Rumors are swirling that Roblox will soon allow adult content, including gambling. The information originated with Roblox Trackers, a group reporting on changes in the game’s application programming interface (API) and documentation. Roblox Corporation hasn’t announced specific plans, but its age guidelines will soon include a new label for “simulated gambling.”
The gambling label appears alongside a few others relating to mature content:
However, it’s essential to separate facts from assumptions. Including these categories in the API suggests that Roblox is at least considering allowing third-party content creators to flag such themes in their own submissions. What it plans to do with such submissions is entirely a matter of speculation.
Roblox currently divides content into three age categories:
- All Ages
The prevailing assumption is that introducing these content labels implies that Roblox is planning to introduce at least one more age category for even more mature content.
The Roblox Controversy
Roblox has a lot in common with Minecraft as a cultural phenomenon, though the games are quite different. Both took some inspiration from Lego and monetize user-generated content. Both have also crossed over into the world of physical toys.
The original public release of Roblox predates Minecraft (2006 vs. 2009), but it took longer to reach a mass audience. Roblox today bears little resemblance to the product in 2006 and has tens of millions of daily active users. At the same time, it has become increasingly controversial.
Roblox’s visual presentation and theme clearly appeal to young kids. At the same time, the ability to create custom content for the game is attractive to older kids, teens and even adults. For many, it has become a convenient entry point to the world of programming.
Naturally, when you give teenagers and adults the ability to create whatever content they like, some will not be child-appropriate. When you do that in the context of a game that’s meant to appeal to small children, things can get messy.
Content that technically meets the guidelines for a particular age might seem thematically inappropriate to some parents. Likewise, some players will abuse the roleplaying interactions. For instance, some character animations could be used suggestively in the context of what is otherwise “all ages” content.
Complicating matters further is Roblox’s business model, in which it takes a cut of all third-party content sales. All Ages content has a broader potential audience than 9+, which is larger than 13+. Some have accused Roblox of being as permissive as possible to maximize revenue.
Appealing to an Older Audience
Another aspect of the situation is that Roblox fans themselves are getting older. Someone who was six years old when the first version of Roblox appeared is now twenty-three.
In September 2022, CEO David Baszucki told The Verge that the median age of users is now over 13. Moreover, the fastest-growing Roblox demographic is now older teens and people in their early 20s.
Naturally, most of those users aren’t looking to play hide-and-seek or adopt kittens. The content they create and the experiences they engage in reflect their age. Sometimes, that means going to extreme lengths to get around the content rules. A BBC investigation discovered secret communities of users who’d found ways to play sex games within the world of Roblox.
It presents a dilemma for the company. On the one hand, it’s attempting to deal with the controversies surrounding its arguably inadequate attempts to keep children safe. On the other, it is a publicly-traded corporation under pressure from shareholders not to cut off any potential revenue stream, let alone stonewall its fastest-growing segment of users.
In all likelihood, that’s what’s behind the new content labels. As the BBC discovered, people will find ways to create the content they want, even if it violates the rules. The thinking at Roblox may be that creating explicit categories for such content will help stop it from cropping up where it isn’t supposed to.
Even Simulated Gambling is a Dicey Proposition
It’s worth noting that no real-money gambling will happen in Roblox. The Gambling content label would be for depictions of characters gambling.
The game uses a virtual currency called Robux, which costs real money to obtain. However, the only use of Robux is to purchase in-game content, like new minigames or items for one’s character. There’s no mechanism for a user-created game to dispense Robux to its players, nor for characters to transfer Robux to one another. (Players sometimes exploit the item-sale mechanic to transfer Robux to a friend or “donate” to a creator. Hypothetically, users could abuse that for some in-game gambling scheme, but that would be a circumvention of the rules, not something Roblox would allow officially.)
However, in the current climate, even simulated gambling could expose Roblox to legal action. A Roblox casino wouldn’t involve gambling with dollars or Robux. But it could involve gambling with its own virtual currency, potentially one that could cost Robux through the purchase of a “Game Pass”.
Even though such a currency would have no use outside the virtual casino, it would be on par with various play money social casino apps. These have been the subject of several lawsuits in the US, alleging that they meet the legal definition of gambling.
Such suits have all ended in a settlement. As such, the fundamental claim remains untested, meaning the door would be open for Roblox customers to try a similar suit.
In addition, Roblox already dispenses randomized in-game items. Often called “loot crates” in other games, this is another practice that has generated a lot of debate. This has also resulted in lawsuits in the US, though companies have generally succeeded in defending against those.
Still, dating simulations, swearing and virtual characters drinking beer are one thing. They might hurt Roblox’s image with some parents, but the company should be on safe legal ground if the content is safely age-restricted. Gambling’s another story. If the assumptions of Bloxy News are correct, Roblox is preparing to venture into a legal minefield. It will be interesting to see how it plans on navigating it.