Apple said Roblox developers dont make games, and now Roblox agrees

Massively popular game creation tool Roblox is now a massively popular experience creation tool Roblox, possibly in response to the ongoing Epic v. Apple trial.

Roblox allows a variety of user-created projects on its platform, and until earlier this week, these were all grouped under a tab called Games on Robloxs website. Roblox creators could create and manage games through an editor, and individual games had a user limit called max players.

Thats all changed now. The Games tab now reads Discover on the web, although it still points to an address of Developers can create and manage experiences, and experiences have max people allowed. The word game has been replaced by experience across nearly the entire Roblox website, and the iOS and Android apps now have a Discover tab instead of a Games tab although both apps are currently classed as games in their respective stores. Roblox acknowledged a message from The Verge, but it didnt offer an explanation for the latest change by press time.

Roblox has used the term experience in place of game before, and CEO David Baszucki called Roblox a metaverse rather than a gaming platform last year. But this change happened days after a legal fight over whether Roblox experiences are games and by extension, whether Roblox itself should be allowed on the iOS App Store.

The Epic v. Apple antitrust trial has produced a weeks-long, frequently hilarious debate over the definition of a video game. Epic wants to prove that its shooter Fortnite is a metaverse rather than a game, pushing the trials scope to cover Apples entire App Store instead of just games. Apple wants to prove that Epic is an almost purely game-related company and that the App Store maintains consistent, user-friendly policies distinguishing apps from games. It also wants to defend a ban on stores within a store on iOS.

Roblox blurs the line between a large social game and a game engine or sales platform. Users dont enter a single virtual world like Second Life; they launch individual experiences created by users. Developers can sell items within those experiences, and there are full-fledged game studios that build with Roblox instead of, say, the Unity or Unreal engines. But all of this activity happens within a single Roblox app, instead of as a series of separately packaged games.

Apple has apparently worried about this fuzziness. In a 2017 email, Apple marketing head Trystan Kosmynka said he was surprised that Roblox (which he referred to as Roboblox) had been approved for the App Store. The email chain indicates that App Store reviewers raised concerns in 2014, but Roblox was approved without ever resolving the issues. Epic brought the decision up again in court, hoping to cast doubt on Apples App Store review process.

Instead, Kosmynka justified the choice by saying that neither Roblox nor its user-built projects should be defined as games. If you think of a game or app, games are incredibly dynamic, games have a beginning, an end, theres challenges in place, he testified. I look at the experiences that are in Roblox similar to the experiences that are in Minecraft. These are maps. These are worlds. And they have boundaries in terms of what theyre capable of. Kosmynka said Apple considered Roblox itself an app (rather than a game) because the company used that label in the App Store, although this doesnt appear to be accurate.

Besides the crucial factors of beginning, end, and challenges, Kosmynka seemingly argued that these experiences werent games because Roblox contained their code in a safe, Apple-vetted Roblox sandbox making them less objectionable than standalone installable games. But Apple doesnt use that same logic for cloud gaming services, which stream video of games from remote servers. In fact, it requires these services to list each game as a separate app. That would probably be a nightmare for Roblox, where experiences range from full-fledged professional projects to tiny personal spaces.

Some Roblox users have left irritated messages on Twitter, Reddit, and other platforms. But Roblox has promoted itself as a general-purpose metaverse in the past. Its got virtually nothing to gain by deliberately stepping into Apples minefield of iOS gaming rules, particularly after such an extended courtroom debate about its status. On iOS, it turns out, the only winning move is to not play or at least not tell anyone youre playing.

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