About the guest
Yonatan Raz-Fridman is an award-winning entrepreneur and executive, on a mission to democratize access to learning, creation, and self-expression through technology. His current company Supersocial is a developer and publisher of iconic experiences and games for the metaverse, starting with Roblox.
I’ve read that you’re building games for Roblox, is that still correct?
Yes! Supersocial is a venture-backed developer and publisher of iconic experiences and games for the metaverse. We initially started our journey on the Roblox platform and are still very much focused on the Roblox platform and kind of starting to look at other platforms as well. But primarily, we’re operating on Roblox at the moment.
You tend to describe your company as the ‘Nintendo of the metaverse’. What does that mean and why did you decide to start on Roblox in particular?
We decided to start on the Roblox platform because it’s such an era-defining platform. For someone who wants to build these next-generation experiences, 3D experiences, 3D game worlds, virtual worlds — it’s such a phenomenal place to start because it gives you all of the developer tools, the consistent economy, the access to incredibly engaged millions of people around the world that are accessing Roblox on a daily basis. And really, Roblox is kind of a consistent metaverse platform.
When we started the company, back in June 2020, with a much bigger vision of building for the metaverse, it was clear that Roblox is a market leader, and a platform that we can really leverage in building rapidly, experiences that we can bring to life and start building sort of these relationships with the community.
In an interesting way, we’re kind of building something that sits at the intersection of Nintendo and a Disneyland because we’re building a new type of theme park where all of these different experiences that we’re creating are essentially virtual attractions. Ultimately, people are going to be able to jump around in an interoperable way between all of our experiences that were we’re building initially on the Roblox platform. As to Nintendo, they built iconic franchises that people continue to engage and be inspired by and play for years and years to come. And so when I think about our mission is super social of building the most iconic games, and experiences for the metaverse taking inspiration from what Nintendo has done, I believe that the next Super Mario brand can be born on a platform like Roblox. And I very much would like Supersocial to be the one that is building these next-generation bear brand franchises, that people will look back on 20–30 years from now and still be excited to play.
This whole idea of going into an existing world like Roblox and building things within is a huge paradigm shift. Could you explain what it meant for you as a game developer and publisher?
In the past, you had to invest an extraordinary amount of money to build a PC game in 3D. If you want to build a triple-A game and publish it on a game console, and even on mobile as a free-to-play, you must invest a lot in order to go beyond the noise. We’re talking several years and millions of millions of dollars before you can even go to market and launch your experience.
Roblox on the other hand provides us with such an incredible infrastructure, where we are able to create multiplayer 3D game worlds within six months from an idea to launching an alpha. And that is a paradigm shift that really enables much smaller developers, even individual developers to really be part of a new economy of building 3D game worlds, participating in the metaverse economy within Roblox.
Roblox has essentially democratized game development. As a studio, we now have the ability to build 3D game worlds and publish them overnight and make them available on many devices, and do that at a fraction of the time and the cost of any of the other platform that exists out there, which is pretty phenomenal. And I think they’re going to be more platforms that aspire to do something similar.
That’s super exciting. And then how does it work from a business model perspective?
It’s very much a split revenue model. For every dollar that a player spends inside our game world on Roblox, Roblox takes 30% of that, and 70% goes to the developer. There are other areas where Roblox takes revenue as well.
Roblox has the ability to use our IP too, for marketing purposes. The game IP itself is owned by us and we can take it with us to any other platform.
Speaking of these other platforms you’d like to expand to in the future, what criteria would you apply when thinking of your next perfect metaverse destination?
For us, the metaverse is really the next iteration of social and human experiences on the internet, which is more immersive and social. More expressive too, because you live through the lens of an avatar in these virtual worlds.
We want to build experiences where those characteristics of our personality are truly expressed through the avatars that live in game worlds.
That means continuing to take advantage of game engines and platforms that allow us to build these things in 3D in real-time. I am fascinated and very excited about the possibilities that blockchain provides with regard to player-owned assets and game economies. That opens up possibilities where the community can be part of the wealth creation of the platform as the co-owners of what’s being built. Companies like Unity, Unreal, and Epic will continue to play an important role because of the strength of their game engines and platforms. I do believe though, that when it comes to a consistent metaverse platform with turn-key capabilities, Roblox is ahead of the curve against other players on the market.
Your company’s name is Supersocial, which makes me want to ask about the social aspect of the metaverse — what new forms of social interaction do you observe there?
Actually, the very reason why we called our company Supersocial is because we believe that the metaverse is going to make us more social.
More social because of the kind of experiences we’ll be able to have there. We’re going to be able to teleport ourselves from one experience to another, which will introduce new different ways of socialization, and new opportunities for how we engage and make friends.
The second big factor there is immersiveness. We’re not going to watch the experience, but rather to be inside the experience. This will provide the sense of belonging and that we’re in the same space at the same time, which until today you could only have done if you’re with someone in real life. Thanks to the metaverse, we’ll be able to immerse ourselves in the same spaces simultaneously.
The third reason is avatars. They will allow new forms of personal expression, and ultimately help to make different friends that we’d never have met otherwise. We obviously saw that happening already with social media like Twitter and Facebook. But I do believe that more social, immersive, and expressive experiences will give rise to the new types of communities– and a different sense of belonging in a world that can feel very remote, distributed, and lonely now.
There will be challenges too. Already today, we’re seeing issues like cyberbullying. And they’re only going to get tougher because suddenly, I can be anyone with an invented identity, living as an avatar in the metaverse. As a society, we will need to address and deal with these things. But nonetheless, it can create a more connected global community than ever before, with lots of benefits that come with it.
You’re touching upon an issue of responsibility here. This prevalence of technology in our lives is an existential shift we’re facing as a society. Is the tech community ready to face the challenges in the right way?
Different things will come out of it — some good, some less so. So it’s good to be conscious. There is a whole generation now that is living inside these virtual worlds. COVID has accelerated the metaverse emergence by at least a decade. From the perspective of human behavior, it’s a huge paradigm shift.
You have millions, potentially billions of young people now that spend the majority of their time in these virtual spaces. That’s where they socialize with their friends. That’s where they make new friends. And if we think that this is not going to pose challenges, we are being delusional.
But you know, I’m an optimist, and I’m an entrepreneur. I want to help shape how we can build a great future, by dealing with these challenges that will be different from the ones we’re confronting with social networks and mobile.
The world is not perfect. And I think that beauty is in shaping the metaverse that we can be proud of. As a father of a six-month-old baby, I can feel like we’re building the right thing for this new generation.
I’ve been vocal about the fact that we need to build a meaningful metaverse. We need to build the metaverse that powers creativity, that drives and fosters inclusivity. And we need to build the metaverse that would enable prosperity for a lot of people, that is built by a lot of people, not just a small subset. And that’s tricky as well because we’re talking about technology, which has been primarily built by white male people. I think that needs to change, and I hope we can help make that change — but it’s going to be a journey.
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