Should I be considering Roblox as a metaverse strategy?

Amidst the recent turbulence surrounding the term ‘metaverse,’ fueled by challenges within Meta’s Reality Labs division and scepticism regarding Zuckerberg’s Horizon World, there is a prevailing sense of confusion and negativity around crafting a successful metaverse strategy. This discourse however, has veered away from a fundamental understanding of what a robust metaverse strategy truly represents. Contrary to the notion that the metaverse is synonymous with Zuckerberg’s Ready Player One-inspired vision, it’s imperative to acknowledge that this digital frontier, whether named the metaverse, Web3, or any other industry terminology, goes far beyond these terms. We stand at the forefront of the next digital evolution, and it is essential to disentangle the metaverse from the recent controversies and preconceived notions, to fully understand its multifaceted nature and the potential that lies within.

I am determined to make the case that developing a metaverse strategy, particularly on platforms like Roblox, should be considered one of the most important technological innovations for marketers and digital managers.

What defines a metaverse?

Firstly, as a concept, many platforms define themselves as players in the metaverse outside of Meta’s Horizon Worlds, including: Roblox, Fortnite, Decentraland, Zepeto, and others. For the purposes of this blog, I’ll be focusing on Roblox – however, it is worthwhile noting that strategies in Fortnite can be equally effective, as we have recently seen with BMW’s car creator (BMW, 2023) & Hugo Boss’: Be Your Own Boss activation (Fortnite 2023)). 

I recently had a chat with someone at a party about Roblox (a bit nerdy, I know), and they brought up an interesting point: they argued that Roblox isn’t really a metaverse platform. I think it’s worthwhile therefore suggesting that the metaverse is still unfolding and there’s no agreed-upon definition in place. However, personally, I see the metaverse as the next step in the internet’s evolution, characterised by a few key elements: 1) A virtual space that prioritises social interaction, events, education, and notably, gamification; 2) A digital economy allowing users to buy, sell, and trade items, sometimes involving cryptocurrencies but not exclusively; and 3) User-Generated Content, or simply put, the ability for anyone to be a creator. In this way, I feel that Roblox is indeed a metaverse platform.

The Roblox platform within the metaverse

The second point to understand is the sheer magnitude of the Roblox platform. In comparison with Horizon Worlds, which draws 280,000 (Statista, 2022) monthly active users (🥴) to what Roblox attracts being 214,000,000 (Roblox, 2023). 

To drill down into these numbers, the demographic breakdown of them is that it is mainly split evenly between male and female users and equally balanced across the United States & Canada, Europe, APAC, and the rest of the world. But, the key thing to understand is the age of the users, the average age being 14. Although recently, the fastest-growing segment for Roblox has actually been the 17-24 year olds, the majority still remains below 17 years olds (Roblox, 2023).

This positions it as a clear and compelling choice for companies targeting Gen Z and Alpha demographics. It garners three times the user engagement compared to YouTube & TikTok, the second & third ranking platforms in terms of time spent for these generations. In Gen Z’s words: Roblox allows users to be creative, feel a part of a community, and foster a sense of self-expression. (Dubit Trends, 2022)

Short-term monetization strategies can be achieved through the utilisation of digital assets, exemplified by Burberry’s successful venture with a limited virtual handbag collection, generating nearly $130,000 at a fraction of the cost associated with producing a physical handbag  (GEEIQ, 2022). Likewise, in 2021, Gucci’s digital asset, the “Queen Bee Dionysus” bag, commanded a price on second-hand markets of $4,115USD, a price which exceeded the cost of its real-life counterpart (Nelson, 2021). Interestingly, according to the 2023 Roblox survey on self-expression, 64% of Gen Z find the stylization of their digital avatar of more importance than their physical appearance. Moreover, as per the same report, 84% of Gen Z indicated they are “somewhat likely” or more to contemplate a brand in the real world after virtually trying on or wearing its items on their avatars (Roblox, 2023). This sentiment, I would argue, highlights the impact of potential Roblox can pose for physical crossover sales with coupon codes, and other real-world sales.

“The world’s next Coco Chanel is probably a 10-year-old girl who is currently designing avatar skins on Roblox.”

– Cathy Hackl, Futurist, Chief Metaverse Strategy Officer & Co-founder of Journey.

Even so, I believe the true value for brands emerges in the long term. Crafting experiences that captivate children not only establish profound brand recall but also immerse kids within the brand’s digital ecosystem for extended periods. This becomes particularly crucial in a landscape where brands vie for their 30 seconds, at best, of placement in every other realm, known by marketers as the ‘Attention Economy’ (Forbes, 2022). Essentially, a Roblox implementation can become advertising that captivates children for hours. This Metaverse strategy ensures strong brand recall when children eventually hold purchasing power.

This is why we’re witnessing an increasing number of brands strategically stepping into the metaverse space, exemplified by the recent addition of the Gucci Ancora world. While some of the top performers like Vans, Gucci, Netflix, and Nike make logical sense, my key takeaway from this list is that success on Roblox isn’t exclusively reserved for the most apparent Gen Z brands. Brands like Sunsilk and Deutsche Telekom strategically demonstrate that achieving success on Roblox is feasible with the right metaverse strategy, even if you aren’t inherently associated with kid-centric brands like Nickelodeon. I contend that children are more likely to engage with Roblox experiences that captivate them, regardless of whether the brands are ones they typically purchase from in the physical world. This dynamic presents an opportunity for brands that may not have a prominent share of children’s wallets in the real world to strategically level the playing field in the digital realm. In essence, incorporating a metaverse strategy can significantly impact a brand’s success in this evolving digital landscape.

This is why I am convinced that Roblox presents an extraordinary chance for brands to develop a compelling metaverse strategy to engage with Gen Z and Alpha through cutting-edge marketing strategies that position them as the ‘cool kid on the block.’ If brands aren’t using Roblox, or at least gamification as a marketing channel, it is my conviction that they are missing out on a massive opportunity, which will be felt in the medium to long term.

If you have any thoughts or questions about AR, VR, or developing a metaverse strategy, I’m here for a conversation. Feel free to reach out—I appreciate your engagement!

As the dedicated Account Manager at Blend Media, I guide VR, AR, Metaverse and CGI projects from their initial spark of inspiration to the fulfilment of each creative vision. I have a genuine passion for the uncharted territories of XR and the evolving Metaverse. I firmly believe in the transformative power of these technologies and I’m on a mission to explore how they can reshape and elevate experiences across various industries. Welcome to the journey! – James Field