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In a boost for the ‘metaverse,’ Roblox stock pops 25% after strong Q4 earnings • TechCrunch

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It looks like the metaverse is doing okay. No, not the one Meta is trying to make happen in VR — the gaming platform Roblox is where the kids are still spending their money, apparently. After reporting its fourth-quarter results on Wednesday, Roblox shares popped 25%, as investors reacted to the company’s better-than-expected earnings.

Made popular through games like MeepCity, Jailbreak, Adopt Me!, Royale High, Murder Mystery, and others, Roblox appeals to a younger demographic who go online not only to play games, but to chat and socialize with other players.

The platform’s growth, alongside other games like Fortnite where players also attend concerts and hang out with friends, concerned Facebook so much that it rebranded itself Meta and began spending billions on its metaverse project, afraid of missing the next trend in online socializing.

But for the time being, Roblox is still where the action is for today’s young gamers or “metaverse” participants if you want to call them that. (Technically, the metaverse doesn’t exist yet. It’s only a buzzword.)

The gaming platform company today reported it had 58.8 million average daily active users (DAUs), up 19% year-over-year, as of the fourth quarter. For the full year 2022, average DAUs were 56 million, up 23% year-over-year. Plus, the company provided more recent metrics, noting that January’s average DAUs had climbed to 65 million, or up 19% year-over-year.

Wall Street investors were particularly happy with Roblox’s bookings figures, however, which represent the in-game purchases made using the company’s own virtual currency Robux. In the fourth quarter, bookings grew 17% year-over-year to reach $899.4 million (or up 21% on a constant currency basis), when investors had been anticipating $884.71 million, per a consensus estimate. For the full year, bookings were up 5% to $2.9 billion (or up 9% on a constant currency basis).

In today’s earnings release, the company also estimated its January bookings were in the range of $267 million to $271 million, up 19% year-over-year.

“Bookings accelerated meaningfully in December and January, with year-over-year growth exceeding 20% in both months. Growth was strong across all geographies and age groups with particular strength among users above 17 years old,” said Roblox CFO Michael Guthrie, in the earnings press release — an indication that Roblox is growing its user base with teens and young adults, not just kids. That’s good news for the company, if so, as the demographic would have more money to drop on Robux.

At its developer conference last fall, Roblox had noted that half of its user base was 13 or older, suggesting it was successfully retaining at least some of the users that many had expected would age out of the Roblox experience.

In addition, Roblox reported today its players were engaged with the games on the platform for longer periods, both in the fourth quarter and in 2022 overall. Engaged hours grew 18% year-over-year in Q4 to 12.8 billion, and were up 19% year-over-year to 49.3 billion last year.

Though investors are more concerned with bookings, Roblox revenue was also up 2% year-over-year to $579.0 million in Q4, and up 16% year-over-year to $2.2 billion in 2022.

Also helping boost the stock was the fact that Roblox reported a smaller loss of 48 cents per share, compared with the 52 cents per share loss investors anticipated.

There’s been some anticipation around where Roblox would land in the post-Covid era.

The company saw incredible growth during the Covid-19 pandemic when schools were closed and kids were locked down at home, but its earnings took a hit last year as the trends from the pandemic normalized. A year ago, in its first full-year report after going public, Roblox CEO David Baszucki admitted to investors that while the company’s absolute numbers were still growing, its growth rates had declined because it was being forced to compare its numbers to double or even triple growth seen during the pandemic.

The company has also weathered a few storms, including those related to moderation issues, inappropriate content, and concerns over the exploitation of young developers who build games for its platform. The latter plays into the larger issues bubbling up in tech around app and game marketplaces, and what sort of revenue share — if any — should be applied. Apple and Google’s app stores are in the center of this spotlight for the time being, but ultimately regulations could impact any platform where game makers have to pay commissions.

Though not a factor in this earnings period, Roblox hosted a free virtual Super Bowl concert featuring Saweetie and announced the NFL had created a new experience on its platform that allowed football fans to draft their own NFL team and build a stadium. Recently, reports said Roblox may compete more directly with Meta’s Horizon Worlds by launching on Meta’s own Quest platform.

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