Roblox will no longer allow advertisements aimed at children under 13 as part of a set of standards the company is rolling out to more clearly define and govern promotions placed by developers within its platform.
The gaming hub’s latest updated set of rules now defines advertising as any content within its metaverse world designed to promote a product or service outside of Roblox, meaning that branded activations that have become increasingly popular with brands will also be subject to the standards. Roblox will also expand disclosure requirements of anything ad related.
“We came up with a policy that was based on industry standards on what is advertising and we used a number of factors, different types of regulatory bodies, enforcement actions and other industry organizations,” said Roblox chief business officer Craig Donato.
The rollout comes as Roblox has become an increasingly popular venue for advertisers to set up virtual stores, branded experiences and in-game billboards. While Roblox is in the beta stages of making its official ad server widely available to brands, much of the advertising currently on the platforms comes from third-party deals with developers and content constructed by brands themselves. Roblox reported $2.2 billion in revenue last year per its most recent earnings, but it does not break out advertising.
These new standards are an attempt on Roblox’s part to bring these types of ads more into line with the policies it already has in place for its own advertising business.
“We’re trying to make sure that we’re not just focused on advertising through our ad server, but really thinking more holistically about what advertising could be on Roblox and making sure that we’re putting the right policies in place to protect our users,” Donato said.
Roblox has said in the past that around half of its 58.5-million-strong user base is under the age of 13, which has presented special challenges for creating ad experiences that are gated by age. Advocacy groups have criticized the platform in the past for allowing what they call “stealth marketing” to kids with Walmart’s branded experiences on the platform.
The company has also touted its policy to never allow ads that take users outside the confines of its walled garden to third-party sites. Donato said Roblox is also still in the process of honing the best ways to determine ad measurement, best practices and viewability in such an emergent format of advertising.
“A lot of traditional advertising is people clicking off to a website … That’s not at all part of what we’re doing,” Donato said. “[The standards] gives us a chance to really set the stage for how we want ads to work on Roblox, especially given our younger audience.”
While Roblox remains a leading platform in the virtual world space, its fortunes have faced ups and downs in the past year or so as interest in the metaverse has flagged. User base growth in the company lagged somewhat last year but a report from the company in January seemed to show signs of those numbers ticking upward again, sending Roblox’s stock rising.