Update: Following the publishing of this story, Roblox modified its blog post, suggesting a weakened commitment to providing the kinds of experiences initially laid out by its CEO, such as virtual dating.
Roblox considering virtual dating as a way to court older users
In an effort to expand its user base, Roblox is considering new experiences that would attract older audiences, such as virtual dating and news delivery. David Baszucki, the platform’s co-founder and CEO, laid out the vision in a recent company blog post.
“Our goal is one platform, where age-appropriate experiences for every life stage can be found,” he wrote. “This could include experiences you may have seen on Roblox like concerts, digital fashion, immersive games, and education. But, in the future, Roblox could include different types of experiences, like virtual dating, indie movie screenings and new forms of content such as news and hot topics.”
Still, a Roblox spokesperson said the ideas are not currently on the company’s “product roadmap,” calling them “an illustrative example of what older audiences do in real life.”
In his May 17 post, Baszucki went on to illustrate how Roblox, which has historically been a platform for young users, is gaining momentum with slightly older demographics. More than half (55%) of its user base is older than 13, he wrote. Users between the ages of 17 and 24 are Roblox’s fastest-growing demographic, increasing 35% year over year in daily active users during the first quarter of 2023. That age group now represents 22% of Roblox’s total user base.
The ideas for content geared toward older users come as Roblox has been in hot water over its advertising policies regarding its youngest users. The FTC and ad watchdog Truth in Advertising (TINA) filed a joint complaint against Roblox last August accusing the platform of deceptive marketing. The heart of the complaint concerned ambiguity over how Roblox was serving ads to users younger than 13. And just last week, the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), another watchdog group, criticized Roblox for not adequately disclosing sponsored content. Roblox earlier this year updated this policy, among others touched on by TINA and CARU.
Read more: What Roblox’s new ad policies mean for brands
A more adult-friendly Roblox would be a major shift in the way that marketers have traditionally considered the platform. Brands from The Home Depot to Claire’s have built gamified experiences on Roblox to specifically reach children, who are often more difficult to engage through traditional marketing channels. These experiences feel like proto-metaverse worlds, where social gaming intersects with challenges and a pseudo-economy based on an in-game currency called Robux.
Baszucki pointed out that the majority of Roblox’s most popular games are developed by people over the age of 17, and suggested these individuals would like to expand their reach. Of course, it is not surprising that most developers are young adults or older given the skills required to code on the platform. But to Baszucki’s point, as developers age, they may want to create the kinds of experiences that they themselves—along with others their age—would like to play.
“Phantom Forces,” for example, is a first-person shooter game available on Roblox that resembles “Call of Duty”—replete with gunfire, blood and intense gameplay. Other mature titles contain sexual content and mature themes, and though Roblox often removes them, there is clearly a demand from both developers and users. If Roblox were to court older audiences, reconsidering the permissibility of such games, to an extent, may be necessary.
Activities like virtual dating or indie movie screenings would likely appear in Roblox with an age restriction. Many games are already billed as “9+” or “13+” in order to protect younger users.