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Roblox Wants to Be a Gateway Drug for Indie Game Development

And some early signs point to success.

Roblox Corp. / Roblox

It’s often overshadowed by that other build-anything game kids dig, Minecraft, but nine years after launch, Roblox still has more than 10 million players a month — and an idea for how to keep those players engaged.

Let them make money from their creations.

The game’s creator, Roblox Corporation, experimented last year with a developer exchange — letting the minority of game players who sell mini-games to be played within Roblox cash out their virtual profits for real money. Now the company is trying to pitch its DevEx to a broader audience.

“The idea behind DevEx is simple,” a company rep wrote in a recent blog post. “If you contribute a popular title to our thriving ecosystem of games, you deserve to be rewarded for your work.”

So far, only about 200 developers have participated in the money swap, and most of the top devs come from the high end or older of Roblox’s 8-to-18-year-old target demographic. But marketing VP Brad Justus said that small group is already showing signs of some interesting trends. Justus estimated that between a quarter and a third have formed loose development “studios” within the game.

“It’s an introduction to an indie game development career,” Justus said. “It’s a signal to our community that we want to see people building better and better stuff.”

Out of the game’s 10 million to 12 million monthly active users, about 3.5 million have full-featured accounts, with the rest playing as guests, Justus added. But the size of the community — regularly topping out at 160,000 players at any given moment, he said — makes it possible to reach an audience that’s already primed to play something fun.

For now, developers can only cash out a maximum of $500 from their wallets of virtual currency, Robux, per month. But in February, that ceiling is scheduled to rise to $2,000. The Roblox Corporation does not take a percentage of these cash-outs, but makes its cut by controlling the exchange rate between real and virtual money.

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