A new video from More Perfect Union (MPU) alleges the popular online game Roblox has turned its teenage player base into "low-wage game designers."
Concerns about the platform's relationship with its young audience have been around for years, and reported on by those such as People Make Games. MPU's video builds upon that group's 2021 video, showing how Roblox has profited from the work created by its teen demographic.
Roblox exists mainly as a creation platform where players aged 13 and up can operate as game developers. After creating an account to search job listings (listed as "commission") from other users, MPU discovered several of those jobs offer the in-game Robux currency as compensation.
Problem is, the conversion rate from Robux to real-world money can be low. One job listing that offered 200 Robux equated to about 20 cents, meaning those teenage developers are working for as long as adult game developers (if not more) and for basically no money at all.
One player speaking to MPU called making money on Roblox was "not that easy," prompting them to resort to third-party apps like Fiverr for work. Both he and MPU noted he was more financially successful on Fiverr, which goes to highlight the low pay of the Roblox platform.
Who creates and benefits from the Roblox economy?
Though Roblox is a hit with all demographics, young teens and early adults make up its primary audience. But as More Perfect Union shows, the relationship between the platform and its players is far from equal.
Whenever a creation is purchased on Roblox, a 70 percent cut is given to Roblox Corp. As MPU notes, a developer making $300 worth of Robux currency (or 30,000) is "significantly higher" than other games with similar payout methods. And again, low conversion rates (100 Robux= $0.35), means creators are being vastly underpaid.
Earlier this summer, Roblox Corp. said developers could create subscriptions in order to maintain a "recurring economic relationship" with their users. Altruistic as that sounds, its existence feels like a quiet admission that the revenue cut is grossly unfair to those developers, while still allowing the company to profit from whatever money those subscriptions will draw in.
Game Developer has reached out to Roblox Corp., and will update this story when a comment is provided.
Update: In an email provided to Game Developer, a spokesperson for Roblox Corp. claimed the More Perfect Union video "creates a misleading and inaccurate picture of how our platform functions. [...] We reject the characterization of Roblox as portrayed in the video."
The statement went on to say the video "downplays or outright ignores key features and protections" such as its aforementioned subscription revenue plan that "supports and compensates" Roblox developers.
"Respecting the community has always been a core value of Roblox and is consistently reflected in the decisions we make. We take any reports that developers feel unsupported very seriously."
NEW: Roblox is profiting off of child labor.— More Perfect Union (@MorePerfectUS) September 7, 2023
The platform, which has 66 million daily active users, is designed to exploit kids for profit—turning them into low-wage game designers and taking a 70% cut on their sales.
It’s a horrifying glimpse at the metaverse labor landscape. pic.twitter.com/Dy6oJnLoHc