Amid the sea of bad news about layoffs and too many games coming out in the game industry, there are some bright spots.
And making games on the Roblox platform is one of them. Some of the developers on the platform are the millionaire entrepreneurs of a new generation.
These developers often grew up on Roblox, playing games on it for a decade or so before they started making games. And now there are people like Anne Shoemaker, who at the ripe age of 23 is CEO of her own Roblox studio Fullflower Studio, which has made games such as Mermaid Life, with more than 87.7 million visits, or plays on Roblox. Shoemaker has around 30 contractors, and she’s an example of the developers who are part of a growth market.
And while Roblox may have started in the realm of user-generated content, much of its most popular content is being made by professional developers — albeit many of them young — with growing companies. These companies have been hiring, as they’re riding big trends. Roblox itself reported in November that it had 70.2 million daily active users, up 20% from a year ago.
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Those people played on Roblox for 16 billion hours, up 20%, and their average spending was $11.96 in the quarter. That propelled Roblox’s quarterly bookings to $839.5 million, up 20% year-over-year. My guess is the numbers will grow as Roblox adds platforms such as virtual reality and Sony’s PlayStation.
These creators’ fortunes don’t always ride on Roblox alone. Others are making a good living making games for Epic Games’ Fortnite (via Unreal Engine Fortnite, or UEFN) or Microsoft’s Minecraft. For Q3 2024, Roblox said that there were three million creators with an active experience making games for Roblox. The jobs these Roblox creators are adding to the game economy are an important offset for traditional games, where we’ve seen more than 7,000 layoffs so far this year.
This is a kind of fairy tale and so we shouldn’t hype the notion that it’s easier to find a job at a Roblox game company than it is in the rest of the traditional triple-A game industry. That makes sense to me, but I haven’t really tested that idea. Making games for user-generated content platforms is very challenging, as you really have to understand what users on those platforms like. If you didn’t grow up on Roblox, then you might not have the skills necessary to do this kind of job, despite many years of experience making games.
Yet the Roblox developers are dreaming big, with Roblox CEO David Baszucki encouraging them to do so. In September at the Roblox Developer Conference, Baszucki made 10 predictions for the next five years in his keynote speech. He said he expects that within five years a Roblox developer will be valued at $1 billion. That’s a prediction, not a forecast.
Still, Roblox wants to keep these people inspired and happy. To that end, the company today is rolling out some tools it promised at the conference that could make the developers much more productive.
Assistant as part of its Roblox Studio creation engine. At RDC, Roblox announced a series of new AI-powered technologies that can make creation on Roblox more productive and efficient so that creators’ success will be determined much more by the strength of their ideas rather than technical skills.
Assistant is a conversational AI tool that can use a set of Roblox APIs and capabilities to help creators build 3D content/experiences. With Assistant, new creators can find answers faster and up-level their skills. It can answer questions like, “How do I build a game where the floor is lava?”
Roblox is also rolling out its public Luau dataset for training AI models. This opt-in public dataset is the next step to making the automatic generation of code possible. Thanks to the community, Roblox said its internal code-generation models now exceed the quality of other leading large language models (LLMs).
But enough about tech. The rest of this story will talk about the different emerging Roblox developers I’ve interviewed in recent weeks.
Clarence Maximillian, Maximilian Studios
Clarence Maximillian is running Maximillian Studios, one of the more surprising and ambitious game studios that is making Roblox games. The 24-year-old serves as CEO and creative director for the studio that produced Frontlines, which pushed the boundaries of graphics on Roblox.
He was in college when a trio of friends decided to create the military shooter game that has been compared to Call of Duty with its high-fidelity graphics and smooth gameplay. That game has exceeded 53 million plays on Roblox since its launch earlier this year.
Maximillian first logged into Roblox at nine years old. Soon after that, he began creating gaming experiences, gaining traction over time. In college, he found fellow game makers in his dorm to start work on Frontlines. That game drew a lot of fame, and even Metallica launched their new album on Frontlines. He likes Roblox as a democratic platform where people can play it on an average mobile device or better.
“Frontlines was always a stepping stone project for me,” he said. “There is huge potential for growth with Frontlines. But I never looked past the release. I didn’t think about live ops because I built it to be in position to build this upcoming game.”
Now he is working on a racing game, Project Underground, where you race around Fast and Furious style. He has a team of 30 or so now, with 10 on Frontlines and 20 on the new project. They’re still in a pre-planning stage and could grow up to 50 people, he said.
