Developer Stars program should be updated & brought back, lack of program is problematic & disrespectful to the community

As a Roblox developer, I often rely on the various resources Roblox provides its creators in order to succeed - both professionally and personally. From Roblox’s servers, to their provided analytics, to their educational talks - all serve to help developers grow, and eventually transition from having small teams to massive profitable companies.

Adding onto this, Roblox has also often spoken about its core values, most notably:

  • “Take the long view”

and

  • “Respect the community”

These core values exist to foster a wonderful community, platform & ultimately lead to the success of both developers and Roblox as a corporation, while building the metaverse.

However, recently Roblox has been completely abandoning its core values, and actively removing resources for developers. As a major example of this - in a recent announcement, Roblox has stated that the developer stars program is being shut down, with no replacement, to my absolute dismay - all after a year of complete dead silence & being given outdated information from the program representatives!
This is extremely problematic for myself and many others as developers, as well as for the Roblox community as a whole.

This feedback thread serves to:

  • Highlight the lack of communication regarding this shutdown
  • Highlight the problems with shutting down the stars program
  • Highlight the negative impact this has on the community as a whole
  • Highlight how the shutdown of this program goes against Roblox’s core values of “Take the long view” and “Respect the community”
  • Provide arguments for its renewal in a revamped & better form
  • Provide personal testimony from participants of the program

Lack of communication regarding shutdown

It goes without saying, communication is critically important, especially when money & brands are involved (be it companies or individuals). Many games & developers have had toys and other merchandise created from their game characters & avatars, and many youtube channels have been created revolving around showcasing the release of new toys. As such, any impactful changes regarding the program and any available merch can be very consequential if there is no notice given in advance. So surely Roblox should actively communicate with all parties involved when changes are occuring, right?
Unfortunately, the stars program did the exact opposite of this. It would often not communicate with its participants, and was often late on payments. Any communication that was given, was often short and vague.

As an example of this - a year ago, I sent the stars program an email inquiring about when the next wave of submissions would open, since I had an awesome pitch that I put a lot of time, money and effort into that I wished to submit. I was told, “We are still pending our reach out, we will inform you when we are ready”. Does this read as “We haven’t reached out because we are in the process of shutting down the program”? No! Typical PR responses like this led myself and others to believe the program was simply experiencing a hiccup.
People who have emailed the program regarding their royalty payments, have gotten no response at all, and have received no revenue. I personally know a handful of developers who had no idea what was going on with their royalties, and only found out through the program shutdown announcement, over a year later.

This is extremely disrespectful to those involved, and directly goes against the “RESPECT THE COMMUNITY” pillar that Roblox established many years ago.

Overall, the complete lack of communication regarding the impending shutdown of this program is utterly unacceptable, and only adds to the pile of communication issues Roblox has been having with its developer community.

Problems with shutting down the stars program

As with many programs on Roblox, the stars program served as a massive opportunity for smaller developers. It created an olive branch and opened doors to merchandise & licensing opportunities that would otherwise be nearly impossible to achieve for smaller developers on the platform. Creating toys/merch & distributing them globally is simply not possible for non multi-million dollar companies. Licensing partners often won’t be interested in working with small studios! The stars program gave games & developers with a few thousand CCU & a small team of 1-3 people an opportunity to have toys & amazon merchandise created from their game, that their fans could purchase & enjoy! This was exposure & revenue that would massively help smaller studios gain upward momentum alongside the traction of their experiences. Surely, this would provide a good reason to keep the program going, right?

This was the reason we were given by Roblox regarding the shutdown of the program:

This is simply not true! This only benefits large developers, who, in quite a few cases, have already benefitted from the stars program. How is this “giving power to creators”? It’s only benefitting the top 10%, while actively harming the bottom 90%. It closes more doors than opens, and it’s just one of many moves Roblox has made as of late (see : roblox killing smaller developers through discovery) that does more harm than good for the developer community as a whole. The entire purpose of the stars program, and many other programs, is to help smaller studios & developers become big studios / developers in situations where it would otherwise not be possible. Smaller developers being helped into becoming larger developers, longer term, is greatly beneficial to the platform as a whole (“TAKE THE LONG VIEW”). A small studio or developer getting a merch opportunity from Roblox can mean the difference between the next big success on the platform, and failing.

Furthermore : How are developers supposed to make toys from the R6 / R15 characters now?

This is problematic for both game characters and developer toys. In Roblox’s updated ToS, usage of R6 / R15 characters is strictly forbidden. A vast majority of games on the platform use R15 characters, quite a few which use catalog assets in some form.

The only way to get merchandise with these factors was through stars. So now, yet again, both big & small developers are completely blocked. Roblox is completely contradicting itself here!

