Parents are on a never-ending quest to entertain their kids, so what if there was a place where kids could access more than 20 million games for free? Well, that place exists, and it’s called Roblox.
Roblox is a digital platform where millions of players gather together every day to create and share experiences in immersive, 3D worlds. All of the online games in the platform are built by members of the Roblox community for members of the Roblox community. Roblox is free to download and play on all modern smartphones, tablets, computers, Xbox One, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive. Players can find endless ways to play for hours of entertainment: They can build the ultimate theme park, compete as a race car driver, star in a fashion show, become a superhero, or just hang out with friends.
Entering its 16th year, the platform is hardly new, but more people are jumping into the metaverse than ever before. As in-person events and gatherings became scarce during the COVID-19 pandemic, Roblox presented a place for kids to gather virtually, personalize digital avatars, explore new worlds, play games, and even create their own games. Toy and entertainment companies caught on to the digital hangout and are diving into the platform to promote their brands through in-game activations and special events.
After WowWee launched My Squishy Little Dumplings last year, it partnered with game developer Gamefam to promote the collectibles in the Twilight Daycare game, with digital versions of the toy and a Dumplings costume that players could virtually wear. In just one week, 33 million Roblox users played the game, 21 million users played with the digital Dumplings, and 2.2 million users dressed up as Dumplings — that’s a lot of exposure for the My Squishy Little Dumplings brand.
“Roblox is the new way to hang out and spend time with your friends, especially during the pandemic when things are not so interpersonal anymore,” says Sydney Wiseman, vice president of brand development and creative strategy at WowWee. “Now, given that shift, it has brought us into this new social world that didn’t really exist before. In the past two years, there’s been a big shift in who was playing Roblox and we thought there was a tremendous opportunity there.”
Wiseman says that the Roblox promotion was one of the most effective marketing activations that WowWee has done for My Squishy Little Dumplings. “You have to make sure to create an activation that doesn’t feel like an advertisement to Roblox players so that it adds value without coming at the expense of the players’ in-game experience,” she says. “Our choice of doing Dumplings in Twilight Daycare was actually quite strategic and was not offensive because the whole game is centered around playing with toys. It was so seamless that kids actually thought it was just a toy in the game. Some kids were surprised to find out it was an actual toy you could buy in the real world.”
Spin Master launched its first major activation with Roblox last March with the Bakugan Rage Runner game, which has received more than 75 million plays. In September, the Bakugan franchise dove further into the metaverse with the first-ever premiere of a full-length episode of a series to launch on the platform. An episode of Bakugan: Geogan Rising premiered within the Bakugan hub on Roblox a week before the episode appeared on Netflix, and the Roblox episode has more than 2.7 million views to date.
Spin Master’s Purse Pets and Mermaid High brands also received the Roblox treatment. Purse Pets were the first animated accessories available in Uplift Games’ Adopt Me!, the No. 1 game on Roblox. In just one week, more than 2 million virtual Purse Pets were sold through in-game currency. In November, Spin Master’s Mermaid High doll line made a splash in Fullflower Studio’s Mermaid Life role-play game with a new quest released each week based on the Mermaid High characters. When players completed the quests, they gained exclusive virtual items, and they were also able to purchase the Mermaid High dolls’ outfits and accessories within the game. The event culminated with a virtual dance party featuring the Mermaid High theme song from the animated YouTube series.
“The Roblox metaverse provides the opportunity to build brand awareness for evergreen and new brands by introducing them to an established audience in the virtual world,” says Spin Master Executive Vice President of Marketing Laura Henderson. “With Adopt Me!, the target demographic’s interest and built-in affinity for animated pets aligned with our Purse Pets brands. Unicorns are the most requested item in the game, creating the perfect opportunity to introduce the Purse Pets Glamicorn to a new audience.”
The Ryan’s World brand also made a Roblox appearance for the Ryan’s World FanFest afterparty. During pocket.watch and Sunlight Entertainment’s FanFest event in November, fans joined Ryan Kaji for a virtual show in which he traveled to a “multiverse” via portals that brought him into different worlds and dimensions. At the end of the event, the entire Kaji family walked through a Roblox door and were transported into the Ryan’s World Roblox server, where Ryan’s twin sisters Emma and Kate debuted their new Roblox avatars. There was also a scavenger hunt mini game for attendees at the afterparty.
In addition to activations, some toy brands are putting themselves in the spotlight with Roblox games of their own. As kids spend hours hanging out in the Roblox metaverse each day, manufacturers have a major opportunity to reach their target audiences. MGA Entertainment’s The L.O.L. Surprise! Official Party features interactive versions of L.O.L. Surprise! doll characters, dance-offs, challenges, and unlockable rewards. Players can customize L.O.L. Surprise! characters with mix-and-match outfits and accessories, just like they can with the physical dolls. In December, Jazwares Game Studio developed a Squishmallows game featuring a social world in which fans can gather and collect virtual Squishmallows, compete in mini games, and customize Squishmallows-themed homes.
HEXBUG recently teamed up with Wind Sun Sky to craft new content in support of the second season of Junkbots toys. HEXBUG took a cross-platform approach to weave storytelling through the Junkbots toy line, an eight-part animated series on YouTube, and a multichapter Roblox story game. Kids can use custom codes embedded into the Junkbots Port Power Plant Playset packaging to unlock digital content within Roblox.
“We wanted to create a platform that moved beyond the plastic toy,” says HEXBUG Vice President of Creative and Brand Management Brandon Adams. “When Junkbots jumps over into the Roblox world, it needs to stay true to the in-hand toy experience.”
The game features Junkbots locations that fans may recognize from the physical playsets. “These locations are also reflected in our YouTube series for continuity and a better understanding of the characters’ personalities that play out in our multiverse. There are multiple touchpoints to help you gain experience and a love for the world of Junkbots,” Adams says.
Some manufacturers are even bringing the metaverse trend full circle with toy lines based on Roblox games. WowWee is continuing its partnership with Gamefam to create a doll line based on Twilight Daycare. The line will include 25 collectible baby dolls — including common, rare, and super rare — that come with redeemable codes that kids can scan into the game to unlock exclusive powers, costumes, toys, and dolls.
From Banana Baby to Gamer Baby, the themes of the dolls are all based on data of what players are actually asking for in the game. “Kids are always talking in Roblox — that’s the whole point — so we’re able to comb through keywords of what kids are looking for,” Wiseman says. WowWee’s Twilight Daycare line will launch this spring.
Hasbro also joined forces with Roblox for a Monopoly: Roblox 2022 Edition board game featuring a code to redeem an exclusive virtual item, as well as NERF blasters representing the following Roblox games: Adopt Me!, Arsenal, Jailbreak, Mad City, Murder Mystery 2, and Phantom Forces. Each of the NERF blasters also includes a code that Roblox players can redeem for a virtual blaster to equip on their avatar — and use in the game that inspired it.
Roblox is transforming how people come together to connect, create, and express themselves through shared experiences, ushering in a new era of play and marketing. With unlimited possibilities for toys to influence the games and the games to influence toys, toy manufacturers should take the leap into the metaverse because the future is now.
This article was originally published in the February 2022 edition of the Toy Book. Click here to read the full issue!