Roblox will give a handful of game developers $500,000 each to build its future

Roblox is announcing a wave of new funding for developers building the cutting edge of games on the platform. The company introduced the Game Fund, a Roblox-flavored version of a creator fund, last summer and it initially launched with $25 million earmarked for up-and-coming games. Now, Roblox will toss $10 million more toward a handful of select projects that it believes symbolize what the platform is all about.

That amount of money is a drop in the bucket for a company worth around $25 billion, but the investment hints at the kind of experiences Roblox will point to when it wants to showcase what its community and developer tools make possible. And while there aren’t many of these developer grants awarded, each project gets a minimum of $500,000 — enough to fund some sophisticated experiences on a platform best known for its blocky, simplistic graphics. Some hit Roblox games are created by individual users, but many are made by proper game studios crafting polished experiences, and the big per project budget is meant to reflect that.

The company characterizes its cohort of Game Fund experiences as the future of Roblox itself and selects specifically for developers who are pushing the envelope of what’s technically possible on the platform. That means hand-picking game makers with “a track record of success,” Roblox Head of Community Expansion Jad Boniface told TechCrunch. Some Game Fund recipients are building their first Roblox game, though in those cases they’re already known for creating games on other platforms.

“Designing and building a high-fidelity experience with new technology, well-known IP and rich storylines is time-intensive and requires larger teams, so Game Fund is there to give participating creators the financial backing and guidance they need to de-risk development,” Boniface told TechCrunch.

The new round of Game Fund picks includes Phaser Lock Interactive, creator of a dinosaur hunting game called Primal Hunt, FPS-maker Maximillian Studios, the team behind “social horror” game Secret Neighbor, the creators of the music battle game Skullbeat and the studio behind Fashion Klossette, an upcoming “next-generation fashion experience” from Karlie Kloss. The Game Fund games (and the fashion experience) will begin rolling out alpha and beta versions in the next few months.

“… We’re looking for projects with innovative gameplay, ambitious visual designs, and creative ideas that are unlike anything else on the platform,” Boniface wrote in a blog post promoting the Game Fund update. “Current Game Fund participants have wowed us with compelling cross-platform gameplay, engaging social mechanics, dynamic in-game avatars, and creative economic models.”

Beyond the Game Fund, Roblox also steers its creator community toward its accelerator program, which doles out $13,000 awards to five game devs at a time, the Roblox Community Fund, which pays out for educational projects and a talent hub that functions as a kind of matchmaking service just for its developer community. Most of that set of developer support services were announced last year, along with the Game Fund.

Creator funds are somewhat standard — if controversial — among more traditional social platforms these days, though Roblox isn’t exactly a normal social app. TikTok announced its own creator fund back in 2020, setting $200 million aside to fund new content, but those payments scale with how many views a creator is able to attract. YouTube made its own $100 million fund for Shorts, its short-form video product, while Instagram juiced interest in its TikTok clone Reels by offering cash bonuses of up to $10,000 per video (but often much less).

Unlike those apps, Roblox is ubiquitous among kids under 13 and offers an endless array of user-generated “experiences” — portals to virtual hangouts, pirate games, branded sneaker shopping experiences and everything in between. Roblox’s closest analogue is probably Epic Games, creator of Fortnite and new-ish owner of online multiplayer games like Fall Guys and Rocket League. Like Roblox, Fortnite is mostly a series of immersive, avatar-based games accompanied by a booming in-game economy with virtual items.

Roblox and Fortnite both offer plug-and-play game development tools, but on Roblox user-generated worlds are the norm, making up the entire experience of “playing” Roblox. Players just hop into an ever-rotating catalog of user-generated content and try something out, often meeting up with friends in the process.

Roblox sees its Game Fund as a way to support impressive, visually exciting games that mostly don’t look or even work like what the platform is known for. Instead of funding the median experience someone might have on Roblox now, the now $35 million pool of cash represents what Roblox wants to be known for in its next era — and that’s shaping up to look a lot different than the last one.