The Long Tail - Concept Illustration

The User-Generated Content Landscape (and What Drives It)

Successful user-generated content platforms have long tails.

The Long Tail - Concept IllustrationNot literally. Statistically.

Take a look at the concept illustration to the right. There are a few big-budget content creators, and many more content creators with relatively low budgets. User-generated content platforms empower the lower-budget producers, spanning a huge variety of passions.

There’s YouTube for video, Machinima.com for video-game cinema, WattPad for literature, Quora for Q&A, Epinions for consumer product reviews, Instagram for photos, DeviantArt for amateur art and many more. Of course, we’d be remiss not to mention ROBLOX for video games.

When you look at the numbers for some of these platforms, you see just how well user-generated content engages people – both the content creators and the consumers. In this article, we’ll look at several popular user-generated content platforms across a variety of media and offer ideas as to what makes them thrive.

The user-generated content landscape

There are a lot of user-generated content platforms out there. Pick a hobby – a niche of some sort – and you’ll find people expressing themselves with the intent of reaching a likeminded and potentially large audience.

YouTube
YouTube is the poster child of user-generated content; the holy grail of video sharing. It boasts over 4 billion hours of video watched each month. For our purposes, though, the most meaningful statistic, according to YouTube’s website, is “72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.” With a little number crunching, that’s about 3.1 million hours uploaded per month.

3.1 million hours uploaded pales in comparison to the 4 billion hours watched in a YouTube month, but it represents the millions of people participating in user-generated video content.

Doom ScreenshotMachinima.com
Machinima.com is a place where individuals can share their “machinima”: video content created using video game engines. The term machinima came to be in the 90s, particularly when games like Doom and Quake started to let players record footage of their play sessions, and today it has become an entertainment and promotional phenomenon.

Machinima.com acts as a distributor for user-generated machinima. They take the highest-quality submissions and publish them to their channel. They receive 14.5 billion annual video views and logged 2.1 billion video views in July, 2012. While the site’s yearly figure is dwarfed by YouTube’s 1 trillion views in 2011, Machinima.com represents a video niche.

ROBLOX User-generated Content InfographicROBLOX
Clearly, there are a lot of user-generated videos and video-game videos on the web. ROBLOX completes that circle with user-generated video games.

In July, 2012, ROBLOX users spent 29 million hours in-game. Going back to 2011, our community logged more than 250 million game hours on the year. This game-time is powered by the millions of games our users create, including 5.4 million in 2011 and 3.8 million during the first six months of 2012 (landing the average at upwards of 500,000 per month).

WattPad
WattPad focuses on something very different from videos and video games – that something being literature – but uses a similar model of creation, sharing and discovery. Some of the website’s most popular titles have been read over 10 million times, while visitors log over 1.7 billion minutes on the site each month. It’s fueled by users, who post more than 500,000 stories per month.

Why do these user-generated content platforms thrive?

These user-generated content platforms draw some big numbers. Why? It’s a confluence of factors.

Easy-to-use tech
There’s an ease of use to content creation in the 21st century. If you’re creating video content, it can be as easy as a few touches to your phone screen. Even if you’re going for higher production values, you can now produce a professional-looking video with a hardware and software budget between $1,000 and $2,000.

ROBLOX Studio 2.0

At ROBLOX, we’re continually tuning and improving the content-creation experience. As many of our users know, game development is not inherently easy. It’s actually hard, and it takes practice. One of our goals is to make it as easy as possible to practice and develop good games by fine-tuning our technology – in particular, ROBLOX Studio.

Crowdsourcing
Under traditional models, a buyer would review video games, movies and other media, and decide what products would make it to retail. User-generated content platforms see such a large volume of content that the traditional buyer is replaced by a huge audience of users. The audience decides what’s popular and worthwhile, so higher-quality content naturally rises to the top.

You can see this effect on ROBLOX’s Games page, where popular games rise to the top.

Crowd Silhouette

They remove traditional gatekeepers
While it’s long been technologically easy to write, websites like WattPad remove one of the challenging parts of the writing equation: distribution. You don’t need a book deal to publish stories and find an attentive audience. The same concept applies to video, video games, art, music and other media, thanks to web distribution.

Take a look at our recent article about what happens when a ROBLOX user publishes a game. There’s a lot of stuff happening behind the scenes, but what you see as a user is a working game on Roblox.com in seconds. It’s out there, waiting to be discovered. If it’s good enough, someone’s discovery of it might take you somewhere.

UGCLearning through creation
User-generated content serves different purposes for different people. You may be creating content to help launch your career, to gain recognition or because you find it fun. In the end, you learn by doing something about which you’re passionate.

