be aware of independent gaming platform RŌBLOX, which gives players the tools to make games—beyond the glut of games with a creation or crafting mechanic as a side element on the market like Disney Infinity. RŌBLOX is designed and aimed at kids, as a game creation/sharing platform. It's also big business; some of the game creators are already making six figures developing for the streaming gaming platform.
With this success, RŌBLOX (which is already available on PC, Mac, tablet and mobile) is coming to XBOX One with a target date of November 12th. It will start with 20-25 of their most solid titles—to put their best foot forward on the market—with their free-to-play titles on display. Individual game creators can monetize their games (RŌBLOX game developers may use an in-game currency that players can purchase from the platform, with a transaction fee). But from the meeting I had with RŌBLOX's Chief Marketing and Revenue Officer, Rick Silvestrini, it sounded like most of the money came from marketing and co-operation with existing brands.
A screenshot of ROBLOX's games homepage.
Developers don't just have access to a general graphic user interface to build their worlds, but can also access the game code, with the goal of letting them make any game. While it currently boasts a visual identity that sits in a stylized way between Minecraft and LEGO bricks, the company aims to make more options available with higher fidelity. However, they are limited by what they can stream; RŌBLOX streams the games to players, making it heftier on the server end, which may also account for the stylized simplified visuals, but also allows for players to craft co-operative games and MMOs.
RŌBLOX may be aiming to be for independent 3D developers what Flash was for the independent 2D developers of the past. Looking at its core website reminded me a bit of a cross between YouTube and Newgrounds, with top user-generated content, most lucrative content, and a small curated section of recommended titles by the platform developers. Like early Flash game development or YouTube content, many of the games are designed around existing brands or franchises (Silvestrini told me it's common for players to want to emulate the games they love, and that RŌBLOX has a similar DMCA policy to YouTube's). However, part of this was also advertising, games with Disney Infinity on their avatar had partnered with the Disney brand, itself—Silvestrini told me—for marketing revenue.
In any case, RŌBLOX's moving their platform onto Xbox One may signal the ways that game creation is becoming more and more accessible. We may be seeing how financially gaming is moving to include games at every level of polish and developer ability. At PAX one of my favorite gaming experiences was Castle Crashers developer The Behemoths' Pit People. Though it eventually became a PS2 game, The Behemoth's own Alien Hominid started as Flash title, so it's not beyond the pale to imagine any of these young developers moving on to do something as extraordinary.