The People Make Games channel published a video investigation on YouTube, analyzing the relationship between young game creators in Roblox and developer Roblox Corporation. In this video, Quintin Smith details the platform’s business model and explains how the company is financially exploiting minors, including children.
Roblox is a gaming platform that has more than 200 million monthly active users, most of them children. These titles are created and published by the users themselves, who can even earn money by including microtransactions paid with Robux, the service’s virtual currency.
Making money making games is a common dream, and Roblox appears as a viable option for this. The problem is that to have the minimum financial return with the creations on the platform, it is necessary to stand out among the more than 20 million games published. As Smith points out in the video, this is extremely difficult.
If the game is successful, the creator will still have one more obstacle: making people spend Robux in microtransactions. According to Smith, however, users can only convert digital currency into real money starting at 100,000 Robux, the equivalent of US$ 1,000 (about R$ 5.4 thousand reais).
This minimum amount is quite high, making life difficult for developers who think about reaching this “goal”. In addition, to convert Robux into real money, creators must pay a monthly subscription of $5 ($27).
Smith also explains in the video that Roblox Corporation buys the virtual currency at a different rate than it is sold — that is, players spend US$1,000 to purchase 100,000 Robux, but the game’s creator only receives US$350 on exchange.
The payment strategy of Roblox it’s illegal in real life
If the developer does not reach the 100 thousand Robux mark, he will have the virtual currency stuck in the account, and can only use the resource to buy items within Roblox. This, together with the lack of regulation in the technology sector, means that creators are subjected to practices that, today, are illegal.
In the video, Smith compared this method to a strategy used in the past by US mining companies, which paid employees in coins that could only be used in stores inside factories. It was also possible to exchange the coins for dollars, but just like in Roblox, the exchange left workers at a financial disadvantage.
With this, Roblox Corporation ensures that the money received from the sale of Robux does not leave the company’s wallet so easily. In the North American mining companies, this strategy was also used to inhibit layoffs, since, when they left their jobs, workers automatically went into misery because they had no saved dollars.
In Roblox, users feel obligated to keep developing games until they reach the goal, even without receiving real money for it. During the investigation, Smith interviewed an 11-year-old who dreamed of earning a living as a breeder in Roblox, but failed.
“Even though Roblox encourage you to create games, the probability of you making a successful game is basically zero. You always compete with people who already have a lot of money,” said the boy. This is because it is possible to apply money in the form of Robux in games to increase their popularity.
Kids are running out to create addictive games
There is another way to make money in Roblox in addition to microtransactions with Robux: Some games are exclusive to subscribers of the platform’s premium service — the one that costs $5 a month — and Roblox Corporation pays the creators of these games according to the time users spend in-game.
So, instead of valuing the most creative and fun games, the company encourages the creation of addictive games, with casino mechanics most of the time. As already discussed in relation to loot boxes, systems that depend on luck and children don’t match, as they don’t have self-control.
As a result, young game creators in Roblox they are already going through burnouts and crunches, even without even having finished their studies. To avoid this, it is necessary to regulate these new working relationships based on more traditional activities. Only in this way should video game companies stop exploiting minors.
The full investigation can be seen in the People Make Games video:
With information: People Make Games, Eurogamer, Kotaku.