If you’re over a certain age, Roblox probably isn’t of much interest. The audience for this gaming megaplatform skews overwhelmingly towards the young: More than two-thirds of kids aged 9 to 12 are playing it in the US and around 1.5 million children in the UK. Developer the Roblox Corporation has just released its report for the fiscal year 2021 (that is, October 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021), plus its estimated metrics for January 2022, and if anything this juggernaut is only gaining momentum.
Unlike many other games, which prefer to cite monthly or annual statistics, Roblox is bullish enough to share its Daily Active Users (DAUs)—the number of accounts that log-in to Roblox every day. For FY 2021 that figure was 45.5 million users, which Roblox Corporation says is an increase of 40% year over year.
Those 45.5 million players spent 41.4 billion hours on the platform (an increase of 35% year over year) and ‘Average Bookings Per DAU’ was $59.85. Roblox says this led to revenue of $1.9 billion. Net cash provided by operating activities was $659.1 million—this is a metric that measures a company’s cash position from one period to the next, so tl;dr they’re rolling in it. To the extent the report says Roblox Corporation has free cash flow of $558.0 million, also known as money in the bank, a big pile of cheddar, phat stacks, and investor bait.
The most eye-popping numbers in the whole document, however, come with the estimated January 2022 metrics. These are being presented in advance of an Earnings Conference Call (which will no doubt have a very jolly atmosphere after these stats: The stock went up following the report).
What is Roblox?
Roblox’s catalogue of games are all created by its users. The platform has its own development suite called Roblox Studio Software that includes a wealth of game creating tools. Each one built on the platform is completely different and separate from the others and creators can essentially make whatever they like including RPGs, shooters, racing games and more.
Roblox Corporation says its DAUs now stand at an astonishing 54.7 million, an increase in size of almost exactly a third over January 2021. These players spent 4.2 billion hours on the platform, which is an increase of 26% year over year, and revenue is between $203 million-$206 million, up 64%-66% year over year. The only negative here for the Roblox Corporation is a drop in the average spend per user (down 22%-23% year over year) but this thing is operating at a scale that is hard to conceive of.
If Roblox’s 54.7 million daily players were a country, it would be bigger than Spain, Australia, Colombia and Canada. For more of a gaming perspective, Minecraft cites 140 million monthly users, and Fortnite’s numbers peak at 10-15 million whenever the game hosts one of its big live events. This is an apples-to-oranges comparison, because it is concurrent players and not DAUs, but Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is the most popular game on Steam: Its current 24-hour peak is 866,853, and its all-time record of concurrent players is 1,308,963. Even if you multiplied its all-time record by the 24 hours in the day, it still wouldn’t be near Roblox.
Other comparisons would be Steam’s estimated monthly user count of 120 million, and Riot’s big October 2021 statistic that League of Legends games boast 180 million monthly users.
Alright stop: It’s time for the suits.
“With nearly 55 million daily active users, Roblox is increasingly an integral part of people’s lives,” said David Baszucki, CEO of Roblox. “As we look ahead to 2022, we will continue to develop our technology to enable deeper forms of communication, immersion and expression on our platform.”
“The foundation we put in place that allows us to invest in our business while continuing to generate strong cash flow is one of the most unique aspects of our business,” said Michael Guthrie, CFO of Roblox. “Our 2021 results demonstrate that the investments we were able to make in our technology and developer community are generating strong returns, and we will continue leaning into the business as we focus on the large, long-term growth opportunity ahead of us.”
Roblox has a simply massive player base, and one thing that numbers like these throw into sharp relief are the issues it faces with that player base skewing so young. In December 2021 the YouTube channel People Make Games shared new allegations claiming that the game and game-creation platform is unsafe for kids—And for anyone not tuned into the Roblox scene, it was eye-opening: Literal children being swindled out of sometimes large amounts of money and work, a situation that Roblox appeared either unwilling or unable to address.
This has been followed by additional reporting on “beamers,” as they’re called in the Roblox community, who hack into Roblox accounts, strip them of valuable items, and then sell them on black markets.
Fraudsters are one thing but other allegations are much more serious: This BBC report, published earlier this week, says that the platform has problems with sex games called ‘condos’. Roblox Corporation in advance of that report published a new blogpost called ‘Supporting and Protecting the Roblox Developer and User Community’ outlining what it intends to do.
“We know there is an extremely small subset of users who deliberately try to break the rules,” a Roblox spokesperson told the BBC, adding that “We conduct a safety review of every single image, video, and audio file uploaded to Roblox, using a combination of human and machine detection.” Roblox Corporation is at least active in pursuing bad actors where it can: Recently suing a longtime thorn in its side and having him banned from Roblox by court order.
The most controversial element of these financials, however, has to be that Roblox is a creation platform that has an audience which is almost entirely children, and it takes the lion’s share of the profits from these creations. Creators on the platform can expect to receive 25% of whatever their work makes, plus extra financial rewards for high engagement. That seems, just on the face of it, somewhat exploitative.
CEO David Baszucki’s ultimate vision is to turn Roblox into a ‘metaverse.’ In a presentation pitch to investors earlier this year, Baszuck said that he wants to turn the gaming space into a virtual world, enabling users to build whatever they want that could be seen via virtual reality headsets. The example given was learning about Rome by ‘going’ to ancient Rome.
The future for Roblox Corporation certainly looks bright, metaverse or not. Whether it’s quite so sunny for the creators within a system that takes such a huge cut… I’m not so sure.