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Our 5 Unanswered Questions for Buildbox

Game dev folks across social media expressed surprise this week as Buildbox announced an upcoming overhaul of its pricing tiers, including a new tier that will leave creators with just 30% of their game revenue. CodeWritePlay covered both the announcement and comments from Buildbox CEO, Jonathan Zweig, that seemed to raise even more questions.

Since that time, Zweig reached out to CodeWritePlay offering direct contact information as well as a discussion about the company’s strategy moving forward. This post is an open record of questions forwarded and received on Wednesday evening, unanswered as of Sunday afternoon.

“…Remember Buildbox is not an engine and we don’t compete with game engines. Buildbox is software that provides a service : allowing our creators to make games without writing code. Apples and oranges to compare Buildbox to any game engine :-)”
– Jonathan Zweig, Buildbox CEO

Question 1: Folks in the game dev community were surprised to hear you say you don’t consider Buildbox a game engine. This appears to be a pivot in Buildbox’s messaging. Considering a recent increase in low-code/no-code solutions associated with major game engines, what invalidates a comparison between Buildbox and GameMaker, Unity with Bolt, Unreal with Blueprints, etc.? 

“Free product. Same rev share as Youtube and Roblox. Also paid plans are up to 90% to the developer 🙂 Appreciate the feedback.”
– Jonathan Zweig, Buildbox CEO

Question 2: In explaining your upcoming Free tier–in which 70% of revenue above $5 goes to Buildbox–you commented several times that this rate is consistent with YouTube and Roblox. You didn’t explicitly say that Buildbox was more easily compared to these platforms than Unity/Unreal/etc., but this does seem to suggest you feel it’s more appropriate that these follow similar pricing strategy. Is there a connection there that you can expand on? Also, while I can easily find Roblox’s rough 70% cut model, I’m having trouble finding a YouTube program that matches this. Is there somewhere I can find this to get more of a sense of the philosophy here? 

“How can you compare Buildbox to Roblox? You could compare Buildbox to Roblox Studio, in both engines you can make games. But Roblox is a distribution platform where you can make money publishing your games. Buildbox doesn’t provide that service (yet).”
– Christoph Müller, game developer

Question 3: Something YouTube and Roblox have in common that seems to go a long way toward justifying a large revenue cut, in addition to meeting basic infrastructure needs, is maintaining a massive shared ecosystem that generates huge traffic numbers for creators. Is Buildbox matching that provision for its users? Is there anything on the roadmap for Buildbox along these lines such as a shared player universe or something similar? 

From the Buildbox blog:

From this day forward, we are rededicating Buildbox to our community.

You all, the Buildbox creators, deserve the best tools in the world to bring your video game ideas to life, and we hope you’ve noticed how hard we’ve been working on the tools you use every day. As of this letter, 1,034,386 of you have signed up for our platform. That’s a lot of creators and growing rapidly by the day! Our lean and dedicated team has released FBX support, offline mode, expanded the Asset and Template Library, and more.

You have followed suit, using Buildbox to create hits that have gone to the very top of the Apple App Store and Google Play, taking your place alongside the likes of Roblox and other hit games.

Question 4: Your recent announcements included that you now have over 1 million users signed up for Buildbox. Have you released any recent figures about published games and how they tend to perform in terms of earnings? I’m interested to know if there’s anything you point new users toward when they’re trying to make an informed decision between tiers.  

“Buildbox has raised $20 million from investors such as Raine Ventures, Galaxy Venture Capital and Manta Ray to build out software that allows anyone to create a video game without needing to know code…This new funding will allow the company to hire more staff and experiment with a new advertising program.”

Lucas Shaw, Buildbox Raises $20 Million so Anyone Can Make the Next Pokemon Go, January 28, 2021, Forbes

“As a business, we need to make sure we are making enough money to stay in business for you…”

Jonathan Zweig, “An Update from Buildbox CEO, Jonathan Zweig,” May 18, 2021, Buildbox (blog)

Question 5: Part of what may be making the new pricing model surprising for some individuals is that Buildbox was most recently in the news in January for completing a $20 million funding round. In yesterday’s blog post you said the revenue changes are to make sure you’re making enough money to stay in business. Help potential customers reconcile January’s optimism with this week’s tone of concern.

This story will be updated with responses as they arrive.

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By Todd Mitchell

Todd Mitchell is a US Midwest-based independent game developer and freelance writer. He's the author of Inside Video Game Creation, the founder of CodeWritePlay, and host of the GameDev Breakdown podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Mechatodzilla.

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