“We’re going to need a lot more people because the environments we’re building like Singapore won’t be an easy task,” he said.
Roblox gave the company a grant to help get its work done, and the studio has been attracting good talent. Maximillian likes the prediction that Baszucki made about a studio that could be worth $1 billion in the next five years.
“Now we have executives from Hollywood entertainment companies coming to help us out,” he said.
Among the things he was excited about that Roblox was creating was grass. That is, Roblox has made it much easier to create physics and graphics for grass, with different varieties available like tall or short grass. And he also liked the way AI character and map creation could easily churn out new assets.
Maximillian said he might seek more funding via Roblox’s own investment division. And he’s still thinking in an ambitious way. He likes the idea of merch crossovers between the physical and digital worlds when it comes to things like car customization.
“Our philosophy is that we’re not just making a video game,” he said. “We’re making an entire world.”
Ashley Hopkins, House of Blueberry
Ashley Hopkins isn’t part of the newest generation fresh to Roblox. Rather, she started making digital assets around 16 years ago on Linden Lab’s Second Life platform.
In a panel with me last spring, Hopkins said she waded into the metaverse of Second Life after watching a an episode of CSI that mentioned online characters. She looked into it and decided the clothing being created there was horrible. So she decided to make her own digital fashion. She started with 2D objects and moved on to 3D, teaching herself how to do it.
She met her husband in the business and they now have three children. She met the CEO of House of Blueberry, Mishi McDuff, more than a decade ago and they teamed up. But Hopkins had to convince her parents that this career was better than nursing, as the family hated the idea of a career making digital items at first.
Now House of Blueberry has 10 full-time employees, including five working on Roblox. Since launching on Roblox in May 2022, the company has had more than a million unique customers. It has designed 1,048 items for sale, and its user-generated content — digital fashion — items are sold across 1,400 different Roblox games.
The company has also collaborated with 15 top creators and games including Livetopia, Twilight Daycare, and Leah Ashe. The top items are 90s style black crop tops. House of Blueberry is also making fashion items for Fortnite, The Sims 4 and Second Life. The company has sold more than 20 million digital assets.
“We literally have people creating careers out of their dreams,” she said. “If I can get paid to follow my dream, I have to do that. Even younger generations are figuring that out so much earlier on now. They want to do what they love. Why shouldn’t they? You can go to college and get a degree to do something, and you come out of college and that job isn’t available anymore. There are so many people with underused degrees out there. Some of them end up streaming video games.”
Marcus Holmström, the Gang
Marcus Holmström runs The Gang, a studio that has a shot at being one of those Roblox studios valued at $1 billion. His company has more than 200 people working for it, and it’s working with brands to bring them into the universe of Roblox where the brands want to find valuable GenZ consumers.
Though the company is remote, most of the people are working in Sweden. The company started in December 2019.
Now The Gang is working with 20 brands and it has around six of its own games in the works. Not bad for Holmström, who started as a “suit” and didn’t have experience making Roblox games. Rather, he had a background in marketing, finance, and investments, while is other partners were game builders who had experience in making triple-A games on everything from mobile to consoles.
Yet his team of five founders didn’t have experience in making Roblox games. They wanted to build a PC game on Steam. Yet in the midst of COVID , it was important to start doing work. Then they liked it and saw the opportunity. So the plan was to marshal the forces of professional developers and put it to work on a Roblox experience.
You might have expected them to hire some young kids who grew up with Roblox. Holmström said they tried to hire people from the Roblox community while the older devs tried to learn the platform.
“We noticed right away that this is not going to work for us,” Holmström said. “Everyone we hired in the company had a traditional gaming education. We feel it’s more interesting, more consistent in what we can deliver in methodology for how we work and think.”
The team figured it knew how to build games and market them.
“We created a game that we thought was going to be top 10 experience on the platform,” he said. “We launched it and then we saw right away that everyone hated it. And it was really really bad. So what we did was that we actually took the game down and then talked to the community to reach out to a lot of developers.”
They went to the Roblox developer event and got input from the community. They wound up getting tons of followers. And they made Strongman Simulator, a game that has had over 1.2 billion visits, or plays. In the game, you start out skinny and then do a series of workouts so that you can become a muscle head. That was the biggest game the company has had to date.
The team has made Tower Tycoon, Tapping Simulator, McLaren F1 Racing Experience, Escape Pirate Cove, NERF Strike, Race to Wimbledon, and Vans World.