Roblox it seems, is effectively shutting down an incredibly useful & powerful program because “It had some issues”. Is this really taking the long view? Is this really how we build the metaverse? By simply not fixing the root issues, and instead making decisions with 0 communication that harm everyone involved?

Negative impact the shutdown has on the community as a whole

The stars program was a huge aspect of Roblox for the community. It increased the engagement & interaction between Roblox developers and the players that enjoy their games. It gave developers one of many reasons to be passionate about developing on Roblox. It acknowledged successes on the platform. Ask any player or developer about their thoughts on Roblox game/dev toys, books, etc. The most common response you will get will be “I like them!” and “I want to create one some day!”. Entire youtube channels were created around this aspect.
This was a part of Roblox’s community that will no longer exist because of the program being sunset drastically.

Furthermore, this program’s sunset, yet again, drives developers further away from the community & platform. Developers have now lost their stars program, and have functionally lost the developer awards program (it’s effectively stalled). How does this align with “RESPECT THE COMMUNITY”?

Overall, this has a very negative impact on the community. Developers, games & players can no longer create & enjoy merch & Roblox toys.

On a more personal note & some annecdotes:
I started my journey as a Roblox developer many years ago. When I was 14 or 15, I looked up to a lot of the big developers in the community. I saw developers having toys & books made out of their avatars & games. I remember thinking “Wow, maybe some day I’ll be big enough & skilled enough to make that happen!”. So, despite going through nearly impossible circumstances (nearly homeless multiple times, insane family situations, etc) that were massive obstacles to me, I worked extremely hard to get somewhere as a developer, with the hope of starting my own company, and in extension, getting into the stars program to be given the time of day like many others were given - with the hope of getting dev merch of my dragon avatar, which has been a personal symbol of mine for a long time.
During that time, I’ve contributed greatly to the platform. I’ve helped bring over 700 million visits to it, I was a top contributor here on the forums, and much more.
When I was finally accepted into the program, I put a lot of time, money and effort into an amazing pitch, only to be told “Sorry, you should have been bigger sooner” and “We are not interested in reading your pitch” by Roblox staff because the program was shutting down, while they were previously reading pitches much less elaborate. As someone who had come so far and done so much for this platform over 10 years, I felt extremely disrespected and hurt by Roblox (where’s “RESPECT THE COMMUNITY” here?).

Many developers have been motivated in the past by programs like the stars program to develop on the platform. Things like dev awards, community shoutouts, developer toys & more serve to inspire confidence in the community where there would otherwise be no confidence.

To say “I am disappointed and angry” is a massive understatement.

Stars was problematic - problems can be fixed!

As outlined above, the stars program was an opportunity for many. Yes, it was problematic. Yes, it had communication issues. Yes, it wasn’t scaling well. All of these are problems that can be fixed. Simply getting rid of the program is not a solution that would work out for all in the long-term (“TAKE THE LONG VIEW”).

One of Roblox’s reasons for shutting down the program was “we’re limiting creativity”. That’s because the contracts for stars were limiting to begin with, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy! Had the contracts been revamped & the terms made less constricting for both Roblox & the involved developer(s), licensing opportunities could have flourished, and gotten more creative!

The program wasn’t super beneficial to larger companies - but it was beneficial for small / mid level developers! Perhaps the program should be changed such that certain requirements must be met for entry with game merch (game must be of a certain size, e.g. games with 500k CCU wouldn’t qualify as they’re more than capable of getting their own brand deals). Dev merch would not have these same restrictions. This allows the program to continue, while allowing it to benefit the larger community. Even if that idea isn’t great, there is something we can do to facelift the program.

Regarding the community aspect of the program - developers being spotlighted by the program was a huge community aspect that shouldn’t have been overlooked. It’s one of the things that inspired me to aim for success on the platform, among other things. Developers work hard to achieve success, that success being spotlighted was one of the things that strengthened the relationship between Roblox, it’s developers, and their players. It seems as of late that Roblox is actively disengaging with its developers, which will hurt it in the long run.

Overall, stars was problematic, but problems can be fixed. Stars should be returned with a facelift, so that it can better serve the community, and help all in the long-run.

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The “Stars Program” (licensing for physical merchandise), not to be confused with the “Stars Program” (digital marketing through external influencers), was something I was glad to have. I benefited from it being featured in 2 books and I did get commissions even though they were very small. The Star Program’s removal at my scale means one thing: my chances of ever having a physical version of my intellectual property are dead.