ROBLOX requires more innovation and creativity out of its players than other video games. Advancing up in the ROBLOX community means mastering the skills that would be necessary to launch your own web company: development, marketing, PR, design, economics, etc. User-generated content on our platform teaches users life skills that may be essential in their future.

Just look at some of the creators of high-profile ROBLOX games: whether it was their intent or not, they will take away valuable experience creating, promoting and continuously developing a product.

Jet Wars - Advanced Battle

Those are a few reasons we think user-generated content platforms have a long tail. We’d love to know your perspective. What platforms do you use to create content, and what do you get out of it?

About Andrew "blockhaak" Haak

Communications Manager at ROBLOX. blockhaak on ROBLOX; @andrewjhaak on Twitter.

30 thoughts on “The User-Generated Content Landscape (and What Drives It)

  1. Malcolt3

    ROBLOX was actually the first game-developing program I used. I started in late 2009, but didn’t learn scripting until later.
    Once I figured out a good portion of ROBLOX Lua, I began to get more into programming and game creation. I have taken actual classes on Game Maker, and have a book on Python I’m reading.

  2. Ninjasheep

    I started with Bethesda’s TES Morrowind Construction Set before coming to ROBLOX. I made a few mods here and there only to be shared between my brothers and I. Once I found ROBLOX, I was thrilled to see an entire game where I can show off my, not just mods, but entire games that I make to the public.

  3. Cup100

    Doesn’t this just prove that people spend too much time on roblox and not on other academic activities. Or even sports. People on roblox either need to spend less time on it. Or find other activities that they can do. I do a varity of things during the day.

  4. Kyle Lee

    Software I use:
    -Unity
    -3ds Max
    -Blender

    Unity has a very similar environment to Roblox, although I used Roblox before I used Unity.
    I am very pleased with Unity at the moment. It is simple to use, and an easy interface. What I get out of it is something that I can use to make anything game that I want. Roblox is pretty much the same.
    One difference I have noticed between Roblox and Unity is the freedom of creation. An example would be of how in Unity you can create your own 3D meshes and import them into your game.
    In all, I am pleased with Roblox as well. I think Roblox would be better off without any drastic changes. Just my opinion, thanks!

    ~Kyle Lee~

  5. Thegameboy

    What platforms do I use? I’m trying to get into Blender, I use Videopad for editing my machinima Youtube videos, I use Audicity for some audio editing in my videos, Bandicam for recording, and I’m also trying to get into LMMS for music. What do I get out of it? Not really anything whatsoever.

  6. DarkSideKyp

    Higher quality games DO get more visits, as do copied ones. Take PiePerson50, the Jared Valdez alts, and more. They all copy games, but only good ones. The only real ways to protect are:

    1. COPYLOCK IT. That is the easiest way to prevent your game from getting copied, because Un-Copylocking it actually lets others copy it.
    2. Write anti-copy scripts. They work like this: You tell it to check what game it actually is, it’s Game ID. Then, if it has been copied, the script will check again to see what game it is, and if it ISN’T YOURS, it will automatically delete everything in the Workspace, Lighting, StarterPack, ect.

  7. ...

    “so higher-quality content naturally rises to the top.”

    Just not here, on roblox.
    Most front page games are collaborations of free content or exploited/copied content.

    Real quality games are always taken due to the limited security, and never make it to the front page due to mindless sheep, if you want really good building and scripting, look at clan forts.

    1. turkish55

      Yep. This dude is telling the truth!

      Amazing games are hiding because everybody plays the exploited, hacked or copied games! Why so many guests in games now?

  8. bballer13sn

    I use YouTube, ROBLOX, MediaFire (if that counts), but for the most part…I program my own stuff. :P

  9. Someone.

    Yeah, “High quality rises on the front page”, mostly copied games, free modeled games, and only 3-4 games are actually high quality.

  10. scacman1967

    This is the only platform I use. What I get most out of it is , 16 hour days of pure fun.
    I love building, and getting new maps out for the public to use and create from.

    The best enjoyment though is when someone leaves a nice comment about what I have built.

  11. lntermediate

    Wow, you guys seriously did NOT read this.

    “What platforms do you use to create content, and what do you get out of it?”

    I use ROBLOX, Cinema4D, Sony Vegas 7.0, Hypercam 2.. I get nothing out of it, which is pretty sad :l

    1. zabba7461

      Yep. It’s a wonderful place to start out. You can choose where you begin, then advance at as fast of a pace you want.

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