Not everything has been great, but the team has shown that its contrarian approach to Roblox development has worked. The Gang gets a lot of chances to score hits because the teams are smaller at around five to seven people, which is even smaller than what it often takes to make mobile games.
The team has a few games in the work that, on the graphics front, look “absolutely astonishing,” Holmström said. The company sent a lot of people to RDC and established strong relations with the Roblox team.
“At first, [the community was] very hesitant toward us early on as we were coming from the outside to understand the platform,” Holmström said. “But now we’ve proven ourselves and shown that we can actually build things.”
Shawn Edouard is the son of a police officer and is in the police academy. He’s one of the creators of Emergency Response: Liberty County (a Roblox game with 719.1 million visits), a police role-playing game. As an interesting twist, the game has an awareness of racial profiling in policing, and it won’t allow someone to be wrongfully arrested in the game.
Based in New York, Edouard has been on Roblox since 2011, and now he’s 23. Within a couple of years of beginning to play, he started making Roblox games. He’s co-owner of Police Roleplay Community.
The Emergency Response game debuted in 2018 and he joined the team in December of that year. The initial version took a few months to build. He has been with it ever since. There were a handful of creators on it at first, and now the team has built up to 15 members.
Edouard serves as the lead programmer, handling anything script related. About every couple of weeks, the team issues an update. It’s a live services game, and Edouard said, “It’s always growing. A lot of the experiences on Roblox are updated pretty frequently. I think users definitely appreciate that back and forth dialogue with creators and being able to share new ideas. And I think Emergency Response is a great example.”
Why did it take off?
“I think a combination of @Mrfergie_RBX, the game owner, and myself were both notable people in the roleplay community. So that mix with the game being a different take on emergency response — where you play as a first responder — didn’t really exist yet,” he said. “But it blew up in a way I never would have imagined.”
It was very different from Grand Theft Auto, where you play the criminals. The main point of the game was to have a balanced view, where you were not allowed to abuse a person in the game by making a false arrest, Edouard said. As a police officer, you get alerts about crimes and start chasing down the bad guys.
“We made it so you are able to immerse yourself in whatever role you chose to do,” he said.
As for Roblox’s recent announcements, Edouard said he was interested in the subscription service that will be introduced, as he thinks that is a novel model for games. He also liked one of the programming updates. He also thinks the AI path that Roblox is pursuing will be important.
Over time, he hopes to build other games but taking care of the main game is the No. 1 job. He said he isn’t sure it can be a 100-person or more company, but 25 to 50 is doable.
As for his work, it’s a full-time job, and it was a no brainer to do it when he got out of college, which he finished a year ago. It continues to push his interest in computer science. The game has been financially rewarding and it’s given jobs for a number of people.
“I was able to pay for … the two cars that I have (a Charger Hellcat and an Audi Q8). I love the fact that we’re able to build something of a company,” he said. “That’s crazy.”
With user-generated content, Edouard believes there is an advantage compared to professional developers. And that is you’re wired into the trends that are happening among the player base. And at Roblox, he said you also don’t have to start from scratch on a new game engine.
Samuel Jordan (Builder_Boy), Jazwares
Samuel Jordan is an award-winning UGC creator on Roblox known as Builder_Boy. As creative director at Jazwares Game Studio, he has worked to create digital fashion that emphasizes self-expression.
Based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, he is 24 and has worked with top fashion brands such as Stella McCartney, Burberry, and Rebecca Minkoff to bring luxury fashion to the digital world. It was all because he noticed the need for virtual earrings in the Roblox Marketplace.
He started as a Roblox enthusiast who built a career from his love of fashion and is one of the most prolific developers and highest-selling digital fashion designers on Roblox.
While he grew up on Roblox starting in 2011, he learned how to make things a few years later. He started designing avatar clothing and accessories in 2019. He created a diamond stud earring priced at 75 Robux (around 94 cents) and sold over two million copies by August 2022. His popularity took off and he has since sold over 30 million of his own digital creations, and the earrings remain one of the top-selling items today.
In 2022, he worked with the Burberry team for five months to reimagine the brand’s iconic Lola bag for Roblox. Understanding Burberry’s long-standing affinity for nature and the outdoors, the exclusive limited edition virtual Lola bag has five unique handbags in experimental designs.