If the goal is to move the responsibilities of merch from Roblox to the community as Roblox has talked about events for years (foreshadowing for RDC with the new style and lack of announcements for this year?), it makes sense for Roblox. For developers, this only makes sense at a certain scale. Self-Driving Simulator has 56 million total plays. That means nothing to anyone who produces custom merch at scale. I couldn’t even get an email response from a toy company about a licensing request. If I can’t get an email response for a question, how am I supposed to do anything physical? Quit my full-time job, devote myself to a platform that has made me feel inferior, and hope I get lucky and don’t go into bankruptcy? I have been on the platform since 2012 - 10 years. If nothing has worked so far and Self-Driving Simulator is my biggest hit, Roblox is telling me my odds of being a Roblox toy are dead.

From my point of view, I have been defeated too many times trying to make a sustainable game, been rejected 9 times for jobs and other opportunities at the company with the same old “no reason why, try again later”, and maintain open-source projects that are all unsustainable. The removal of the program adds to a clear point: if you aren’t at the scale of billions of plays, you aren’t relevant to Roblox. Why should I bother trying? Why should I continue my projects - such as Nexus VR Character Model, which holds the majority of VR games together on Roblox - if Roblox’s decisions only appeal to those who are at the very top?

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My post on the announcement talking about this really sums up my thoughts and feelings on this

As for communication, it was hit or miss. I still haven’t recieved any revenue and one of my toy samples was over 4 months late with me not being notified that it had even hit shelves. At the same time, the communication I did have when I asked for it was pretty good.

However the solution to this is NOT deleting the entire program.

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Another thing they need to improve on is communication regarding toys. I know a handful of people who

  1. Didn’t even know toys were being made off their IP until they were ON SHELVES, a full year after development.
  2. Had toy designs altered without consulting, and therefore had inaccurate products on shelves defining their IP

Suffered from both of these and we were very upset. They would not make changes for later batches of production.

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Not sure why they would shut stars down completely. Roblox could have continued the program but without the exclusivity clauses so devs could work with any toy manufacture. That way Roblox wouldn’t have to worry games outgrowing the stars program.

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The Stars program certainly did have problems since it was a bit concerning why they still had huge IPs under it even though it felt like those IP’s should’ve “graduated” from the stars program allowing smaller/newer developers to take their place and for them to make their own merch.

I also wondered why since we’re the “merch” program, we didn’t get UGC access, as the only way to get a specialized item beforehand was to get a toy and now UGC exists we have to start from square one.

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I wholeheartedly agree with your post, I am not a fan of this whole “blend into the background approach” Roblox is taking, next they will be having us pay for own servers! But really, developer engagement was the thing that always stood out to me, along with the developer community. Besides DevEx, those two things really motivated me to become a better developer. Developer engagement is slowly disappearing from the Roblox platform, it’s too bad because that was one thing I really respected them for, along with many others. I guess this happens with any company that tries to upscale, they start to forget their roots, and Roblox is clearly no different.

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This is a very well thought out, written and produced argument and I firmly agree with every single statement that has been made in this post.

There’s a difference the between the changing of direction in policy and an active dismissal of the development community that the program was there to support.

I don’t know very much about how the program operates, but I do know a few people in it, and from what I’ve seen and heard as evidenced by your article this is the first major thing about it.

How can a platform claim to support the work of the developers and then prevent them from being able to move forward with things like licencing deals through the Merch Stars Program? Merely driving developers away from the platform preventing developers from really achieving any benefits for the work that they do.

However, that doesn’t make me oblivious to the reasons as to why they may want to do it, Roblox has been shifting more towards an infrastructure company providing the tools and systems for developers and leaving the rest up to them. However, I don’t believe the entire way to do that at this phase is to outright remove a program supporting developers on the platform, no one except branded experiences where you are working with established companies really either have the contacts or the industry pull to get licencing agreements on the table with manufacturers as it’s a very long design process and I’m sure anyone who’s been through the Merch Stars Program would agree that it takes a while to scale a custom product.

The solution to this problem should lie in reform, not sit in removal.

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All these troubles could had been made so much easier and less reactionary by just having the people affected have a say on and understand why this had to happen and be able to resolve the matter is a more proactive way, allowing developers to give their feedback proactively.

We’re not scary people, we care about the platform, and we just want what’s best. It’s important to create a positive relationship which minimises these sorts of problems.

Being part of the decision making process.

Thanks for the inspiration @Noble_Draconian

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Here’s another thing I thought of recently - How are developers supposed to provide their own toy codes?

One of the appealing aspects about Roblox toys, was their associated codes. Players could redeem codes for not only in-game perks, but also accessories they could wear on their avatar & bring into any game. This isn’t possible to do as a developer without the stars program… the logistics of creating, tracking & consuming codes is not something a small or medium sized company / individual can do.

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The Stars Program provided many great services to all developers.

