During a talk at GDC 2020, Roblox‘s VP of product detailed the secret sauce behind Roblox’s success: its metaverse. This is a term that’s bandied around a fair bit these days, but it’s not as complex as the name suggests. It’s simply a collective of shared spaces on a virtual plane. That’s also a pretty darn good definition of Roblox itself.
Describing Roblox is actually quite tricky, after all. It’s often compared to Minecraft, though it actually doesn’t bear much resemblance to the creative sandbox title. What Roblox actually is, is a collection of minigames, many of which are created by the players themselves. You simply create an avatar, which you can dress up in a variety of unlockable outfits, pull together a few friends, and play the games you’re interested in.
You may write off Roblox as just a game for kids but what it has actually achieved is pretty remarkable. It’s created a space in which literally thousands of players can join together in a single digital space, across a wide variety of devices. Roblox is on mobile, console, and PC, and there are no obstacles to playing with your friends.
It also supports a near-countless number of game experiences, from shooters to RPGs to simulations, most video game tastes are accounted for. Minecraft might let you make a rollercoaster, but Roblox lets you make your own video game.
Imagine all of the challenges involved with that: creating a platform that doesn’t break with such a large number of users, managing a diverse community full of different types of players, supporting a growing number of platforms, and having a wide variety of different game types. From a technological perspective, it’s an absolutely mammoth task.
Yet Roblox has pulled it off. There are countless games to play, it’s broken world records for the number of persistent players online in the same world at the same time, and it doesn’t constantly receive backlash due to a toxic community. That latter point, in itself, is pretty impressive.