In January, the online building game Roblox opened up a “developer exchange” to let people who make games within the game make money, too. Now a few of those developers are doing just that.
The exchange, or DevEx, works like this: Roblox’s everyday players (who are largely 10 to 15 years old) spend real money on virtual currency, which they can then spend within games that other players have created. Those game developers can then withdraw up to $20,000 worth of the virtual currency, called Robux, per month. Roblox takes a cut indirectly by controlling both directions of the currency exchange.
In the past nine months, the Roblox Corporation says its developers have withdrawn more than $850,000 from the DevEx.
CEO David Baszucki said “several hundred” games have earned at least 100,000 Robux, the threshold to withdraw some money from the system, out of a total of 300,000 to 400,000 people using Roblox’s game development tools. That’s a pretty small percentage, and fewer developers still are making enough money to call it a living — but they are out there.
Michael “Dued1” Sligh is one of them. When he was 15, he created a game called Work at a Pizza Place that invites kids to (wait for it) pretend to work at a pizza place.
“One player cooks pizzas, another takes orders, another delivers it,” Sligh said. “For each pizza, everyone in the game makes money that they can use to furnish their [in-game] house.”
Starting this year, players can also spend Robux to buy Sligh’s in-game money, in order to buy virtual furniture (got all that?). Sligh estimates that he’s made between $45,000 and $50,000 since January, although he first published the game in 2008. Before this year, though, the game didn’t have any in-game purchases because he had “no incentive” to add any, Sligh said.
Another developer doing well for himself is Laimonas “Loleris” Mileška, a Roblox developer based in Lithuania. His game, The Mad Murderer, works like the party game Mafia — among the players, one is a secret killer and another is the sheriff, covertly trying to stop the killer before it’s too late.
It took two weeks to develop the game earlier this year, Mileška said, and over the summer it was the most popular game in Roblox, regularly hosting 5,000 to 6,000 concurrent players. As of last month, Mileška has earned more than $50,000, the most of any developer in the DevEx.
Like a traditional game developer, though, he’s learning that fans’ attention can be fleeting — despite continual updates to The Mad Murderer, its players slipped to 1,000 concurrents once the summer ended and school resumed. Mileška said he has tried to expand the variety of virtual items he sells in the game, and has even bought advertising through Roblox to drive more visitors.
“The thing is, the lifespan of Roblox games is pretty small,” Mileška said. “It can go for merely a month. It takes a lot to make it to month number three. Eventually, everything dies down.”
His next game: A first-person shooter called Mad Paintball. He’s already been working on it for two months.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.