  1. Catalog items and toy codes bundled with every toy. This is the most powerful way to push sales. Jailbreak offered exclusive in-game items if you had one of our toy items in your inventory.
  2. Shelf space for all creators, big and small, on the world’s hottest toy shelves.
  3. Official Amazon partnership that advertised every game involved. Buyers knew it was official. Amazon also handled all returns and shipping without any work from you the seller.
  4. Validation that your game can sell real toys on real shelves. I don’t know if I’d have the confidence today to sell toys on shelves ourselves if it were not for the stars program pushing us into it. Only in hindsight is it obvious how big toy sales can be for Roblox games.
  5. Connections with the biggest toy brands, Jazwares and Nerf specifically.

This is the end of an era. I’ll be sad to see it go even though this technically means we’re cutting out the middle man. It’s a huge service for smaller creators and I’m so thankful to have been a part of it.

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I agree with everything stated above, the recent changes to Licensing and sunsetting of Stars is a step backwards and goes against Roblox’s core company values.

As a smaller development team of just a few people we don’t have the resources or time to pursue large-scale international merchandising opportunities in the industry. The Roblox stars program was an easy way for us to increase our brand recognition in partnership with Roblox without needing to spend a lot of time or manpower on doing so.

Even if Stars didn’t make that much money (at least for us, people’s stories vary) the creation and distribution of toys was all that we needed to be happy honestly; it isn’t always about maximizing profits. It makes me sad to know that Roblox didn’t value that as much as I believe they should have.

Additionally, the reasoning provided by Roblox for these changes are uncompelling and seemingly misguided:

With that, we will begin winding down the program to give creators more freedom with their IP so that they can freely build their brand however they like.

I don’t feel like I have more freedom now, I feel like I have less. Not only am I losing the choice to partner with Roblox to create merchandise, but now there are a ton of frankly confusing and oddly specific brand restrictions which from my understanding will prevent a lot of games from making merchandise of their game’s avatars. Where exactly have I been given more freedom?

Why couldn’t Roblox have simply amended the Stars contracts to allow Developers to pursue other licensing partnerships in tandem with Stars? I’m sure there are some drawn out legal reasons why, but I’m confident the stellar legal team at Roblox could have figured it out. Ultimately from the get-go it was Roblox’s choice to make the Stars program restrictive, by removing it you are technically giving us more freedom with our IP but you’re also removing an amazing opportunity that you gave developers, ie LESS freedom.

In summary, I wholeheartedly disagree with Roblox’s decision to make brand guidelines significantly more restrictive and their decision to remove the Stars program. This hurts my ability to focus on the development of my game and my brand’s reach.

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As an alternate point of view, I also worked on Roblox for years and looked forward to one day being able to join the program and maybe get a toy or be in a book or something.

I did eventually get invited, and I was so excited! But, I was in the the stars program for almost 2 years and it did nothing for me except limit the amount of merchandise I was able to make myself. When I joined the program, I was hoping to get toys and books and crazy partnerships but despite having over 310 million visits as of today and getting between 5-15 million visits a month for the past 2 years nothing ever came my way from the program.

I actually asked to leave the program the day it shut down (weirdly well timed) - I’m assuming there were just so many people in the program that a select few got all these great benefits and everyone else just sat around waiting. I didn’t want to leave for like a year because I kept thinking they might do something with me and I’d miss it if I left haha, and for the same reason I didn’t try that hard to make my own merchandise either.

On the other hand though, I have great friends who made money from toys that have now lost a big chunk of revenue so I do feel sad for them in that regard :frowning: But to me it makes sense why it shutdown as the problem was only going to grow bigger.

Though I do agree the closure seemed kinda out of nowhere and I know a lot of devs were suddenly panicking after that update which didn’t seem great haha. And I’d love to make my own toy of my character now I’m out the program, but obviously that’s prohibited which I wish there was a way to workaround.

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I’m back to express a new loss I’ve learned about: We can no longer link to Amazon and Roblox will no longer link our games on their official Roblox Store page.

This is a major blow in trust for parents wanting to buy the right thing. Although sales were nothing extraordinary, it was great being able to provide links directly to our store and have our merch listed under Roblox’s page. Huge for merch discoverability! I hope to see some sort of replacement so we can better sell real items to our players.

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This thread is yet another example of Roblox’s blatant disregard for its core value of “Respect the community”. This thread has:

  • Over 200 likes
  • Numerous responses pointing out the issues with shutting down the stars program
  • A lot of feedback on how the program could have been improved & asking for its return
  • Been posted over a month ago

Where’s the response from Roblox? Where’s the dialogue between the developer community and the folks responsible for this decision? Yet again, a major issue for the community is left ignored or uncommunicated by Roblox. Very respectful!

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I’d just like to add to this, I reached out to a few toy companies over the past month and each of them told me my games were too small to have any toys made about them. With the Roblox stars program I could have a game with just 50 players get its own toy, now I need upwards of 10,000 players.

Another reason why the Stars Program should have never been shutdown.

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