How licensors are using Roblox and Fortnite to reach Gen Z and Alpha audiences

Despite Zuckerberg's unofficial cancellation of Meta's metaverse in April, metaverse platforms have continued to grow and attract new brands and licensors throughout 2023, mainly by offering user-generated content (UGC) tools to empower licensors and developers to create personalised experiences that connect with their target audiences.

Of course, there are just as many ways of defining the metaverse as there are metaverse platforms. Regardless of how you define it, most people are in agreement that gaming platforms such as Roblox and Fortnite are the most viable Metaverse platforms we have right now, with over 400 million monthly combined active users between them. 

While Roblox has always been a gaming platform where players use it to access more than 40 million games and experiences, Fortnite started life as a video game shooter. That said, it’s been slowly repositioning itself to a platform through its collaborations with popular IP such as Star Wars and Nike, as well as the addition of its Creator 2.0 Economy and Unreal Editor for Fortnite allowing developers to create and publish their own experiences on the platform. 

While both platforms vary significantly in terms of features and appearance, they both allow users to develop and take part in immersive experiences such as IP-based video games, social gatherings, educational events, and virtual concerts. Another reason they’re both massively popular with license holders is the demographic they reach. 

67% of Roblox users are 16 or under, and while Epic hasn’t released data on its demographic for the game, presumably because of its 13+ age rating, it skews toward a younger audience (just ask anyone with kids who play video games!). This makes both platforms a great choice for licensors who want to reach Gen Z and Alpha audiences. 

Some of the most popular licensed experiences on Roblox include Gamefam’s Sonic Speed Simulator which has over 830 million visits, and My Hello Kitty Cafe by Rock Panda Games with 340 million visits. Over in Fortnite, we’ve seen virtual concerts from the likes of Ariana Grande, Lil Nas X and most notably Travis Scott, while leaked court documents show its collaborations with Marvel, Star Wars and NFL are some of the top performing IP integrations by revenue. 

These are just a few examples of immersive experiences on Roblox and Fortnite, but there’s an opportunity here for licensors to build strong relationships with younger audiences by establishing a presence on these platforms through the creation of virtual worlds. But how do brands and licensors create these genuine and captivating experiences? Here are a few things to consider before entering the metaverse:

The most successful experiences on Roblox reflect the identity of the IP 

Gamefam’s Sonic Speed Simulator 

The most successful branded experiences on Roblox are those that authentically understand the original IP and provide an experience that fans actually want. For example, the popular Sonic Simulator game, created by GameFam, accurately recreates the world of Sonic the Hedgehog, allowing players to race through familiar locations, collect iconic items, and battle classic enemies just like they would do in the games. 

According to Romonitor Stats, Sonic Simulator has over 830 million visits and a 93% satisfaction rating. This highlights the importance of integrating IP into gaming experiences that reflect the value and core mechanics of the IP.

Similarly, GameFam’s Super NFL Tycoon world allows players to live out the fantasy of being an NFL team owner. From drafting a team and building a stadium to managing cash flow and customer acquisition, Super NFL Tycoon offers an experience that teaches players important financial and business skills. The world currently has over 14 million visits and a 91% satisfaction rating, and is another example of a branded experience working due to the true reflection of the NFL brand and IP. 

Interestingly, Gamefam is using Roblox to reach Gen Z and Gen Alpha audiences, not to sell products, but to start building awareness of financial and business concepts. They know that these audiences will be their consumers in 5-10 years, so they're getting ahead of the curve. Think of all the people who grew up discovering music through FIFA and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and went on to purchase albums or concert tickets. 

These two successful experiences demonstrate that the Metaverse is becoming a place for all different types of brands to thrive. By avoiding cash grabs and focusing on quality, we’re seeing the foundations of strong relationships being built between the brand and its target audiences. 

Ultimately, the advice is clear: Avoid creating experiences that are simply thinly veiled advertisements for the IP. Instead, focus on creating experiences that allow fans to interact with the IP in a meaningful way. Speaking of which… 

Successful activations consider their objectives well in advance of launch and build gameplay mechanics around them 

Bakugan Brawl Simulator 

The metaverse is a place where we see a diverse range of different sectors, markets, and brands blending together for activations. Some have been very successful. Others, not so much. That’s often because there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach when it comes to licensing, and that means we’re seeing crossovers from IPs that are not typically affiliated with a gaming audience creating vastly different experiences with mixed results. 

