Roblox Counting on Older Consumers to Join App, Buy Stock

Roblox, valued last month at $29.5 billion, told prospective investors it is trying to lure older users onto its gaming, concerts and educational platform. Chief executive David Baszucki said the company is counting on older adults not just to join the platform but to buy its stock when it goes public next month. The Apple and Google application has been a top earner during the pandemic, with 2020 revenue jumping 82 percent to $923.9 million and number of hours spent on the platform more than doubling to 30.6 billion.

CNBC reports that, “in looking to a future of sustained expansion and less reliability on kids, particularly as classrooms and real-world theme parks reopen, Roblox is targeting older users and non-gamers.” In its prospectus, it notes that those over the age of 13 have “a higher propensity to spend on content, and our ability to increase penetration in, and user contribution from, this demographic will affect our ability to grow revenue.”

Chief financial officer Mike Guthrie reported that, “usage among people age 13 and older more than doubled last year and that demographic now accounts for 44 percent of daily active users.” He did not reveal, however, how many users are in the 20-year-old and older cohort.

Baszucki, who started Roblox in 2004, “wants people to stop thinking about the company as a gaming site and, rather, to consider all the ways the so-called metaverse can be used in entertainment, education and other types of live events.” “When we experience concerts together, we dance together, we chat with our friends, we dress up,” he said. “Concerts aren’t just something we consume. They really are naturally something we do together.”

Roblox already hosted a two-day Lil Nas X virtual performance in November that drew 30+ million visits. Baszucki, who says the company held its holiday party on Roblox, “envisions schools using Roblox for immersive educational lessons.” In 2020, Roblox spent $201.4 million on R&D.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Roblox’s “public market debut March 10 [will take place] through a direct listing, an unconventional process that enables companies to trade on a stock exchange without raising fresh capital.” It notes Roblox’s unusual strategy of outsourcing “game development to its own players,” whereby “players, mainly teens and preteens … produce their own hits and earn a 70 percent share of the revenue their works generate.”

Roblox provides “free tools and instructions that players — even those without coding experience — can use to create games for its platform.” As a result, Roblox is home to “tens of millions of multiplayer games, from obstacle-course challenges and iterations of capture-the-flag to contests based on popular characters such as Peppa Pig and Sonic the Hedgehog.”

WSJ points to 21-year-old Samuel Jordan, who took a break from college to make games with a partner. After taking part in a Roblox-run accelerator program, “he netted about $600,000 last year from his Roblox creations, up from $30,000 in 2019.” Over 300+ Roblox developers earned $100,000 or more last year.

In addition to revenue growth, sales of virtual items “more than doubled to about $1.9 billion.” Roblox’s net loss in 2020 grew to $253.3 million from $71 million the previous year. Among its investors are “major venture-capital firms Andreessen Horowitz, Altos Ventures and Greylock Partners.”