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Roblox Synthwave

The next battle for the Roblox Metaverse: A return to normal

Roblox, the kids gaming platform (not game!) that now has an estimated 200 Million Monthly Active Users[1], and a reported average of 37.1 Million Daily Active Users[2] , has no doubt benefited massively from the global lockdowns enforced due to Covid-19 in the past year. With more people at home, and more time being spent on devices, young kids & teenagers are turning to Roblox to pass the time more than ever. Just a year ago in February 2020, Roblox’s published Monthly Active User count was 121 Million, 60% of current estimates.

There’s a big question that looms over this growth: What happens now, as lockdowns are beginning to ease and kids go back to school, and find other things to entertain themselves with?

The worst case scenario could be that Roblox loses its lockdown gains and returns to it’s pre-pandemic size with growth of just a few million additional monthly active users a month[3], as users leave the platform in favour of our own universe.

On the other hand, in perhaps the ultimate test for the existing metaverse, Roblox players may choose to spend time in both worlds. Through the easy and instant access of Roblox, a majority may choose to stay and travel between the two for hours long explorations of virtual experiences to play, socialise and explore in addition to everyday life just as users before the pandemic did. This could still mean lower engagement hours and a lower DAU average, but would solidify Roblox as a part of everyday life for the 80 Million users they picked up in the past year. And with a Chinese expansion on the horizon[4], we could see that any reductions in users of roblox.com are cancelled out by the growth of LuoBu, Roblox’s Mainland Chinese version.

The case for growth

Existing Platform Growth

Using Roblox’s past growth, we can extrapolate to see where Roblox would be now if that growth had continued at the same rate. If we take the growth of Roblox’s MAU between August 2019 and January 2021 as a reference for the trend at the time, we can see that from RTrack’s estimates MAU increased 19% from 100M to 119M in 5 months[7]. Per month that’s an increase of 3.8%, and compounded for the 12 months between January 2020 and January 2021 would translate to a MAU of 186.7 Million – only 13.3 Million less than current estimates.

What this could mean is that lockdowns have only accelerated growth that was going to happen anyway, and that the increase due to lockdowns is much lower than previously thought. Were the users that can be reasonably attributed to lockdowns to leave, Roblox would be seemingly minimally affected only losing 13 Million monthly active users.

Roblox China (LuoBu)

While some outlets predict LuoBu to lead to an increase of as many as 40 Million users[5], it’s unclear what this figure means in terms of DAU (Daily Active Users) or MAU (Monthly Active Users).

What we do know is that China’s gaming market is slightly larger than the US market in terms of revenue[6], and that the Mainland Chinese population is more than 4x the size of the US and Canada which together contribute 11.5 Million of Roblox’s 37 Million DAU[2]. There’s certainly a lot of potential for growth for Roblox in the Chinese market.

Outside investment

More than ever, we’re seeing games industry professionals and venture capital funded startups focusing on Roblox. The story as many of those moving onto the platform see it, is of 200 Million users that are waiting for a professionally designed and developed game to take the platform by storm. Whether this is the case or not, we’ll have to wait and see, but one thing is for sure – Roblox games only get better from here, and that can only be good for the platform.

What stands in the way

A return to normality

While global government action can be credited for a lot of Roblox’s lockdown growth, it will also likely be the cause of a reduction in growth or even a reversal. Monthly active users is just one statistic that can be used, but it doesn’t show the full story. Perhaps one of the best statistics to show the size of Roblox’s early pandemic growth is Weekly Peak Concurrent players. Shown below is the near doubling of peak weekly concurrent players on Roblox in the early months of 2020.

https://rtrack.live/blog/roblox-hits-4-million-concurrent

This graph RTrack released in early 2020 shows the growth of the platform, but more the latest data from RTrack Complete Platform data shows that after peaking in February 2021 at 5.55 Million, it’s showing early signs of decreasing.

Similarly, Monthly active user also appears to be dropping, with the estimate for active users in the 30 days preceding March 27th being 194 Million, a drop of 5 Million on the MAU estimate for February.

Convincing an older audience

As revealed surrounding Roblox’s IPO, Roblox has set its sights on the next area for growth: teenagers [8]. Amongst teens and adults, Roblox is seen as a game for kids, because unmistakably that’s what it is right now. Roblox is one of the safest online platforms out there, having extensive policies and safeguards in place, but these same policies prevent developers from creating games that would attract older audiences, and feed into the stigma that means kids leave the platform to play more ‘adult’ games that don’t have these restrictions.

Another possible reason for this is the style of Roblox games, they’re mostly cartoonish and aren’t designed to appear realistic. Roblox faces another challenge here in evolving the tools available on the platform to empower developers to create more visually impressive games while also supporting what works, lightweight simple games that run on low end devices and slow connections.

Overall, where are we headed?

While it’s impossible to say for certain what direction Roblox will go in from here, on balance Roblox has a lot in its favour to get through this next phase. The expansion into China, and the push to make the platform more attractive to older players should result in growth of the total addressable market for Roblox and provide the extra room for growth. While it’s likely that in the short term many users will end up spending less time on the platform than during the pandemic, long term the prospects for Roblox to grow even further than 200 Million monthly active users seem bright.

Where RTrack’s data comes from

The data shown in this article that comes from RTrack comes from data visible to RTrack Complete members. You can find out more about RTrack membership here.


Credit

Thanks to Cyber_Hash on Roblox, the cover image for this article is actually a still taken from their Roblox game, you can find out more information here: https://devforum.roblox.com/t/endless-synthwave-loop/649654