Roblox is big. Bigger than Minecraft big. The massively multiple online title has been around since 2006, but the game has been achieving a crazy amount of momentum of late. On Friday, it announced that it’s grown past 100 million monthly active users, pushing past Minecraft, which is currently in the (still impressive) low-90s. Here’s the service’s dizzying growth since February 2016, who it was hovering around 9 million players. That’s more than 10x growth in a three and a half year span. User-Generated content is a big part of that number, and the company notes that it has around 40 million user created experiences in the game at present. Sources: TechCrunch, VentureBeat, Roblox “We started Roblox over a decade ago with a vision to bring people from all over the world together through play,” founder and CEO David Baszucki said of the big new round number. “Roblox began with just 100 players and a handful of creators who inspired one another, unlocking this groundswell of creativity, collaboration, and imagination that continues to grow.” The company behind the game has also been pumping some big money into development. It paid $30 million in 2017 and $60 million in 2018. Next week, it will be hosting hundreds of attendees at its fifth Roblox Developer Conference. Per the new numbers, around 40 percent Roblox users are female, with players spread out across 200 countries.
Africa’s mobile phone industry has in recent times been by Transsion, a Shenzhen-based company that is little known outside the African continent and is gearing up for an . Now, its Chinese peer Vivo is following its shadow to this burgeoning part of the world with low-cost offerings. the world’s , this week that it’s bringing its budget-friendly smartphones into Nigeria, Kenya and Egypt; the line of products is already available in Morocco. It’s obvious that Vivo wants in on an expanding market as its home country China experiences . Despite a global slowdown, Africa posted annual growth in smartphone shipments last year thanks in part to the abundance of entry-level products, according to market research firm IDC. Affordability is the key driver for any smartphone brands that want to grab a slice of the African market. That’s what vaulted Transsion into a top dog on the continent where it sells feature phones for less than $20. Vivo’s Y series smartphones, which are priced as little as $170, are vying for a place with Transsion, Samsung and Huawei that have respective unit shares of 34.3%, 22.6% and 9.9% in Africa last year. The Middle East is also part of Vivo’s latest expansion plan despite the region’s recent . The Y series, which comes in several models sporting features like the 89% screen-to-body ratio or the artificial intelligence-powered triple camera, is currently for sale in the United Arab Emirates and will launch in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in the coming months. Vivo’s new international push came months after its sister company, also owned by BBK, made into the Middle East and Africa by opening a new regional hub in Dubai. “Since our first entry into international markets in 2014, we have been dedicated to understanding the needs of consumers through in-depth research in an effort to bring innovative products and services to meet changing lifestyle needs,” said Vivo’s senior vice president Spark Ni in a statement. “The Middle East and Africa markets are important to us, and we will tailor our approach with consumers’ needs in mind. The launch of Y series is just the beginning. We look forward to bringing our other widely popular products beyond Y series to consumers in the Middle East and Africa very soon,” the executive added.
Kids gaming platform most recently , has reached a new milestone of 90 million monthly active users, the company on Sunday. That’s up from the 70 million monthly actives it at its last funding round — a $150 million Series F announced last fall. The sizable increase in users is credited to Roblox’s international expansion efforts, and particularly its more recent support for the French and German languages. The top 150 games that run on the Roblox platform are now available in both languages, along with community moderation, customer support and parental resources. The gaming company also has been steadily growing as more kids join after hearing about it from friends or seeing its games played on YouTube, for example. , it has become a place that kids go to “hang out” online even when not actively playing. The games themselves are built by third-party creators, while Roblox gets a share of the revenue the games generate from the sale of virtual goods. In 2017, Roblox paid out $30 million to its creator community, and later said that in 2018. It says that players and creators now spend more than a billion hours per month on its platform. Roblox’s growth has not been without its challenges, however. Bad actors last year subverted the game’s protections to — a serious problem for a game aimed at kids, and a PR crisis, as well. But the company addressed the problem by quickly securing its platform to prevent future hacks of this kind, apologized to parents, banned the hackers and soon after a “digital civility initiative” as part of its broader push for online safety. Months later, International expansion was part of the plan when Roblox chose to raise additional funding, despite already being . As CEO David Baszucki explained last fall, the idea was to create “a war chest, to have a buffer, to have the opportunity to do acquisitions,” and “to have a strong balance sheet as we grow internationally.” The company soon made good on its to-do list, in October 2018 when it picked up the app performance startup, PacketZoom. It also followed Minecraft’s footsteps , and has since been working to make its service available to a global base of users. On that front, Roblox says Europe has played a key role, with millions of users and hundreds of thousands of game creators — like those behind the Roblox games “Ski Resort” (Germany), “Crash Course” (France) and “Heists 2 (U.K.). In addition to French and German, Roblox is available in English, Portuguese and Spanish, and plans to support more languages in the coming months, it says. But the company doesn’t want to face another incident or PR crisis as it moves into new countries. On that front, Roblox is working with digital safety leaders in both France and Germany, as part of its Digital Civility Initiative. In France, it’s working with e-Enfance; and in Germany, it’s working with Unterhaltungssoftware Selbstkontrolle (USK). Roblox also added USK’s managing director, Elisabeth Secker, to the company’s . “We are excited to welcome Roblox as a new member to the USK and I’m honored to join the company’s Trust & Safety Advisory Board,” said Elisabeth Secker, Managing Director of the Entertainment Software Self-Regulation Body (USK), in a statement. “We are happy to support Roblox in their efforts to make their platform not only safe, but also to empower kids, teens, and parents with the skills they need to create positive online experiences.”
