When we think about entrepreneurship, we often associate it with startup companies run by adults that may already have a foundational education. In reality though, many platforms have enabled people of all ages to establish successful companies with substantial revenue flows. It’s pretty hard to imagine how some teenagers are managing to make more money than the average adult does in his or her lifetime. However, with new technology, niches, and monetization platforms, the concept of running a startup company has become widely accessible to anyone who has the drive to succeed. The overarching question you may be asking yourself is, “What types of companies are they even running?”

To start off, the business model niche that is becoming more popular with teenagers is independent game development. You may have heard of several multi-billion dollar game development studios such as Nintendo, Valve Corporation, Rockstar Games, Electronic Arts, Microsoft, and Activision Blizzard. The thing is, you don’t have to be a part of these studios to make it big in the game development industry. For example, the widely known sandbox called Minecraft was developed as an indie game by Markus Persson of Mojang. Though not a teenager, Persson was an entrepreneur that lacked a large financial backing for funding. When Minecraft was released in 2009, it surprisingly became an internet gaming sensation. It gained so much popularity that it took five years for Microsoft to acquire Mojang for a grand total of $2.5 billion!

According to the 2017 Game Developers Conference, a survey was conducted of 4,500 game developers finding that 53% of them were making games for the PC/Mac. What makes this niche so attractive to teenagers is that entrepreneurs do not need to possess any sort of educational degree or technical background to jump into this industry. All a person needs to be a gaming entrepreneur is creativity, the willingness to learn, and motivation. With that being said, teens are creating games through platforms that are heavily monetized with in-game transactions. The platform enabling teens to make their own monetized games is called ROBLOX: a platform similar to Steam, but oriented towards a younger demographic. ROBLOX is a massive, multiplayer online gaming platform that allows its users to design their games and have the ability to play games made by other users. Their motto, “If you can imagine it, you can build it,” really applies to the sandbox concept the platform revolves around. From first-person shooters to racing games, the developers on this platform have touched on almost every type of game genre you could possibly think of.

Like anything worthwhile in life, there will always be challenges when trying to succeed in something very rewarding. As a gaming entrepreneur on the ROBLOX platform, it is essential to know how to code using the LUA programming language or build using 3D modeling techniques and meshes. It may seem daunting at first, but like all trades, there are videos and tutorials all over the web that teach the fundamentals on game development. With so many resources available, teen developers are beginning to influence younger kids to make their own games and make a profit from it.

So how do these games make money? Essentially, ROBLOX’s in-game transaction system is universal. Developers program their game to have in-game items that players can purchase and once a player purchases the in-game item the developer gains currency. The developer then exchanges the currency to receive their payout through the developer exchange program. You may be wondering how much these teen developers are actually making on the ROBLOX platform. The answer to that is, A LOT, with the top 10% of developers raking in about $100,000 a month, and the top 1% making an estimated $3 million annually! Of course, not everyone is going to be successful in this industry. Independent game development is just as competitive as startup companies in other sectors. Of the 56 million players on the ROBLOX platform alone, 1.7 million are also creators that dedicate their time to making games.

Like every other industry, gaming entrepreneurs face many difficulties. The indie game development industry is highly competitive, forcing entrepreneurs to be innovators at the same time. The pressure of being an entrepreneur in this industry involves constantly adapting to satisfy their player base. In addition to rapidly changing technology, new features are always being introduced to the ROBLOX platform, and having an outdated game will likely decrease popularity among its player base. Also, many aspects of business are commonly used in running a game development studio, which the entrepreneur needs to be familiar with. For example, a successful entrepreneur must focus on marketing their game as well as securing a loyal player base. With patience, drive, and dedication, anyone can be successful in running a startup in the game development industry.

In retrospect, game development is attractive to teens because it allows them to create something that they have been exposed to growing up. More teens are turning to game development on platforms like ROBLOX because it offers a high reward with little to no risk. Also, the learning curve is not as drastic compared to software development or engineering. Ultimately, the ability to entertain millions of players through something you have created is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a game developer. The industry is continuing to grow at a rapid rate and I hope that with the advancement of these monetization platforms, younger people will be encouraged to pursue their dreams and entrepreneurial endeavors.

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About the Author

Chester Ayos was born on the Big Island of Hawaii and raised in Las Vegas. He is currently a business undergrad and an Associate of the Rebel Venture Fund at UNLV. Chester is the founder and lead developer of his own game development company, RoVenture Consulting. Since 2016, his game Mount Everest Roleplay has reached almost 3 million plays and has gained widespread attention from popular Youtubers. 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RVF or UNLV. In addition, thoughts and opinions are subject to change and this article is intended to provide an opinion of the author at the time of writing this article. All data and information is for informational purposes only.