Roblox frequently connects brand partners and developers within the platform to create in-game brand activations. Some metaverse-minded companies have been partnering directly with developers to bring their products to virtual spaces. Roblox has seen a growing creator economy, which provides lucrative opportunities for developers, platforms, and brands.
Brand-platform partnerships are often responsible for
Metaversal activations. For example, Balenciaga’s Fortnite virtual garments were recreated by Epic Games’ internal team in Unreal Engine .
Roblox employs a holistic model to build brand activations. This involves distributing the actual work involved in building these virtual experiences through a network of ingame developers. “In the past, we did work with Warner Bros. on the ‘Ready Player One’ movie integration,” said Alex Balfanz, a 22-year-old Roblox developer whose studio, Badimo, designed the wildly popular Roblox game Jailbreak. “We also have NERF gun in Jailbreak-branded stores through a licensing agreement which Roblox did most.”
Balfanz and his Badimo co-founder Keanu, whose surname Digiday agreed not to reveal to protect his identity, started the company six years ago when Balfanz was 15 years old. Today, their cops-and-robbers game pulls in 20 million monthly active users, and Badimo is both founders’ full-time jobs.
Badimo has added a NASCAR car Jailbreak. Roblox provided the opportunity for NASCAR and Badimo to collaborate. Keanu stated that they provided sound assets so the car could sound like real cars and then provided tons of digital assets so that we could accurately model them.
NASCAR collaborated with Badimo to bring a branded vehicle into the developer’s popular Jailbreak game. // Image courtesy of Roblox
Over the course of the 10-day NASCAR event, users visited the Jailbreak experience 24 million times — a 30% increase in concurrent players, according to Badimo. Christina Wootton, vice president of brand partnerships at Roblox, stated that “Overall, we want these activations to be a way for brands to build authentic and native connections to their fans which enhance their shared experience without interrupting the things they already do.”
Roblox is no longer the intermediary for many of its brand activations on its platform. Instead, developers have been working directly with brands without having to interact with Roblox. This is a deliberate change. Wootton stated that “we are focused on empowering the developer community to take on such projects and have direct collaborations between our partners.” “And for brands, Roblox will become self-serve as they grow their metaverse activities, expertise, and capabilities, with many customizable templates and other features they can use .”
While there is an element to this hands-off approach, it also has clear benefits for Roblox. Roblox’s platform benefits from every brand partnership or activation, regardless of whether Roblox makes a profit. In the NERF/Badimo collaboration, all licensing fees went directly towards the developer without Roblox taking a cut. However, the Roblox logo and brand name were prominently displayed on each toy, introducing it to thousands of players. Balfanz stated that Roblox’s revenue comes from players playing their games and making money. “So they want developers to be incentivized to make cool games .”
“Roblox created an equal playing field, where everyone can come in and learn the tools, and then build, build… build,” stated Yonatan RazFridman CEO of Supersocial, a Roblox-based digital production studio. “Now you have all these brands and some of them going directly to developers. It is clear that developers have a large community that suddenly has the opportunity to make money by building products for these brands .
At the moment Raz-Fridman stated, “I’m certain [Roblox is] getting a lot more inquiries from brands than their can handle, at the point and that I think that that’s only going up in the next few years.” Roblox is continuing to investigate how to best support its brand partners as well as developers and increase the visibility of Roblox as both an advertising platform as well as a proto-metaverse.
As Roblox responds to the increased brand interest, it is building a UGC economy to provide its creators with the support they need to continue to grow. It is more than a place for people to meet, but it also offers business advice and connections to assist developers who are looking to make their hobby a source of income. Balfanz stated that the NASCAR deal required us to find lawyers and get business insurance, as well as other services we hadn’t had before. “And NASCAR was really open to working with us, even if we had to wait for them to figure it out — that’s huge for two kids who started making games for fun .”
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