ROBLOX is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. We are thrilled with our progress to date, and every day it feels like we have more and more opportunities to create the future of entertainment. We have seen explosive growth over the past decade, and I couldn’t be more grateful to our dedicated fans for their continuous support. The efforts of our talented team, along with the support of our enthusiastic followers, have made ROBLOX what it is today. Before I share some insights into what we have planned for the upcoming ten years, let’s wind back the clock and reflect on our remarkable evolution as we honor this amazing milestone.
It’s easy to underestimate the massive undertaking that is the perpetual development of ROBLOX. Our story actually begins farther back – way back in 1989, during my time with Knowledge Revolution. Back then, Nintendo just launched the Game Boy along with smash-hit Tetris, and the first episodes of The Simpsons were being broadcast on CRT televisions. At Knowledge Revolution, I, along with physics/simulation gurus and future ROBLOX employees, Erik Cassel, Keith Lucas, and Tim Loduha, programmed a 2D simulated physics laboratory called Interactive Physics, which would later go on to influence our approach when it came to building the groundwork for ROBLOX. Students across the world were using Interactive Physics to play around with various physics experiments, like seeing how two cars would crash, or building destructible houses. It was astonishing to see what these kids and teens were designing with Interactive Physics, and I wanted to replicate that capability on a much grander scale. Early on, we thought that our biggest market differentiator at ROBLOX would be our physics engine. As it turns out, however, we quickly learned over time to embrace user-generated content (UGC) as our key driver. Our vision at ROBLOX was to create an immersive, physics-simulating multiplayer experience in the cloud. Together with ROBLOX co-founder, Erik Cassel, we wanted to give users the power to build objects, mix and match pieces, and create interactive virtual playgrounds.
We made the right decision with respect to UGC. We receive over 20 million visitors a month, and players spend over 120 million hours a month on ROBLOX – that’s more time than Pinterest, Reddit, or Wikipedia! In March 2016, we had a year-over-year monthly active user growth of 113% (our highest to date), and great economic growth fueled by R$12.12 billion (approximately $121.2 million USD) worth of ROBLOX and user-created items purchased in our extensive catalog.
In the early days, prior to launching ROBLOX, it was Erik and I crammed in a tiny office space in Menlo Park, spending late nights building the core components that would serve as the basis for our nascent Imagination Platform. Like any burgeoning company, we had several long strategic discussions trying to figure out exactly what our business model was going to be. Would we be a game or a platform? How are we going to get people to play? We had so many exciting ideas, but not enough time or employees to implement them. Erik and I brought on Technical Director Matt Dusek and former Creative Director John Shedletsky to help tackle some of these obstacles. The four of us spent months poring over every detail – how the characters looked, how we would define a game, and how the game sort worked. We may have had our own friendly disagreements on some of these elements, but we settled on expanding ROBLOX as a platform for UGC, especially after seeing how much traction we were starting to gain.
Original ROBLOX business plan – core slide. Obviously dated by MySpace and World of Warcraft. And the numbers for social networking were still very small…
“There’s a fascinating phenomenon called ‘the IKEA effect,’ where your appreciation for something is disproportionately impacted by your involvement in creating it,” said Matt Dusek. “It’s why UGC isn’t just an interesting feature of ROBLOX; it’s the essential ingredient in our secret sauce. Ultimately, everything you experience is made. And you’re one of the makers.”
When we launched the first version of ROBLOX in 2006, it was very simplistic. Character selection was limited, and there were only three games: Brick Battle, Crossroads, and Chaos Canyon. It was very rudimentary at the time, but we were okay with that. We just wanted to prove that this kind of platform could work. And it did. ROBLOX soon began to take a life of its own. John, Matt, Erik, and I worked together to completely overhaul our 3D engine, improve our animations, and revamp our content curation system to get us one step closer towards our vision. By 2007, we began to design a virtual economy built on two currencies: Tickets and ROBUX. The economy would reward players for participating and provide an opportunity to receive various website benefits through Builder’s Club memberships. We allowed players to begin outfitting their avatars with shirts, body colors, and expanded the customization options in the months following with faces, hair, head shapes, and more. A year later, we expanded the virtual economy so that users could exchange Tickets and ROBUX via the Currency Exchange. And by 2013, we introduced the Developer’s Exchange, which allows users to exchange their ROBUX for real money. Today, our top creators are making over $20,000 a month, which is helping them to start their own businesses, pay for school, and even much more.
The more features we added, the more we saw our concurrent player numbers continue to increase. We were pleasantly surprised. We went from four or five concurrent players – all of whom we knew personally at the time, funnily enough – to over 100 during a company barbecue a few months later. How far we’ve come since then! At first, we were spending $50.00 a day on Google AdWords, which helped to encourage at least fifty people a day to visit ROBLOX. It was enough to test the machinery, and those initial investments were what helped us become a viral sensation early on. For the first three years, our user base grew at seven percent a week.
“YouTube was another key traffic source for us back in 2006,” said John Shedletsky. “I thought, what if we were to hold contests on YouTube and judge all the entries ourselves? We would give ROBUX to top videos. When we saw the eagerness to contribute, we knew we had a hit. YouTube was such a new video platform at the time, but we were fortunate that it flourished in the way that it did today.”
Even though we have already accomplished so much since launch in 2006, I still come into the office every day thinking that it’s a brand new business. Every morning, there’s a new set of challenges and goals, and the only difference between now and then is that we have over 350,000 concurrent players at peak times. It has been ten years of relentless iteration.
ROBLOX at the Bay Area Maker Faire
“Dave deserves a lot of the credit in the very early stages of the company,” John said. “There were key moments when he seemed to have a sixth sense that would save us from going out of business. He got us on the right track early on by making sure we got to the point where we would be a self-supporting enterprise. We weren’t just a game, but a set of tools people could use to build games.”
Builderman greeting fans at ROBLOX’s first ever ROBLOX Developer Conference
I would like to thank our developer community, which has matured from passionate hobbyists to some of the best game developers in the world, creating new innovations that we are not seeing anywhere else in the world.
Thanks to all ROBLOX employees – past and present. Our recruiting process is ruthlessly selective, but we think it’s paid off. We have an amazing team that is inspiring and motivating to work with everyday, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
A big thank you goes to co-founder Erik Cassel, whose technical vision set the bar for everything we are doing. He was a superb engineer, and we continue to receive compliments on the technological excellence of our platform to this day. We and the world miss him.
Erik Cassel answering questions from fans at RDC.
And lastly, I want to personally thank all of you – our players – many of whom we have come to know over the past decade. We couldn’t have gotten this far without you.
We look forward to surpassing your expectations over the next ten years. Thank you once again.