When Michael Sligh was 15, he made a pizza-parlor simulator. He named it, appropriately enough, Work at a Pizza Place. It was a game that let you pretend you worked at a pizza place with an assembly-line-type setup.
Now, Work at a Pizza Place is Sligh’s full-time job, providing him with his entire income. Since launching six years ago, the game has earned him more than $100,000.
Sligh is one of a few highly successful Roblox users earning serious money making simple games. Roblox bills itself as a platform for gamers, by gamers. It encourages its users to not only login and play, but also to create games and share in the profits. The strategy keeps Roblox’s catalog full and ensures that its users are interested—and compensated—enough to keep coming back.
Roblox’s user-created, profit-sharing model is not what makes it unique. Plenty of gaming services and social networks encourage users to contribute time and energy building up a platform in exchange for a cut, be that with a proprietary currency or cold, hard cash.
But few platforms have been as successful as doling out rewards as Roblox. Company spokespeople said that “hundreds of kids and teenagers” across the globe were making “thousands of dollars a month” on the site. Of course, this doesn’t just line some young people’s pockets; it also gets digitally addled brains coding and creating instead just consuming.
“We know that hundreds of thousands of people are learning code on Roblox right now,” CEO David Baszucki said in a phone interview with the Daily Dot.
Baszucki said that part of the platform’s popularity—it currently boasts 5 million monthly users, 400,000 of whom are creating games—came from the fact that it was being built by its users. That, he said, was an encouraging concept that has attracted players and developers alike.
The money doesn’t hurt either, of course.
“We allow the top developers whose games are being played millions of times to translate that into U.S. dollars,” Baszucki said.
Top developers earn as much as $20,000 per month.
“College kids [are using Roblox] to grow their own video game studios,” Baszucki said. He added that some of the creators are as young as 13, though he said that most top developers are in the 18-to-19-year-old range.
“It’s like Star Search or American Idol for game developers,” he said.
Would that make Sligh Carrie Underwood? When his brother told him about Roblox several years ago, he signed up without giving it much thought and started working on the pizza-place sim. (Baszucki confirmed to me that strangely simple, tedious sims are big on Roblox right now. Mountain and goat sim standalones aren’t the only ones.)
“Most of my time now is devoted to creating new features,” Sligh told me. “It’s my full-time job as of now.”
Sligh said he “had no idea” that his simple game would become so successful.
“I just thought it would be a fun game,” he said.
Where to go from here? Baszucki told me that Roblox wants to embrace and welcome users who don’t typically gravitate to playing games or creating them—namely, an older, more female audience. Of course, young college men are jumping on board, but Roblox would love to see more people over 25 and more women join the site.
Hopefully Roblox is able to lure in a more diverse audience. The more the site’s successful developers represent the broader society, the better.
It already seems like Roblox is starting at a rather open place. Baszucki explained that developers feel a certain sense of freedom and creativity with the site.
“The knowledge that all the games are created by the community, it gives the opportunity to try exploratory gaming concepts,” he said. “Our developers take larger risks in what they make.”
Photo via Roblox