As Forever21’s Metaverse Fashion Consultant, he was responsible for curating the whole line and creating three accessories of his own. He also launched collaborations with Rebecca Minkoff, Stella McCartney and Karlie Kloss. He joined Jazwares in May 2021. His team made Squishmallows, which has had over 75 million visits since 2021. He has worked on 21 projects.
“This is definite a space that welcomes new talent,” he said. “Especially in the beginning, we all make games for fun. When I first started designing games, I was on a Skype call with friends and we felt like there was nothing fun to play. They decided to make something but didn’t know how.
Before 2019, Roblox itself made avatar accessories. Then they opened up the marketplace and creators like Jordan got excited. He was one of the first to learn how to do it.
“I jumped in with the earrings and people responded to it,” Jordan said. “I started making things that I thought were missing.”
He started pitching brands on his own in 2019 and they responded during the pandemic. He was in college studying journalism at the time but dropped out to focus on Roblox. He has partnered with influencers and other game makers, who put the items in their in-game stores.
Rush Bogin, Rush_X, CHRUSH
For Rush Bogin, who goes by Rush_X on Roblox, the metaverse is real. Bogin is a digital fashion designer specializing in consulting, designing and creating clothing, accessories and hairstyles for brands and a personal catalog.
At 18, he is the cofounder and designer of CHRUSH, a virtual clothing brand that specializes in limited-edition items and collaborated with fashion icons Karlie Kloss, Elton John, and more.
He has served as Karlie Kloss’s chief Roblox adviser and is a leading consultant in virtual fashion. He graduated from the Denver School of The Arts in 2023 and will be joining the Stanford University Class of 2027 this fall.
Bogin started his own digital fashion design company when he was 14. The first thing he created that took off was a white beanie. It sold 10,000 overnight at its debut, and now it has sold 2.4 million copies.
Today, he has worked with a lot of brands including the NFL, NASCAR, Sony Music, and the MLB on Roblox. As he found early success in his career, he decided to pay it forward by creating a scholarship for students at his high school who are hoping to study in the arts.
He also says he has raised over $100,000 for No Kid Hungry just through the sales of one of his Roblox accessories.
From a young age, Rush had a strong interest in fashion – he saved up for months to buy the latest styles and designer goods, but because he was just a kid his access to these items were limited. When Bogin first came across Roblox at the age of seven, he discovered a place where he could unlock his creativity and access the world of fashion he so longed to be a part of.
He began designing items he saw and loved in the real world, like a cropped sweater, for avatars on Roblox. He followed trends, like the growing grunge culture and resurgence of 90s style, to create unique hairstyles and clothing options. One of his Roblox virtual designs, a white winter beanie inspired by a popular meme, became the most purchased item in Roblox Marketplace from November 2020 to February 2021.
As much as 100,000 items sell on a monthly basis through experiences, he said.
“It’s the metaverse experience,” he said. “If someone likes something on their avatar, they can click on an avatar and purchase it in the game.”
He noted that messy hairstyles are popular now, with hair covering an eye.
One of the dresses he consulted on (created by LoveSpun) was resold on Roblox for the equivalent of $5,000. He has sold 47 million digital items.
“I have built a multimillion dollar company off of Roblox which I’m so grateful for because it’s just been an amazing experience,” he said. “I reached the multimillion-dollar level at 17 which is crazy and I’m obviously so grateful for Roblox.”
He even got supermodel Karlie Kloss to write a letter of recommendation for his college application.
“I’ve been a UGC creator for three years now, and I’ve been creating for seven years now,” he said. “I do 3D clothing, the avatars, accessories and hairstyles. I mainly do hairstyles now as that’s my big thing and people love it. I love it too.”
Anne Shoemaker, Fullflower Studio
Anne Shoemaker is 23 and a full-stack Roblox developer who is interested in getting girls interested in coding and building diversity in tech.
She comes from a family of engineers and fell in love with coding when she started playing Roblox in 2011. She founded Fullflower Studio, which produced the game Mermaid Life (87.7 million visits) and My Droplets (58.4 million visits), which she was the sole creator of. She spent eight months on that in 2018. She attended college for a year but dropped out to make games for Roblox.
“Sometimes I think it would be nice to go back to college and learn a bit more,” she said.
Shoemaker now employs 30 contractors to maintain and grow Mermaid Life and other new projects. her husband, Stickmasterluke, is also a Roblox creator as the creator of Natural Disaster Survival. They’re in the San Francisco Bay Area, and he’s a part of her company running his own project.
