As a Roblox developer, I completely rely on Roblox’s discovery systems in order to make a living and fill servers with players. Game sorts, sponsored advertisements, banner & skyscraper ads, and social discovery features all have to work in tandem to ensure games are being surfaced to players, especially new games.
Unfortunately, discovery has been getting significantly worse as of late 2021. From critical sorts such as “Friends Playing” being removed, to front page sorts having limited slots, and many other problems, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible to launch a new game on the platform without external off-platform exposure. This post serves to highlight the problems with discovery on the platform, and how it could be improved.
One of the major issues over the past few months has been the constant A/B testing that goes on with the game sorts. There have been many changes to the home and discover pages that directly affect how games are surfaced to players. Most of these changes actively hurt a game’s ability to be surfaced to players, and result in newer games not being able to be launched.
- “Continue playing” sort being removed and re-added repeatedly over the course of a few months, which makes it impossible to re-visit games you recently played!
- “Friends playing” sort being removed and re-added repeatedly, resulting in less exposure to games I would likely play, since I share similar interests with my friends!
- “Favorites” being moved to the bottom of the home page sorts, which makes it very hard to re-visit favorite games
There was a feedback thread that was made for the above points. What was the response to this? Were any changes made? Nope. Absolutely 0 communication, and nothing was changed even though a fair amount of developers asked for the changes to be reverted and stopped. I had to physically walk up to a product manager at RDC, explaining why the changes are impacting me in order to get some changes reverted. Where’s the communication here? Why are we being ignored / kept in the dark about something that directly impacts us, and can potentially hurt our livelihood? Where’s the “RESPECT THE COMMUNITY” core pillar Roblox stands on?
… and there’s more:
- “Favorites” being limited to only 25 slots, forcing me to manually type out a web URL to see more of my favorites. If I favorite a game, it means I want to play it again in the future. Not have it buried so I forget about it.
- Catered / genre sorts only having 10 slots, making it impossible to see games that I would otherwise play. Again, see the above point.
- Game genre sorts not appearing, then re-appearing at seemingly random, making it very hard to play games of a specific genre when I want to
- Game genre sorts not matching what a player wants to play. At seemingly random I’ll be recommended with a genre that I want nothing to do with, and none of the genres I want to play show up at all!
And yet, we still lack the ability to find & tag games of specific genres. As a player, if I want to play a scifi game, I can’t! I have to randomly refresh web pages until I see a game that fits my interests! As a developer, if I want to target an audience that likes platformers, I can’t! I have to pray the algorithm’s RNG shows a “platformer” sort to players, who, half the time, won’t even like platformers!
Steam has genres. Epic games has genres. Itch.io has genres. Google play store has genres. Literally any platform, ever, period, has genres. So, why can’t we? It would help games targeting a specific audience get more discovery, and it could even help improve the CTR of targeted sponsored advertisements! Instead of having your sponsored game be buried on the front page, it could have more exposure under a sort for “scifi” or any other genre!
The discover page is one of the main ways to discover new games as a player. It can make or break the success of a game. So the algorithms on it should be balanced and fair, right? Unfortunately, as it stands at the time of writing this post, they are not. Various A/B tests conducted on the “discover” page have made it nearly impossible for new games to get a foothold.
Sponsored games do not appear in any sorts. This drastically impacts the viability of running sponsored ads, and hurts non-top experiences / smaller developers.
“Top Earning” was renamed to “Suggested” and moved to the top, pushing “Sponsored” further down, forcing you to scroll down a bit to see sponsored games (https://twitter.com/WhoseTrade/status/1499529450257592323)
Various sorts have a limited amount of games on said sort. Game doesn’t show up within the first few rows? Oh well!
Games that fall under a specific keyword are not shown most of the time. Search “tower” on the discover page. “Tower of hell”, despite having > 25k CCU, does not show up at all! Games with much less CCU, worse ratings, etc are shown ABOVE IT. Searching is fundamentally broken because of this issue.
An example of the above happening
Games that are exploding in popularity do not appear on the front page. At all. @TheAmazeman recently launched a game, “Tsunami Game”, and it quickly gained a lot of players. It never appeared on the “up and coming” sort, to the point where it even seems like the sort is manually hand-picked by Roblox staff : https://twitter.com/TheAmazemanRBLX/status/1494786337001463808. This is extremely disrespectful to developers, and outright does not work.
These complaints have been made by many other players and developers alike:
With all of the negative changes being made to the algorithm & sorts, sponsored advertisements have become paperweight. @Spathi and I dumped R$ 40,000 into a sponsored ad. We received almost no player traffic from it due to the changes. Of the 144,000,000 impressions, only ~1,000 players clicked. The fact that sponsors aren’t even visible without scrolling down a bit can certainly be a major cause of that. Other developers, such as @TheAmazeman suffered a similar problem : https://twitter.com/TheAmazemanRBLX/status/1488339680282112004.
In 2021, Roblox had a huge growth in its daily active users, and the trend is continually going upwards:
With the massive growth in DAUs, you would think games would be getting discovered easier. Unfortunately, due to the fundamentally broken nature of discovery, sponsored ads, and searches, it’s actually become harder to successfully launch a game, despite the huge growth in DAUs.
Overall, it is extremely hard as a developer to launch a game on the platform in its current state, due to the fundamentally broken changes being made to search & discovery. Roblox’s vision is to build the metaverse. How is there going to be a metaverse if players & developers can’t find anything?