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Amid the economic devastation wrought by covid-19, video games are a rare bright spot. This year, the shares of Electronic Arts and Activision Blizzard, two big games publishers, have risen by 33% and 42%, respectively. Capcom, a Japanese video-game maker, is up by 75%. It is little wonder that the sector is so hot. Video games—especially live multiplayer ones that can be replayed endlessly—are great for staving off boredom. They are an increasingly popular way to connect with friends, too. During the pandemic, some enthusiasts have even used social games such as “Animal Crossing” to stage weddings, concerts and nightly talk shows.
Roblox, a Silicon Valley-based gaming platform, may be one of the biggest entertainment success stories of the pandemic. The platform, on which playing is free of charge, had already racked up 115m active users in February, before much of the world went into lockdown. Today, according to RTrack, an analytics tracking site, it boasts more than 164m. Many are children: Roblox says three-quarters of American 9- to 12-year-olds play its games. This helps explain its wild popularity. In July alone users logged 3bn hours on the site, up by 100% from only a few months ago.
Roblox is not itself a video game, but rather a game-creation platform. Users can design and build their own games and worlds using icons and pre-fabricated Lego-like blocks, rather than code, and then easily share them with friends. So far, more than 50m games have been created with Roblox Studio, the platform’s official game-making software, according to the company. Although the vast majority of these titles are duds, some are blockbusters: 5,000 games have had more than 1m plays; 20 have had more than 1bn. The most popular one, a game called “Adopt Me!”, had more than 1.6m concurrent players in April, according to Roblox.
Designing Roblox games is also a money-spinner. The company says it has more than 2m developers, of whom about one-sixth earn income—sharing revenue with Roblox from purchases made in the games. In 2019 it paid $100m to its game-makers. This year Roblox reckons this sum could exceed $250m. Some of this will come from Roblox “Marketplace”, which allows developers to sell in-game items they have made, from cars to wallpaper, for other developers to incorporate into their own games. Parents often scold their children for spending hours playing video games, rather than doing something productive. Now, kids can do both.
This article was originally found at The Economist