Roblox’s Huge Success Has Shown the Market Value of the Metaverse
Last week, the online games platform Roblox went public and after its first day of trading it had a market value placed on it of $45 billion. As a reference point, the industry giant Epic games were valued at $17.3 billion in 2020. Roblox’s enormous figure has been claimed to be the largest ever direct listing of a technology company, but what exactly is it that has got investors so excited?
Roblox, at its core, is a platform on which users can create their own games and play other user created games. It has its own onboard engine, Roblox Studio, in which people can either utilise free assets, purchase them or use their own created ones. Their revenue comes almost entirely through the sale of ‘Robux’, the virtual currency used on the platform.
Much of Roblox’s success is down to its simplified and yet flexible creation process. The programming language it is written in, Lua, is particularly lightweight and simple to use while still allowing for more in depth development if there is want for it. Furthermore, people making games don’t need to worry about setting up their own online servers, as this is all handled by the platform. Essentially, Roblox have emulated a tried and tested formula of putting their faith in the creativity of the user. And by making such a highly accessible design process, they’ve maximised this effect.
But while games have been at the heart of Roblox, its founders believe its future lies in the concept of ‘the Metaverse’. Coined by the sci-fi novelist, Neal Stephenson, the term refers to a persistent virtual world formed out of the collective effort of digitising our physical environments and processes. As we have seen, game platforms are quickly becoming social media channels, event spaces and even musical concert venues. Socialising that may have previously occurred on Facebook or other channels is often happening instead in this virtual space.
Speaking on Roblox at the GamesBeat summit in January one of the founders, Dave Baszucki, said “People do everything from playing traditional games, to social experiences that are more around hanging out and being together whether its working in a restaurant or running away from a tornado. And in the midst of this very difficult time, we’ve seen people using Roblox to stay connected, whether it’s trying to have a birthday party, or how do we graduate from high school?”
This emphasis on social experience, rather than simply games, is opening up these platforms for wider possibilities. Chatting, working and learning are going hand in hand with playing and by creating an easy-to-use platform that gives the users such freedom, Roblox have accelerated the formation of this Metaverse.
Currently Roblox has around 36.2 million daily active users, with its events such as the annual Easter egg hunt and a virtual Lil Nas X concert attracting millions of attendees. Supporting such huge numbers is computationally intensive, presenting a key opportunity for cloud-computing and edge networking. The Metaverse has gained so much traction because our technology is now able to produce these immersive experiences. However often events such as these occur through multi-sharded worlds, which in a sense reduces this immersion as users don’t technically occupy the same space. Hosting events which can truly support these high numbers in a single persistent world will help create an experience much closer to that of reality.