Level 91: Roblox Levels-up

The long awaited IPO arrives

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💡 Industry Content

Roblox IPO: At long last, Roblox IPO’d! As Venturebeat’s Dean Takahashi notes, “At its $45 billion valuation, Roblox is worth more than: Take-Two Interactive ($18.98 billion), Unity ($27.76 billion), Ubisoft ($8 billion), Electronic Arts ($37.4 billion), Square Enix ($6.6 billion), and Zynga ($10.7 billion).” There’s a lot of good literature, here’s the roundup:

  • An informative look at Roblox’s valuation and funding over time comes from First Round. A takeaway here is that inflection points and net IRR can necessarily be more productive (in terms of time) than an early investment. Link

  • “Gamefam aims to be the first big gaming company built on Roblox” reports on the nature of building a venture-scalable games studio on Roblox. Link

  • An Index Ventures retrospective: “Roblox is probably the greatest contemporary example of a founder taking a very long view and never – not for a millisecond – doubting the relevance of the ultimate vision as they patiently build the broad foundation to underpin it.” Link

  • The Generalist released an S-1 analysis of Roblox prior to the actual IPO. Link

  • Perhaps our favorite read on Roblox this week comes from Ben Thompson’s Stratechery:

That [interoperability] is actually a benefit: by controlling everything Roblox can bring all of the disparate parts of gaming into one place; instead of one app for social interactions, another app for purchases, and a different app for every different game, everything is all in the same place. This also makes Roblox easier to develop for: by constraining graphics to a consistent toolbox it is very easy to build something new… The responsibility of those foundational platforms is to give room to let these microverses flourish, without legislating or taxing them to death.

Facebook’s VR Gamble: Mark Zuckerberg is a huge fan of VR. Since purchasing Oculus back in 2014, Zuck & Co. have publicly stated multiple times that they see VR/AR as the future of social interactions: a world where planes, trains, and cars are secondary to picking up your favorite headset and teleporting into the living room of a close friend. Facebook now employees over 10,000 (!!!) people in its VR/AR division. FB Horizon anyone? Link ($)

🎮 Fun & Games

The Future of Movie Games: In our 2021 Gaming predictions piece, we wrote about the triumphant return of movie video games. Movies are a wealth of well-known IP that fans are willing to spend money on. Much of cinema’s best franchises have been locked in exclusive deals with companies like EA for years, but things are seemingly starting to change. In the first three months of 2021 we’ve already seen the announcement of gaming reboots for 007, Indiana Jones and Star Wars. In this piece from Washington Post, explore the history of licensed video games, and learn why the stewards of some of the world’s greatest characters are finally turning back to gaming to unlock new revenue. Link

Miko — VTubing’s Latest Star: Gaming is built on the idea of digital representation, so taking it one step further via streaming feels like a natural next step. Dubbed VTubing, the expansion of this digital-first wave of content creators has blown up in 2020, and at the front of the pack is Miko. An unapologetically brash and awkwardly direct character, Miko is one of the most interesting creators to come out of Twitch since the likes of Dr. Disrespect. Kotaku sat down with the creator behind Miko to learn more about she’s turned one of the internet’s weirder characters into an early candidate for one of the fastest growing creators of 2021. Link

😎 Other Cool Reads

A Game About Growing Rice: Have you ever come away from a video game so inspired to participate in the activity portrayed in the game? Fighting ninjas, eating donuts, or in this author’s case, growing and cooking rice. The author’s description of her embodied experience with rice after playing the game — sifting through its grains, understanding its consistency, their appreciation of the first bite — was so relatable and fun. Link

I actively enjoy how rice sounds, smells, and tastes the whole way through (seriously, playing this game while the aroma of steaming rice wafts from the kitchen, anticipating dinner, is the only way to play), and the whole experience has thoroughly reinvigorated my love for rice in all its varieties and forms.

Zelda & Meditation: The first time we saw the trailer for Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, we were hooked. The game’s open world promised hours of adventure and hundreds of interesting and unique locations to explore. This piece explores how Zelda’s encapsulating world has helped her become more present in her own life, and how gaming’s escapism is tackling modern day issues of mindfulness and mental health. Link

The NeoPet’s Black Market: NeoPets was one of browser-gaming’s first big hits. In it’s 10+ years of existence, the game has maintained a steady base of thousands of users, despite changing ownership multiple times in the same time period. But underneath the game's colorful exterior and bright sprites lies something much more complex. An interwoven economy centered around meticulous trading, hacked accounts, and old-school designs. Link

⚡ Quick Bytes

  • Discord tripled revenue to $130M in 2020. Link ($)

  • League of Legends: Wild Rift kicks off its open beta in NA on March 29. Link

  • Epic Games acquired RealityCapture, a 3D Software company focused on scanning the real world into games Link

  • Buying into the NFT hype? Here’s how Axie Infinity, a popular crypto title, can be played. Given how persistent and social gaming can be, it’s a bright spot for NFTs’ long term potential. Link

  • “The Future’s Biggest Stars are Born on Twitch”. Link

  • Cathode Ray City is an NFT that was created out of a hardware-corrupted digital painting in Mario Paint. Link

😍 Our Current Favorites 

Fawzi (@fawzitani)

I came across Yu-Kai Chou’s Gamification & Behavioral Design framework this week. It’s quite complicated to sift through, but the basic concept is to gamify aspects of your life so you become better at them over time and it life feels like more of a game: fun. I’m interested in phasing this into my life, putting it into practice over time to motivate me to do certain things. Has anybody tried it?

In other news, I finished up a game called Donut County. It’s whimsical and colorful with a lot of creatively comedic dialogue (and honking, if I might add!). I’m such a sucker for these types of games.

Max (@MaxLowenthal)

A few years ago I discovered Welcome to My Life, a pilot for one of the most interesting pieces of animation I had ever seen. I learned that the piece was created by Elizabeth Ito, an 15-year animation vet who's worked on some of Cartoon Network's best series, including Steven Universe and Adventure Time.

Last week was the official launch of Ito’s first fully direct show on Netflix, City of Ghosts, and its amazing. After thirty minutes of watching my girlfriend and I had to force ourselves to stop watching in order to savor the show’s remaining few episodes. Ito has a style that is unique in so many aspects — its focus on representation, its art-style, its choice of music. If you’re at all interested in animation as an art form, or just like watching silly and fun cartoons, definitely check it out. Link

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