If you’re a brand or licensor and you’re thinking of ‘stepping into the metaverse’, you need to consider whether it’s something that’s worth doing for the IP. Staying true to the IP is important but it’s even more crucial to define the objectives of an activation beforehand. What are you trying to achieve through a metaverse action? Is there a genuine requirement to reach younger audiences (are your products/IP suitable for them?) Are you looking to build awareness amongst gamers? Do you understand gaming audiences? Or are you simply chasing trends because your competitors are pursuing metaverse activations? 

Whatever the activation, your objectives should seamlessly align with the gameplay mechanics of the metaverse experience and create an experience that resonates with the target audience – similar to what Gamefam has achieved with its Sonic The Hedgehog activation in Roblox.

It’s important to consider that not every IP is actually well-suited for Roblox. You might think it’s a good idea to shoehorn your brand into the metaverse but we’re seeing adverse effects when it’s done poorly. Although there are a variety of different brands that are finding great success by being on the platform, there is a danger of providing the players with a bad experience and subsequently, a negative opinion of your IP if your activation comes across as a forced marketing gimmick with no real benefit for players. 

If you’re looking for an example of what works well, we can look to the toy company Bakugan on how to successfully activate according to brand objectives.

Bakugan Brawl Simulator is a Roblox game built by Gamefam, allowing Bakugan to successfully achieve both of goals of increasing brand awareness and driving sales. The integration has seen over 1.4 billion brand engagements and attracted an astounding 3-4 million daily visitors. Bakugan also used the activation to premiere a new season of its show within the game, capturing the attention of its existing user base and driving them to the full show. 

Get the community involved and know your demographics 

Barbie Dreamhouse Tycoon 

The metaverse, whether it’s labeled as UGC gaming or community gaming, is a social hub where people, especially younger generations, actively engage, socialise, and build relationships. With millions of active users in games such as Fortnite and Roblox, the metaverse is becoming a real extension of the younger generation's social life. We’re even seeing Roblox being used as a tool for collective action amongst youths, where they are coming together to protest against politics and war. 

Roblox is surprisingly gender-neutral, with a 51% and 40% split of male/female users, but there are of course some games on the platform that are more popular with a specific demographic. Gamefam and Mattel’s Barbie Dreamhouse Tycoon Roblox game is proving very popular on the platform, with over 41 million lifetime visits.

But what’s key is knowing how to actively engage with these communities. Brands need to understand that the metaverse isn’t just a place to sell products and services. It's a place to build relationships with customers and create unique experiences that will keep them coming back for more, as proven by Barbie Dreamhouse Tycoon’s average session length of 14 minutes, which is way above average. 

So how can you keep players engaged? Hosting events and giveaways is a great way of doing this, which is what Samsung did with its virtual concert on Fortnite featuring BTS, or Gucci creating a series of mini-games with a fashion-themed twist in Roblox. By actively engaging with communities in the metaverse in unique and innovative ways, we’re seeing license holders create more loyal followings while also driving engagement. 

Work with developers who understand the space and more importantly, know what gaming audiences want. 

Player count differences between Epic-created experiences and user-created experiences 

Roblox is an incredibly competitive platform given the millions of experiences that users have to choose from. Despite its impressive user base, launching on the platform doesn’t guarantee your IP will reach millions of visits – you need to give players a reason to visit and most importantly, ensure you’re building an enjoyable gaming experience first and foremost. 

Similarly, Fortnite’s Creator 2.0 mode is still in its early stages, and there are still far more people playing the game’s main Battle Royale mode than user-created experiences. At the time of writing, Battle Royale had over 250k active players according to Fortnite’s Discovery tab, while the most popular user-generated experience using Unreal Editor for Fortnite had just under 27,000. 

With that in mind, it’s important to work with developers who have a solid track record of success on their respective platforms, especially if they can support integrations with the important PR and marketing boost that’s required to make an impact at launch. Many of the most successful licensed experiences on Roblox are built by studios that specialise in the space such as Gamefam, while research from Naavik shows the biggest earners in Fortnite’s Creator Mode using metrics such as concurrent players.

Struggling to find your feet in the metaverse? 

Of course, if you’re struggling to find the perfect partner for metaverse activations or you’d like to pursue opportunities in non-metaverse video games to reach millions of potential consumers, that’s where the Layer team can help!