Roblox, the build-your-own gaming platform that’s wildly popular among kids, is making a push to grow its audience beyond the bounds of childhood. The company will now allow content intended for people aged 17 or older, as announced in a Tuesday press release.
“Roblox is a platform for all ages where no matter how old people are, they can connect with friends and discover a wide range of relevant, engaging, and age-appropriate experiences,” the company wrote in its statement. Though the majority of Roblox users are minors, the platform now says 38% of its 66.1 million daily visitors are 17 and over. Users 17-to-24-year-olds are apparently the gaming app’s fastest-growing cohort.
Back in March, Roblox announced intentions to adapt a sector of its games and metaverse community to suit its ageing audience. Now, “more mature” content is here. Games under this label will be allowed to feature “intense violence, heavy realistic blood, moderate crude humour, romantic themes, unplayable gambling content, and/or the presence of alcohol,” per the site’s guidelines. Sexual content, nudity, references to illegal drugs, and graphic violence still remain barred, according to the newly released 17+ policy standards.
All 17+ “experiences” (Roblox’s internal term for games made by its community members), will be restricted to age-verified users, according to the company. Becoming age-verified will require users to submit a government-issued photo ID along with a selfie.
Previously, Roblox supported experiences for users aged 9+ and those 13 and up. Yet still, even with adult material entirely banned from the platform, the site has struggled to police its hosted content. Last year, a chief scientist at the company, Morgan McGuire, told Reuters that — because of its vast size and decentralized set-up — moderating Roblox was “more like shutting down speakeasies” than reining in content elsewhere online. There are more than 50 million multiplayer games posted on the platform, and more are being pumped out by users all the time.
There’s been at least one notable case of in-game sexual assault on Roblox, impacting a seven-year-old child. In 2022, the platform was sued for allegedly enabling the exploitation of a 10-year-old girl. Kim Kardashian also threatened a lawsuit against the game app over allegations that it hosted an advertisement for sexually inappropriate material using the celebrity’s likeness, which her young son reportedly came across while gaming.
On top of the existing issues of content moderation, Roblox has also faced flack over its micro-transaction system, which aims to extract real money from its young user base. One Robux is equal to just about $US0.01, but all those bits of funny money, used to purchase flashy in-game clothing and other items, can add up. Then there are the advertisements, which some advocacy groups have complained about — characterising as unregulated and without guardrails.
Despite existing concerns though, Roblox is moving forward into its 17+ future. The company pointed to its existing moderation policies and community standards in its press statement about the change and noted that users can always report and block individuals and content that violates those terms. “As always, as we innovate, we’re keeping safety top of mind,” the news statement says. And, beyond the photo-ID policy, Roblox “may add new age verification methods in the future.” Gizmodo reached out to the company for further details on what those might be but did not receive a response by publication time.
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