“Mostly I moved just because I heard that Silicon Valley was very cool if you want to be in tech,” she said. “But then Roblox was here too.”
Shoemaker is an old hand in this business, as she has been to the Roblox Developer Conference eight times. She started on Roblox at age 11 and started playing games with her friends. They built houses where they could role play with each other. Her first game didn’t do well, but it was beautiful — and buggy.
“When I was a kid, I wanted to write stories for like animated films. But when I found Roblox, I found you can still kind of do that but it’s interactive. And it was also a lot easier than trying to like go work at Pixar,” she said. “I just thought I always wanted to do this.”
She loves making games about creatures and pets, and she’s working on a new one about rehabilitating alien creatures to restore a planet.
She’s helping to encourage women to get into the industry as well. She notes that companies are trying to hire people from different backgrounds to share their perspective on life.
“I love everybody that I work with, as they share a lot of great things from their own life that help,” she said.
She went through an internship at Roblox where she developed an idea and go help creating it. The company is supporting her further now through the game fund.
One of the games her friends enjoyed stopped working. So she opened up a game studio to try to re-create that for her friends. Mermaid Life, the biggest hit, took about three months to make. Now she has released about seven games.
Over time, she said Roblox has gotten so much better. When she started, it had maybe 60 different colors to use. But now there is an infinite color palette. She had a laugh when Roblox announced it would make grass better, as it has been a problem for a while.
Her ideas usually come from things she wants to do in real life but can’t necessarily do, like be a mermaid or swim underwater for a long time. She didn’t have a pet and that led to the droplet game.
Vivian Arellano, @EvilArtist, Fullflower Studio
Vivian Arellano is the art lead at Fullflower Studio alongside Anne Shoemaker. She also runs her own avatar clothing and accessories line and designs under contract on standalone projects, like creating the Roblox Innovation Awards Voting Hub.
A Mexican American immigrant, Arellano used Roblox to provide for her family, helping her mother to retire.
She has built concepts and created virtual accessories for music artists such as Lil Nas X and Zara Larsson, while also creating merchandise for her own virtual fashion brand, and is passionate about creating avatar accessories for people of all backgrounds (i.e. curly and black hair styles).
“Roblox was my first love,” she said. “I knew I wanted to be an artist. I reached that goal by making 3D art.”
Arellano said she first joined Roblox on a school computer when she was 13 years old. She started developing at 15, got an internship at 17, and started creating 3D models as 19. Now she is 23.
“I’ve been on Roblox for 10 years and I’ve been making stuff for about eight,” she said.
She started working on commissions for art for various games being built by Roblox creators. She did things like thumbnails and icons. Five years ago, she picked up 3D art, learning tools like Substance Painter.
She made the Metaverse Champions game and helped with Fullflower’s Mermaid Life, which got 80 million visits.
She is now at work on her eighth game on Roblox. She went to college for one semester and then built a game on Roblox that has 80 million visits. She ranks somewhere near the top 1,000 among creators, and is no longer going to college.
“I quickly realized I was wasting a lot of time when I could be making money,” she said.
It was easy to convince her mother of that when the money was rolling in.
She said she might want to contribute as a manager at a company, but she is enjoying the work with Fullflower Studio, which has funding from the Roblox game fund. She also met the love of her life, Andrew Bereza, in 2017 at the first RDC she attended. She lives near Las Vegas, where Bereza works at the Roblox company Twin Atlas. They’re engaged as a happy Roblox couple.
When she heard Roblox’s CEO Baszucki say he predicted a Roblox studio would hit a $1 billion valuation, she got excited. Her advice? Look at a lot of videos, which she did when she was a marketing intern at Roblox. Take on small projects first. Iterate in small quantities. Make mistakes. Be happy and finish something.
“That was where I was stuck for a long time,” Arellano said.
Looking to the future, Arellano is interested in just how many people are working with the Unity game engine. She hasn’t tried it herself yet, as she said, “I’m scared that I will immediately fall in love and will not come back.”
She said many of her women friends are Roblox creators as well. She said she wasn’t the biggest fan of the way generative AI was introduced to the world, built on stolen images.
“That’s not good, but I know that like, once this has been introduced, you can’t really take it back,” she said. “I want to see ways of how we can limit what people can do with this stuff. I’m a concept artist. But I’ve used generative AI as well to see if I want to explore something.”
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