Roblox is well aware that its young users are getting older, and the company is making every effort to grow up along with them.
The platform, once synonymous with younger kids, announced Tuesday that it would allow creators to build mature content designed for users age 17 and up. To create or enjoy those experiences, Roblox users will need to pass an age verification process that requires a government ID and a live selfie.
For the unacquainted, Roblox occupies an unusual space between a social network and a game, offering its many millions of daily users a candy-colored smorgasbord of user-generated game worlds and online social spaces.
Now, those colorful worlds will be able to offer users age 17 and up experiences that contain more intense violence, romance, crude humor, depictions of gambling and even a bit of virtual booze to wash it all down with. In contrast, the 13+ category only allows “moderate” violence and “light” realistic blood but no romantic themes or alcohol.
Roblox’s above-17 age group is its fastest growing, and that group comprised nearly 40% of its daily active users last year. The majority of Roblox’s creators — who populate the platform’s app store-like interface with games and other experiences — are 17 and older.
“We want to make sure that they can explore themes and graphics and things that would be very compelling for them,” Roblox Chief Product Officer Manuel Bronstein told TechCrunch.
Bronstein hopes that creators will be inspired to explore newly mature themes with confidence, citing the platform’s guidelines around what is and isn’t allowed. The changes could lead to new growth in content genres that aren’t usually associated with Roblox, like its growing stable of user-created shooters and horror games.
Bronstein characterized the addition of 17+ content as a “natural evolution” for the platform. That ongoing shift includes a slew of product changes, all designed to keep Roblox interesting and relevant to its young users as they age up.
Roblox isn’t afraid to mix things up or potentially dilute its identity as it matures. In recent years, the platform has increasingly opted for a more-is-more approach that layers more sophisticated graphics, deeper developer tools, realistic avatars, and features like voice chat onto its core experience, which mostly entails a lot of blocky, Lego-looking dudes bouncing around pixelated suburban environments.
“This is a play of being a platform, right?” Bronstein told TechCrunch. “If we give out communities a tool, if we improve our fidelity, if we improve rendering, if we improve physics — what will people build?”
Along with Fortnite-maker Epic Games, Roblox is a frontrunner in the race to build the metaverse — an interconnected web of online social hubs packed full of games, pop-up events, live shows and digital goods that can all be navigated with a customizable avatar.
Roblox creators can begin building content for the 17+ age group right away and users who are age-verified and eligible will see those experiences popping up in the next few weeks.
“… Our goal is to give these tools to the community so that they can actually surprise and delight us. And we’re excited to see what happens when we open this up to the community, what are they gonna come back with?” Bronstein said. “You and I can brainstorm about a bunch of things, but we’re going to see 10,000 other things that we didn’t think about.”