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Roblox devs say socialization is what makes the creator-led sandbox tick

Voldex CEO Alex Singer and CPO Andrew Rose say socialization-friendly design is key to making a successful Roblox game.

Bryant Francis, Senior Editor

May 1, 2024

6 Min Read
A screenshot of Roblox avatars in digital fashion outfits.
Image via Roblox.

At a Glance

  • With more game studios setting up shop on Roblox, developers need to know what makes for a successful game on the platform.
  • The lead developers at Voldex say over a third of returning their players spend more time socializing than playing.
  • That means designers on the platform should think about making fun spaces to hang out in alongside general gameplay.

Let's say you're a game developer who wants to make games appealing to "the youths." You know that the next generation of players is spending time on platforms like Roblox. You also know that the platform's affinity for janky games and even jankier visuals flies against many rules conventional game design. And you're self-aware enough to know if you storm in making games the old-fashioned way, you're liable to fall flat on your face and burn a lot of cash in the process.

Don't worry. Voldex chief product officer Andrew Rose (a former senior director of product at Zynga) has been where you've been. When we met at the 2024 Game Developers Conference, he and the fresh-faced, 22-year-old CEO Alex Singer had just given a talk about what free-to-play developers need to know about getting onto the platform.

Before we could speak, Rose and Singer spent 15 minutes surrounded by a small crowd of eager attendees, many of whom seemed to be Roblox developers starstruck by meeting the pair in person. It seemed that Singer—who started a studio making user-generated-content games in Minecraft at age 14—was a minor celebrity in the community. It's a celebrity encapsulating the overlap between Roblox players and Roblox developers (Roblox Corp. calls them "creators"). Singer is of a creative class that's made such a fast transition from young player to skilled developer without any filtering from the professional world—meaning he's perfectly fluent in how Roblox players socialize with each other and the developers of their favorite games.

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"Socialization"—that's a word that appeared frequently in the pair's presentation and in our conversation that concluded after they peeled away from the crowd. It's a word with two-fold meaning here, both referring to the idea that Roblox developers can expect to communicate with their players more frequently than on any other platform—and that for many players, socializing with their peers will often be more interested than playing the game itself.

If you're trying to wrap your head around why any Roblox game is popular, you need to study how players and developers interact with each other. The pair explained that Roblox players are in the habit of casually trying out experimental builds of a game, something that can be deployed with "the push of a button." They also expect developers to be chatting with them semi-consistently, taking their feedback and making more frequent tweaks than you'd see in conventional online games.

But it's player socialization among the (increasingly older) user base is what sets Roblox games apart from other platforms, they explained.

"On so many other platforms, people are mostly playing a game," Singer observed. On Roblox...a third of our returning players are just socializing."

That percentage increases when you drill down into the metrics of returning player behavior. Voldex calculated this number by studying the number of returning daily average users completing a "core action" in a game experience. Only 66 percent of returning players in Driving Empire complete a core action on a daily basis, and that number drops to 55 percent when studying Dungeon Quest.


Flip those percentages, and you can see 34 percent of Driving Empire players are logging back into the game without "playing" it, with 45 percent of Dungeon Quest players doing the same thing. Those metrics are driven by players who do the old-school equivalent of "hanging out in the lobby," chatting with friends instead of starting a game.

"These are players coming in and spending 20 minutes just chatting, hanging out, peacocking, and chilling," Rose said. He observed that this behavior is what makes games like the "social role-playing" experience Brookhaven so popular. Rose observed that Brookhaven doesn't have a "core loop." It's just about "social roleplay" that seems closer to a Grand Theft Auto Online roleplaying server than a proper game of Grand Theft Auto Online.

"Dressing up" and "peacocking" of course are made possible by Avatar items, the digital goods that can be purchased in the Roblox marketplace. Singer and Rose said that the bulk of Voldex's revenue comes from creating and selling such items for players socializing in their games. Neither of them seemed that bothered by the oft-criticized platform fee that Roblox Corp. collects on every transaction.

Singer said the fee covers "things we would otherwise have to pay for." Rose meanwhile alluded to the challenge of of answering questions about the platform fees, because if you ask any developer "would you like more money," the answer will usually be "yes."

"I have to say 'please give me more,' that's the default answer," Rose said. "But maybe it's less about the [platform] cut and more about revenue diversification and giving us additional revenue streams. That's maybe more of a thing I would care about."

Socializing and fast development are at the heart of the growing UGC field

The growing spree of studios building games on Roblox and other UGC platforms shows the industry is evolving to meet the next generation of players on their own turf. As with any generational shift in technology or culture, it can be difficult to pin down what it is that's capturing player interest, and older developers may worry that their jumping into the space could come off as having "how do you do fellow kids?" energy.

But the appeal is organic. We've heard how veteran developers like those at Barnyard Games are embracing the platform thanks in part to how fast and easy it is to deploy games and gather feedback on them.

That speed and appeal to young audiences is still a double-edged sword. Roblox Corp. is still grappling with accusations that younger developers and asset creators on the platform are being exploited and the safety of younger players isn't being properly prioritized.

Those fears aren't assuaged when execs like studio head Stefano Corazza describe the platform as a "gift" for impoverished teenagers making Roblox assets or experiences in a "slum" in countries like Indonesia.

Those bigger-picture questions may be above the head of Singer and Rose, who for now are humming along making driving games, racing sims, and dungeon crawlers. Rose urged developers who've "dismissed" the platform to sit down and play the game (preferably with someone who's played it before) if they want to understand why it's so fun for so many people.

"Have your mind explode, get over the hurdle of 'wow this looks terrible and janky,'" he implored. "Give it a shot and I bet you'll find games in there that will make you say 'these are actually fun, and they're fun to play with friends.'"

Game Developer and Game Developers Conference are sibling organizations under Informa Tech.

About the Author(s)

Bryant Francis

Senior Editor, GameDeveloper.com

Bryant Francis is a writer, journalist, and narrative designer based in Boston, MA. He currently writes for Game Developer, a leading B2B publication for the video game industry. His credits include Proxy Studios' upcoming 4X strategy game Zephon and Amplitude Studio's 2017 game Endless Space 2.

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