But after the pandemic hit, Ms. Shoemaker saw a surge of interest in her two Roblox games, Mermaid Life, a fashion-focused role-playing game, and My Droplets, a pet simulation game. Players have paid for extra content in those games, and for the hats she made for users’ avatars that she sells across the site.
Ms. Shoemaker said she has now made about $500,000 through Roblox, most of that since March. Before the pandemic, she could afford to pay just one or two people to help her. Now her game studio, Fullflower Studio, employs 14 contractors and she is plotting new games.
“It feels incredible,” Ms. Shoemaker said. “People used to tell my mom, ‘Stop letting her play this video game; it’s not going to get her anywhere.’ And it’s getting me somewhere.”
Roblox said it has more than 2 million developers, 345,000 of whom make money and who split their profits 50-50 with the company. Dozens of the top developers make millions of dollars, the company said, and top games in the past have generated an average of $2 million to $3 million a year.
Revenue from Roblox’s mobile app, which most players use, totaled $493 million in the first half of the year, up from $228 million in the same period a year ago, according to SensorTower, an analytics firm. Roblox declined to disclose its financials, except to say it was cash-flow positive.
Roblox, which is based in San Mateo, Calif., was founded in 2006 by Erik Cassel and David Baszucki, who were engineers and entrepreneurs. Mr. Baszucki is the chief executive; Mr. Cassel died of cancer in 2013. The start-up has raised $335 million from investors including Meritech Capital Partners and the Chinese internet giant Tencent. In February, when it raised fresh financing from investors including Andreessen Horowitz, it was valued at $4 billion.