Recently, Roblox revealed plans to expand its user base by attracting older audiences through new experiences that could include virtual dating, indie movie screenings, and news delivery. The platform’s co-founder and CEO, David Baszucki, laid out this vision in a recent company blog post, stating the goal of offering age-appropriate experiences for every life stage12.
Roblox, which has traditionally been a platform for younger users, is gaining momentum with slightly older demographics. More than half (55%) of its user base is older than 13, and the fastest-growing demographic is users aged 17 to 24. This age group has seen a 35% year-over-year increase in daily active users during the first quarter of 2023, and now represents 22% of Roblox’s total user base12.
Most Roblox Developers are older than 17
Baszucki pointed out that the majority of Roblox’s most popular games are developed by people over the age of 17, and these individuals might be interested in expanding their reach. As developers age, they may want to create experiences that they, along with others their age, would enjoy. If Roblox were to target older audiences, reconsidering the permissibility of mature games, to an extent, may be necessary1.
However, the platform’s new direction could potentially lead to new age recommendation categories. Currently, Roblox offers three age categories for its recommendations: All Ages, 9+, and 13+. But with the new direction, this could mean categories dedicated to up to a 24-year-old user2.
It’s important to note that any activities like virtual dating or indie movie screenings would likely have an age restriction to protect younger users. Many games are already billed as “9+” or “13+”1.
Despite the potential for new experiences, a Roblox spokesperson stated that these ideas are not currently on the company’s “product roadmap,” and are considered “an illustrative example of what older audiences do in real life”1.
Roblox Accused of Deceptive Marketing
These plans come as Roblox has faced scrutiny over its advertising policies regarding its youngest users. Last year, the FTC and ad watchdog Truth in Advertising (TINA) filed a joint complaint against Roblox accusing the platform of deceptive marketing. The complaint concerned ambiguity over how Roblox was serving ads to users younger than 13. The Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) also criticized Roblox for not adequately disclosing sponsored content. However, Roblox has updated this policy and others this year1.
Roblox’s expansion to cater to older audiences could potentially invite controversies, especially considering past issues of inappropriate content on the platform. In 2021, Reuters reported accounts with inappropriate descriptions, foul language, and sexually explicit games on Roblox. Even though Roblox has been firm in defending its platform, maintaining a “no tolerance” policy, and quickly addressing such issues, the decision to expand its reach to more age groups could invite further scrutiny2.
The Attraction of Older Demographics
The majority of Roblox’s user base is now over the age of 13, with the fastest-growing demographic being users aged 17 to 24. As these users age, their interests and preferences naturally evolve, and features like virtual dating and indie movie screenings could potentially offer them a more mature and engaging experience on the platform.
Virtual dating could provide an opportunity for older users to interact and connect in a novel and engaging way, while indie movie screenings could offer unique entertainment experiences that reflect their more mature tastes. Moreover, the introduction of news delivery could keep users informed about real-world events and trends, further enhancing the platform’s relevance and appeal to an older audience.
The Challenges of Implementing Adult-Oriented Features
However, the implementation of these features brings about significant challenges. For one, Roblox would need to ensure that these adult-oriented features are adequately age-restricted to protect younger users from inappropriate content. This would likely require a robust age verification system and strict moderation policies.
Moreover, as Roblox becomes more appealing to adults, the platform may need to deal with an increased risk of inappropriate behavior and content. The company would need to invest in moderation tools and community safeguards to prevent exploitation and abuse, particularly if it introduces features like virtual dating.
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The Controversy and Risks
The idea of introducing adult-oriented features on Roblox, particularly virtual dating, is not without controversy. Past issues of inappropriate content on the platform raise concerns about the company’s ability to adequately moderate such features and protect its user base. The risk of potential misuse and the creation of inappropriate content could expose the company to criticism and regulatory scrutiny.
The company’s advertising policies have already been criticized, and the introduction of adult-oriented features could potentially exacerbate these concerns. Marketers may be hesitant to advertise on a platform that combines content for both children and adults, and regulatory bodies may scrutinize the company’s advertising practices more closely.