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ROBLOX’s Niche of the Mobile Gaming Market

November 4, 2013

by Andrew Haak


Flood Escape on an iPad AirLast week, Gartner, an IT research and advisory company, released a report predicting the video game market will reach $93 billion when all is said and done in 2013 and $111 billion by 2015. For perspective, the market was worth about $79 billion in 2012. What’s sparking this tremendous growth (and predictions for more)? It’s partly the upcoming generation of console hardware and strong software sales, but, more and more, it’s mobile gaming. Mobile games represent the fastest-growing segment of the gaming market and, here, we’ll look at where ROBLOX fits in the bigger industry picture.

The rise of mobile games isn’t terribly surprising. At present juncture, mobile tech has infiltrated daily life – to the point where five minutes of downtime can easily become five minutes of entertainment. This summer, a Pew Internet and American Life survey found that 56% of American adults are smartphone owners. Earlier in the year, the Pew Research Center reported that 37% of teens – or roughly half of cellphone-owning teens – have smartphones. Tablets are also gaining traction; one study found that more than one third of American adults own a tablet and sales could soon outpace those of PCs.

In 2013, the mobile gaming hotness has been free-to-play games combined with in-app microtransactions. (As an aside, we’ve seen this business model succeed on ROBLOX as developers seek peak position on the Top Earning list and enough ROBUX to exchange for real-world currency.) The combination of the mobile gaming populous and this business structure has manifested itself recently in such huge success stories as Clash of Clans (Supercell) and Puzzle & Dragons (Gungho Online).

ROBLOX isn’t a traditional gaming company. Our reasons for going mobile were twofold: (1) our gamers (and potential gamers) want to be able to play on the go, and (2) the developers who create games using ROBLOX benefit from being able to develop once and distribute on multiple platforms. Recognizing this, we committed a number of our engineers to enabling ROBLOX gameplay on iOS devices last year. By December of 2012, we had launched ROBLOX Mobile with not only social features and exclusive items, but the all-important open door to games.

Like many other mobile games, ROBLOX Mobile is free-to-play and offers in-app purchases in the form of “bite-size” subscriptions and virtual currency. Unlike most mobile games, ROBLOX Mobile gives you access to thousands of games created by the community from a single source. It’s also one of the few to connect mobile and desktop players in shared game servers.

Battle on iPhone 5

One of the challenges of an app where much of the content is created by users and interactive is ensuring a consistent experience. We quickly discovered, once the app was out there in your hands, that some ROBLOX games are simply too big in scope – whether that be level geometry or control scheme – to function on a handheld, touch-screen device. We saw too many crashes, and made it a priority to reduce the “mean time to failure” – in other words, the average amount of time it takes for something to cause the app to crash. At this point, you’re much more likely to jump from game to game without having to restart ROBLOX Mobile. Similarly, the new streaming feature means you can join and play large-scale games (assuming the feature is enabled) even on an iPad because it streams data in and out based on available system RAM.

Our Mobile Team is continuing to find and eliminate bugs, which, of course, increases the app’s stability. In conjunction with the Web Team, we’re also working to improve the Games sort that you see on your mobile device. Ultimately, we want to filter out games that are simply too big to run on mobile, and push players toward games that perform and play well. We’re also considering tools that will make it easier for developers who want their games to play well everywhere to achieve that vision.

ROBLOX iOS IconEventually, we want ROBLOX Mobile gameplay to be as solid as it is on a desktop device. From there, we’ll be ready to consider other mobile platforms. (Yes, we hear the requests for ROBLOX on Android but, as we’ve stated in the past, we first need to nail mobile on one platform before moving to another!) If you haven’t already tried ROBLOX Mobile, it’s available in the iTunes App Store for free.