It’s been a strange summer for Steam. Since the implementation of the last year, the service has seen a tidal wave of new, largely unfiltered content, much of which has proved to be controversial,, or in a couple of cases, . Steam’s moves to curate its new releases have been unfocused, inconsistent, and/or simply nonexistent, finally settling on the principle, as they stated in a blog post in June, that they “.” In the same blog post, Steam’s representatives promised that new tools were in the works to help users filter their experience in the storefront, and to help cut down on trolls, scammers, and other bad-faith users of the Steam publication process. This included a rework to how the system worked, where games would no longer automatically receive card sets until they This addressed an exploit where players would generate “fake” games in order to farm them for trading cards with bot accounts, which could then be redeemed for , coupons, and other items, many of which could be traded for real money on the Steam Marketplace. On Wednesday, Valve provided a to the community. The company has introduced a number of methods to make it easier for users to explore Steam, such as , a rework (in July) to how its worked, and provided more and better options for you to filter the types of content you can see when randomly browsing the store. One big change here is that you can now tick a series of boxes in your account settings that determines what you are and are not willing to see on Steam, based upon not only the general age rating, but the type of content involved. For example, I unchecked the box on my personal Steam account for nudity and sexual content, so now, when I go to search for Funcom’s survival game Conan Exiles, which is notorious in certain circles for not only frequent but intensely customizable nudity, I simply can’t see its store page at all. A screenshot from the author’s personal Steam account. Steam now also requires publishers of games that feature mature content to go into detail about the type and context of that content (i.e. Left 4 Dead 2 being listed as featuring not just explicit violence, but “decapitation and dismemberment of zombie-like creatures”), in order to assist players in determining whether or not a game is suitable for them. Previously, a game’s Steam page would typically only hint at whatever the game might actually contain, through marketing copy and a handful of keywords; now, a consumer should know exactly what they’re in for before they purchase a game. What’s likely going to be the most controversial part of these changes, however, is Steam’s ongoing attempts to remove “bad actors” from its storefront. They describe a relatively small population of would-be developers that are simply out to release titles with which to troll Steam’s userbase, but then remain vague on what precisely fits their internal definition of trolling. “Our review of something that may be ‘a troll game’ is a deep assessment that actually begins with the developer,” Valve wrote on its blog. “We investigate who this developer is, what they’ve done in the past, their behavior on Steam as a developer, as a customer, their banking information, developers they associate with, and more. All of this is done to answer the question ‘who are we partnering with and why do they want to sell this game?’ We get as much context around the creation and creator of the game and then make an assessment. A trend we’re seeing is that we often ban these people from Steam altogether instead of cherry-picking through their individual game submissions. In the words of someone here in the office: ‘it really does seem like bad games are made by bad people.'” In other words, they know trolls when they see them. It’s an open-ended declaration that seems guaranteed to cause some problems, just as soon as a given issue comes down to a matter of interpretation. As for the issue of sales bloat and a lack of curation on Steam, Valve currently remains quiet. The new systems they announced are in place on Steam accounts as of this writing, but the store is still flooded with new games every week, and Valve still considers it, for the time being, the community’s job to police their storefront.