Having organically grown its monthly active user base to more than 60 million kids and young adults throughout 40-plus countries over 10 years, the user-generated online gaming platform Roblox is poised to unlock a larger global audience under the leadership of former Apple exec Chris Misner.
Misner joined the California-based company in mid-May as president of Roblox International, after a 12-year career at Apple where he rose to serve in key positions such as head of international expansion and general manager of Asia Pacific for the Apple Online Store.
With Roblox’s recent Spanish-language launch—it was previously only available in English—and the company’s plans to internationalize all aspects of the platform by adding community moderation, customer support and parental resources in multiple languages, Misner knew he was right for the job.
“Founder/CEO David Baszucki has been very deliberate and careful about how he’s grown the company,” says Misner. “I also appreciate its mission to power kids’ imaginations around the world and its long-term view.”
Targeting kids ages eight and up, Roblox lets users develop their own 3D multiplayer games and play games created by other users through the company’s proprietary engine, Roblox Studio. Last year, more than 11 million games were published, and the company shelled out US$30 million to its indie creators as part of its developer payout. The platform, which is freely available via mobile devices, Xbox One, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, currently generates more than 780 million engagement hours per month. Last month alone, more than three million kids created content on the platform.
To continue its global growth, Roblox Studio has also added new set of tools allowing creators to easily publish games that can be played simultaneously by players in multiple languages. Support for French, German and Brazilian Portuguese is expected later this year.
“The approach for how to be both sensitive and successful in international content is being built into every aspect of the company,” says Misner. “When Roblox takes on more international expansion, the entire company gets behind it.”
With the growth, Roblox expects to double its 300-plus employee count by the end of the year and add leaders across all functions of the company.
Misner notes that internationalizing a company works best when everyone benefits. “There are many companies that look at international as just a copy and paste of what they’re doing in their home market, but what makes something really wonderful for the world is when you create an environment where every region can thrive,” he says.
International growth is something Misner is very familiar with from his time at Apple, and he intends to apply what he’s learned to help expand Roblox’s massive platform. He cites Brazil, China, India, Canada and Bulgaria as regions that that could potentially spur not only growth, but also new approaches to business activities.
“When I was with Apple, one of the things we were able to do in China was incubate and roll out new features and innovation in e-commerce and export them to the rest of the world. Some of the partnerships and interesting ways we financed products there were firsts for Apple, and those became models for other parts of the world,” says Misner.
The addition of Misner, more local language support and bigger developer payouts come as Roblox also looks to expand its nascent consumer products business. After a Jazwares toy line based on some of Roblox’s most popular games and characters launched in the US in February last year, an apparel line for North America from Texas-based Bioworld followed in the fall.
As for 2018, three Roblox books will be published by HarperCollins this fall in the US, while the company’s international publishing partner Egmont looks to line up publishers in Europe and Asia in the same time frame.