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the real-world insights he’s gained through his casual entree into an arena of virtual commerce. Yuan doesn’t need to take a college-level marketing class to make wry observations about some shoppers in his game store.
“They’re spending their money on not very useful things—aesthetic things,” Yuan says. “You can make a lot of money for that.”
He has also mulled over the ethics of the way he made his money—through a warlike game where combatants use sniper rifles, shotguns, and machine guns.
“You’re shooting at someone and that’s not necessarily a good mindset to put into kids when they don’t necessarily know how to separate reality and a game,” Yuan says. In his game, however, the blood of the wounded is “cartoonized” to look like red cylinder blocks, so it doesn’t look real, he says. He also thinks kids should be educated not to translate violent game actions into the real world.
Yuan has already had the experience of working with a sort of startup co-founder. He says he paid half his Developer Exchange earnings to a friend in Oregon who helped him make Call of Robloxia 5 a better game. (Heads up, Mark Zuckerberg.)
Eventually, Yuan did take a programming class offered by Coursera through his high school. “So it was like reverse,” he says. “I knew all the concepts of programming.”
Silvestrini says some kids have used their ROBLOX track records to get into schools like MIT.
ROBLOX takes a cut of the game shop earnings. It doesn’t disclose the percentage, but the new developer economy is the fastest growing revenue source for the company, which took in more than $30 million in advertising fees and other revenue in 2014, Silvestrini says. With 150 employees, ROBLOX is now pushing to amp up of the quality of its graphics and improve the user experience for players on mobile devices.
Meanwhile, Yuan will use his leftover ROBLOX money to pay part of his expenses at UCLA. After college, he hopes to score an engineering job at a company like Tesla, “because the cars are so cool.”
But he also plans to keep making money through his World War-like game on ROBLOX. He’s already thinking about new objects he can program to function on the battlefield.