Roblox, that video game empire built on child labor

Anna* was only 10 years old when she launched her first video game roblox, a digital platform for kids to create, share and play video games together. she used Roblox how a child of the previous generation would have used cardboard boxes, markers and stuffed animals to tinker with a castle or spaceship, invent characters in them and build a story around them.

With one very attractive difference: Roblox hosted Anna’s little virtual universe online, children she had never met and who might have lived thousands of miles from her home in Utah [un État de l’Ouest américain]could connect to play.

Recruited from experienced users

Thanks to the integrated toolboxes of Roblox – Children’s versions of professional software – Anna learned the basics of music composition, programming and 3D modeling. Making games has become an obsession. When she wasn’t at school, she was rarely found anywhere but in front of her computer.

As she honed her skills, her work caught the attention of a few experienced users of Roblox : Game designers in their 20’s contacted them to ask them to participate in a more ambitious project. Flattered by her interest, Anna became the fifth member of a brand new team, bringing her skills as an illustrator, designer and programmer to the game. The teen didn’t sign a deal to monetize her contribution, but during a call on Skype, the designers offered her 10% of any profits her creation might generate in the future.

An offer that would prove very generous. In just a few months, his game attracted more players than any other Roblox. For the girl, this success had an unimaginable consequence that was to change the course of her existence. At 16, she was already earning more than her father and mother combined. She was close to making $300,000 a year [265 000 euros environs], which corresponds to the salary of an experienced programmer at Google. So she decided not to go to college.

An originally educational vocation

launched in 2006, Roblox remained a relatively obscure educational software for some time. Co-founded by David Baszucki and Erik Cassel (now deceased), two engineers who became millionaires in the 1990s developing and marketing physics education programs, Roblox Originally intended as a fun way to teach children the basics of creating games.

The sketchy, blocky aesthetic and ugly fonts typical of most user-made games on the platform put adults off. The children were happy to have access Roblox an unlimited catalog of new free experiences; a kind of YouTube of video games.

There was originally very little incentive to lure darlings into making fortunes off their games – a feature that raised all sorts of thorny legal issues. Then something changed. Roblox gradually introduced itself as a money-making opportunity for young game developers and adopted the slogan on its website: “Do what you want. Reach millions of players. Earn big money.”

Good Roblox accounts

The company encouraged users to create and sell costumes and accessories for avatars Roblox. To purchase these items, the virtual equivalents of the doll’s clothes, you had to pay in Robux, the house’s digital currency, which the platform currently sells at a rate of around 95 Robux for £1 (the exchange rate fluctuates [de façon à peu près dégressive], depending on the quantity purchased per transaction). Roblox took 30% from the sale of each virtual glasses or sports car; the rest went into the pocket of the original creator and seller.

This initiative turned out to be juicy. More than half of American children today have a bank account roblox, which is surprising for a company that does almost no advertising. Buoyed by the Covid-19 pandemic, late 2021, Roblox had released more than 27 million games and “immersive experiences”, Many of these were children’s work inspired by success stories like Anna’s (according to the company, 5% of players Roblox also published one of her creations). Figures provided by Roblox show that the platform saw an average of 49.4 million daily logins in November 2021. When the company went public last March, it was valued at $41 billion. [36,5 milliards d’euros].

Battalions of workers in shorts

roblox, Seen by some as a next-generation virtual economy model where users can trade artificially scarce digital assets, it has now surpassed industry giants like Activision Blizzard and Nintendo to establish itself as the world’s leading video game publisher [pour ce qui est de la capitalisation boursière]. It’s an empire built on selling virtual boots and hats and, since nearly half of its users are under the age of 13, on creativity and child labor.

From the moment she joined the team in 2016 until 2018, when her game was at the peak of its popularity, Anna considered herself a partner in this project, to which she made her valuable skills available. “I brought almost everything into this project: animations, sounds, 3D models, level design and programming”, she points it out. The evolution of her status from amateur creator to professional developer was so natural that she didn’t immediately notice it herself and at the time didn’t think about claiming a proper contract, which would have required the consent of one of his parents.

And that’s despite the fact that the very young girl was part of a project that had raised more than $2 million [1,77 million d’euros], no one at Roblox has contacted her to offer her any advice or support. On the contrary, since there were no regulations in this area, Anna’s income depended on the benevolence of the authors.

Leave a Comment