The video game that's turning teens into millionaires has hired a CFO as it considers an IPO
- Roblox is an online gaming platform with 64 million players.
- On Wednesday, Roblox revealed for the first time that it's cash flow positive, with "hundreds of millions" of dollars in bookings in 2017.
- Roblox has also hired Mike Guthrie as its new CFO, as it mulls whether or not to go public.
- Roblox has also released a sponsored study from comScore that shows that it's more popular by some measures than YouTube and Facebook - at least, for under-18-year-olds.
If you're under 18, or you know somebody who is, there's a pretty healthy chance you've heard of Roblox - a massively popular online gaming platform with 64 million players that also turned three teens into millionaires last year.
On Wednesday, Roblox revealed that this popularity has translated into a booming business, as the company says that it's free cash flow positive for the first time. Roblox also says that it had "hundreds of millions" of dollars in bookings in 2017, up 158% from 2016.And so, to manage that fast-growing business, Roblox has hired Mike Guthrie as its new Chief Financial Officer. Previously, Guthrie served in the same role for TrueCar, a website for car buyers and dealers, which he helped take public in 2014.
So far, Roblox has raised $99 million in venture capital, most recently in a $92 million funding round announced in March 2017. So will Guthrie help take Roblox public, too?
"He's the right person to help us figure that out," Craig Donato, Roblox's chief business officer, tells Business Insider.
Donato says that the growth of Roblox is reflective of the fact that it might be more than a video game platform. Roblox believes that entertainment is getting less passive and more interactive, and that it's riding the wave. Indeed, while many compare Roblox to Microsoft's "Minecraft" phenomenon, Donato looks at it differently.
"We really believe we're ushering in a new form of entertainment," says Donato. "We see ourselves not as a gaming platform, but as an entertainment platform."To that end, Roblox also today released the results of a study it commissioned from comScore, showing that the platform eats more attention among under-18s than YouTube, Netflix, or Amazon's Twitch. There are some caveats - for instance, comScore doesn't track mobile usage. However, the data clearly shows the sheer popularity of Roblox.
If you're not familiar, Roblox is actually almost entirely generated by its fans. Popular Roblox games like "Jailbreak," "Work at a Pizza Place," or "Roblox High School" were all created by its mostly-teenage developer base.
The games are free to play, but you can use real money to buy premium Roblox currency. That currency is, in turn, used to purchase in-game items, like weaponry or new hairstyles. When a player makes one of those in-game purchases, the developer gets the lion's share of the revenue, and Roblox takes a cut.
All told, Roblox paid out $30 million to its two million creators in 2017. Three of those creators even cleared the $1 million mark.
Whether or not it chooses to go public, Donato says that Roblox has big plans for the not-so-distant future.
Last year, Roblox started putting action figures in stores, based on characters from the most popular games, and shared the revenue with the creators. Next up, Donato says, is apparel like t-shirts and hats, coming soon to a store near you.
The company is also staffing up beyond the 300 employees it already has, as it pursues other new opportunities: Right now, Roblox is only available in English, but Donato sees a big opportunity in adding more languages in the name of building a more global fanbase.
He also says that more brand partnerships are in the works. For instance, Roblox has teamed up with Warner Bros. to make games themed around "Ready Player One," the forthcoming Steven Spielberg blockbuster, so players can have their own adventure.
Donato says to expect more of that. In fact, he says it's somewhat indicitative of how the company approaches entertainment in general: It's a way to actively, not passively, engage with the film. It's that kind of active engagement that he sees as Roblox's best advantage, going forward.
"We really think we're laying the groundwork for how content is created and delivered," says Donato.