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Roblox and Healthcare’s Metaverse

By KIM BELLARD

As neither a gamer nor the parent of a gamer, I’ve been proud that I’ve stayed even mildly in touch with the cultural phenomenon that gaming is.  I’ve written about, for example, the Metaverse, Fortnight, and e-sports.  Still, I somehow managed to be completely oblivious to the existence of Roblox, until they went public this week and was valued at $45b, larger than Electronic Arts (which I had heard of). 

Once again, I think there are lessons for healthcare.

P.J. McNealy, CEO of Digital World Research, described Roblox to NPR as: “Minecraft meets Nintendo, which meets Lego and mobile phones enable a whole bunch of it.”  Whatever the metaphor, Roblox is booming.  It was valued at $4b a year ago, but the pandemic was very, very good for it. 

Half of America children use Roblox.  Two thirds of its users are 16 and younger, and most of them were spending lots of time at home last year.  It is now estimated to have 37 million unique daily users, spending some 30 billion hours on the site last year.  It is available in 180 countries, in 11 languages.

What makes Roblox particularly unique is that it is not a game developer; it is a platform where users develop the “experiences”.  Roblox describes its mission thusly:

Roblox’s mission is to bring the world together through play.  We enable anyone to imagine, create, and have fun with friends as they explore millions of immersive 3D experiences, all built by a global community of developers.

It claims 8 million developers have created 20 million experiences — and that it paid over $300 million to them.  The games are free but users can buy and spend an in-game virtual currency (Robux), which can be exchanged for actual money (Roblox shares 30% of the revenue with developers).  At least one developer made over $1 million in a single year; over 1200 made at least $10,000, with over 300 making over $100,000. 

Mr.  McNealy believes the IPO will allow Roblox significant expansion:

This money will either give them an opportunity to build more content for the for the platform or to go to adjacent platforms like music or partnering with Spotify or movie service.  That’s where this is going to go.

CEO and co-founder David Baszucki isn’t content with the younger market, wondering: “So how do we make it possible for Roblox to connect with everyone in the world?”  Alex Hicks, cofounder of Roblox studio Red Manta, sees such potential, telling Polygon: “Lots of kids already know what Roblox is, but they’re just scratching the surface with the older audience.” 

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