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Irene Saorby’s nine-year-old daughter, Catherine, usually spends two hours a day swimming and the rest of the day at school and with friends.

Now, by keeping a social distance, there is no school or swimming pool, and Catherine can only spend time with her family in Fort Myers, Florida.

To stay in touch with friends, use the Roblox game platform. Roblox was launched 14 years ago to create immersive experiences for kids, and has become the second best selling app for iOS, according to the latest data from AppAnnie, by launching millions of games that allow kids to build digital homes, adopt pets, and have a tour of amusement parks. .

This technique was not designed taking into account the epidemic, but its use has increased since COVID-19 forced children like Catherine to stay indoors.

“It’s not just entertainment without thinking, which makes me feel a little better about it,” said Eren Swirby, a consultant now working from her home in southwest Florida. “This replaces many social relationships that he did not meet directly because he was here with me or with his grandparents.”

Millions of parents across the country are suddenly forced to reconcile full-time work with childcare and home schooling, all while caring for their children indoors, away from their friends, and hopefully it is sane. Wide screen time is inevitable in many homes, but Roblox has emerged as an alternative to the unwanted experience of letting kids watch endless videos and animations on YouTube.

Roblox Business President Craig Donato jumped their word use by 40% in March from February, and the app tracks only YouTube in terms of the largest money maker on iOS, according to AppAnnie. This is the opposite of what most US companies face, including new companies that have moved Airbnb, Toast bread, ClassPass, and Bird, resulting in cost savings and, in many cases, job cuts.

Roblox expects to raise 1 billion dollars this year, mostly from in-app purchases. The company, based in San Mateo, California, sent 25% of the money to developers, who use programs called Roblox Studio to create app games. Roblox doesn’t reveal revenue, but SensorTower data sites estimate in November that sales in 2019, until then, rose 30% from all 2018 to $ 435 million. The developers made over $ 110 million in the past year.

Virtual birthday party

It is free to play and players can purchase the so-called Robux cryptocurrency to purchase premium features. For example, in parks, players can pay to build custom boxes or make higher trips, and in Ninja games, they can pay to increase their speed. There are also subscriptions for a certain amount of Robuxes per month.

Some parents accommodate their children’s birthday party on the site, creating a virtual space that their friends and relatives can access with their avatars. Sowerby said that her daughter used Roblox to adopt pets and build buildings, adding that she “encouraged me to buy several Robuxes several times.”

In addition to highlighting the social functions of its games, Roblox has launched a feature to help teachers integrate gaming tools into their distance learning plans.

“This is an area where children can play disorganized games, which is very valuable,” said Donato, who joined the company in 2016 from Nextdoor. “Now everyone is trapped in the house, and the things we focus on are increasingly required.”

Parents still want to know that their children are safe and are not contacted by a cry of terror on the chat board. Roblox includes many parental control tools that adults can use to turn off social features or manage contact. Donato said the company also uses a group of human supervisors and software to monitor what people say and filter what is appropriate based on the player’s age.

Donato said the coronavirus was not the subject of the conversation when Andersen Horowitz assumed the $ 150 million financing role at the end of February, at a value of about $ 4 billion. Mark Anderson and David George, a partner at the company, wrote in a blog post at the time, building more than two million Roblox developers “without the upfront costs, risks and failures of the traditional top-down game publisher model.”

Roblox CEO David Baszucki

Roblox

The developer platform is an important part of Roblox’s high popularity. Roblox Studio, a place where children can learn to create games without having to know how to create code, including educational models and videos so that children can build their world and even learn to publish games.

Computer education company iD Tech has experienced a direct boom. The company, which spent 21 years setting up live technical camps and adding online courses a few years ago, presented a new list for a week. Virtual classroom, teach children 7-19 years how to design in Minecraft, code games with JavaScript and learn Roblox. The reduced fee is $ 400 for this week, and the classes taught above Zoom have a maximum of five children.

Ricky Bennett, vice president at iD Tech, said the class was to design Roblox as the best-selling virtual tournament. Bennett said that students, who usually teach in summer camps, really want to work, and Bennett said, parents are looking for ways to keep their kids productive while they try to get work done.

“One of the things that makes it so interesting for parents is that children can be entertained,” said Bennett, who lives in the Phoenix area and has four children aged 11 and under. During the class, “I know that my child is supervised by an adult, who has social experience in one place and will not be running against my phone background.”

The developers have time now

Buildbox, another game development platform that caters to the needs of non-programmers, sees the same trend. The company offers free developer groups and charges a monthly subscription fee for more advanced makers. The Ad-tech Start-up app was acquired at BuildBox in mid-2019, and it quickly became the company’s primary work.

Jonathan Zweig, CEO of AppOnBoard, said Buildbox customers’ growth has increased by 2,850% since February 26. Zweig said BuildBox is very attractive to developers who have advanced beyond Roblox and want a larger set of tools. He said that the 16 to 26 age group is a sweet spot, which includes middle school students and college students now trapped inside. Many toys they make for young children.

Ben Scriven, who lives outside London, builds for this audience. He is 39 years old and worked as a television editor. But his passion is game development, which allows him to integrate his expertise in music, graphic design, and filmmaking. He started making games with Buildbox a few years ago on and off for an hour of work.

Now that he’s at home, Scriven decided to focus on making the next game, a sequel to the previous title, Knight Fighter, which involves operating fighter pilots and is interested in the public’s Call of duty. With the new game, Scriven not only makes it fun, but also focuses on monetization, working with publishers and selling ads.

Ben Scriven is waiting for the train

Ben Scriven

Scriven has two youth support, and he’s relying on the game to pay the bills, though he’s still ready for a few months to roll it out. Meanwhile, his family lives on savings.

“It has always been my dream for me to make arcade games – since I was a kid I wanted to do it,” said Scriven. “Now I have the opportunity to do it full time, work hard and really try. I can’t go to London anymore.”

Returning to the United States, Leslie Stordel adjusted according to the work schedule from home as her children, 12 and 9, adapt to distance learning. Jasper, who is in sixth grade, has a group of friends who write and play Roblox together. Odessa, a fourth-grader, is not a player as much as Roblox recently entered and enjoys touring the digital parks.

While their parents receive Zoom calls and take on their full duties, they are looking for as many child friendly activities as possible. At the same time, they are trying to downsize, and I’m not sure what will happen in the future.

“We are doing our best not to spend too much money, and Roblox is great because there is diversity at no cost,” Leslie Stordal said, in a video call with her children from their home in Brooklyn, New York. “I want to make sure that they still have social experience and do not lose contact with friends.”

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