For a number of years now, chat forums have been awash with the debate on which game is better, Minecraft or Roblox. Both games are similar in some ways, being open-world games aimed at a younger audience, in which players not only explore virtual environments but create their own. Although the games are quite different, there are some fundamental similarities, one of which is that players hone their creative skills by changing the landscape of the virtual world; the player becomes the creator, a young, virtual industrialist. Both games have been wildly successful, accruing millions of fans worldwide and to some extent transforming our idea of what a videogame is.
Minecraft is a game that has become an institution in itself, at home and in the classroom. Created by Swedish designer Markus Persson, the inspiration behind Minecraft was Persson’s fondness for the construction and management simulation game, Dwarf Fortress. He spent a few years figuring out how to turn the basic graphics and somewhat confusing gameplay of Dwarf Fortress into a more immersive and enjoyable experience. It wasn’t until 2009 that Persson had put up an early alpha version of Minecraft on YouTube, costing only 13 dollars. Soon after the beta version was released for 26 dollars, and within 24 hours, to Persson’s surprise, he’d sold 15 copies and had over 150 dollars in his PayPal account – a large amount for him at the time. Just 8 years later, and his current net worth is 1.4 billion dollars.
Roblox history is perhaps not quite as romantic. Unlike Minecraft, it’s a web-based game, and it was created in 2004 by David Baszucki and Erik Cassel. It took a number of years to develop, with the first blueprints being made in the mid-90s. A prototype of Roblox was developed in 1997 under the name, DynaBlocks, and it wasn’t until 2004 that Roblox – then still Dynablox – had its first user, named Admin. In 2006, Roblox was finally made available to the public, and by the end of that year, it had 1,000 members. A month later, that grew to 10,000 users, and a year after that 100,000 users. These days, more than 30 million people play Roblox monthly, logging around 300 million hours of gameplay.
In terms of dollars and cents, Minecraft put Persson on the Forbes list of the world’s billionaires when his video game company, Mojang, was acquired by tech giant Microsoft for $2.5 billion dollars in 2014.
Prior to the deal, Microsoft was, no doubt, watching in awe as Minecraft sales were nothing short of astronomical. In 2011, the game had sold more than 1 million copies, hitting a revenue high of around $33 million. By 2014, it had sold around 60 million copies for PC, console and pocket addition, and by 2017 it had become the best-selling game for PC ever, and the second best-selling game of all time. Tetris is still number one. In 2016, it’s said Microsoft was selling around 53,000 copies of Minecraft per day, with around 40 million people playing the game every month. The most recent reports on Minecraft sales show that it has now sold a massive 122 million copies, and has over 55 million players monthly. Minecraft for PC currently costs $26.95.
As we’ve seen, Roblox has around thirty million monthly active users, with around 900,000 playing concurrently. Unlike Minecraft, Roblox players can earn money by creating their games inside the game. Available for PC, smartphone and game console, the players can join a free market, earning some of its users as much as $50,000 a month. There are as many as 1.7 million (?) developers making games in Roblox, with media reports illustrating how teens have been earning enough to take their parents on vacations. In March of this year, the maximum payout for developers went up from $50,000 – $100,000, making it possible for a young and talented developer to become a millionaire in a year. It should be said that developers don’t earn money for creating games. Instead, virtual items are bought within their games with a virtual currency called Robux, which can be exchanged for real money. But how does Roblox make its money? Well, it takes a piece of what the developers earn, while users can also pay $5.95 per month to pay for a membership to the Builders Club where they will receive certain privileges – it’s free to play otherwise.
CEO of Roblox, David Baszucki, who had worked in educational software before his new venture, believes the company will soon be worth billions. Its revenue per year is still small compared to Minecraft, at around $50 million in 2015. In the same year, Microsoft reported its revenue from video games had increased by $367 million from the previous year, mainly due to its clever acquisition.
Nonetheless, once called the “Quiet Giant” by tech pundits, Roblox told Forbes that in 2016 its revenue was up again, though the company wouldn’t state the amount. Baszucki believes the incentive for its players to learn coding and earn money is a win-win for everyone, with the company betting that at some point Roblox will rule the sandbox gaming world.
One of the benefits of Roblox is that coders can design complex games using its coding language, Lua, while Minecraft players can only design simple looking things using a less sophisticated code: the Minecraft-adapted Java programming language. At the same time, while Roblox may offer the chance to invent something wonderful, you also need the Internet to play it, whereas in Minecraft, offline play is possible. This is a deal-breaker for some gamers.
Another major difference, and one which separates both games’ aficionados when it comes to saying which game is best, is the social aspect. Minecraft is a much more solitary game, perhaps perfect for virtual adventurers who are on a kind of personal quest. While Minecraft does have multiplayer options, Roblox was created as a social game. This kind of social environment could be seen as a personality building exercise for players, although some critics have stated concerns about young children – Roblox has many pre-teen players – coming into contact with shady characters or bad language.
In the end both games require a creative, thoughtful, frontier-type attitude. Players, unlike in many games, can be creators and not merely destroyers. This is why schools are now picking up the games, with Minecraft having its own education edition and Roblox also making its way into the classroom. Kids learn survival techniques, problem solving, mathematics, design, and of course, coding.
Minecraft is undoubtedly the winner in terms of what it has achieved regarding the number of users and how much its earned for its creators and present owners, but Roblox gets the kudos for giving young people the chance to code and be financially prosperous. As the company pointed out in an interview with Business Insider in 2017, playing Roblox might just be a way to give disenfranchised kids a way into coding and a ticket to an easier life.
What seems certain is that the games will keep powering on, and in their wake, many more games will no doubt combine education, creativity, and fun. So, which game do you like the most? Have you managed to make a few dollars from Roblox, yet?