The coronavirus pandemic and related government lockdowns have led to a surge in online gaming — particularly on social platforms where people can connect with real-life friends in a virtual venue. We’re already heard of Fortnite birthday parties, Roblox playdates, and Animal Crossing meetups taking place online amid the pandemic. Now, Roblox is launching a new feature called “Party Place” to directly cater to the growing demand among users for a dedicated, private place to host virtual events.
The company’s new “Party Place” venue is based on the technology the gaming company built to accommodate its own virtual events, including its 7th Annual Bloxy Awards and the One World: Together At Home concert, hosted in April in collaboration with Lady Gaga.
The venue itself doesn’t offer any activities or games itself, but rather serves as a private place for Roblox users to gather — for example, for a virtual birthday party, a remote learning activity with classmates, for virtual playdates, or anything else. From Party Place, the group can chat and hang out as they decide what Roblox game they plan to play next.
The product is in beta testing, according to the Roblox website, and has seen only around 45.3K visits since its launch last week. Likely, many of these visits were just from curious kids poking around in public area as you can today join the Party Place venue without a private server, if you want to just see venue. Roblox, however, says it’s making private servers available for free in Party Place, so parents and kids can create a place where only those friends they directly invite can join and play.
Roblox has been doing particularly well as the pandemic has forced children to stay at home under lockdown. The entertainment platform now has over 120 million active monthly players and, as of June, surpassed a milestone of $1.5 billion in lifetime player spending, according to a report from Sensor Tower. It hit the new record only 7 months after reaching its $1 billion milestone — a surge in consumer spend attributed directly to the global COVID-19 pandemic and the related growth in entertainment platforms and social gaming.
In March, Roblox revenue grew 28% month-over-month to $69.8 million, the report found. In April, revenue grew 34% to $93.2 million. And by May, sales hit close to $103 million.
Roblox had already begun catering to players’ interest in social gaming with its launch of its “Play Together” game sort in April, which made it easier for players to find those games where you socialize with others — like visiting a virtual shopping mall, going camping, or riding virtual water slides, for example. These games also offer an option for private servers VIP servers, often for a small fee paid in Roblox’s virtual currency, Robux, which renewed on a subscription basis until you canceled.
Of course, the company isn’t the only one developing products in response to user demand for online “hangout” spots in virtual worlds. Fortnite, for instance, introduced “Party Royale,” a game mode offering a weapons-free party island featuring mini-games and, sometimes, even live concerts. Its Travis Scott concert was hosted in the game, attracting 12.3 million concurrent players at its peak.
For today’s younger players — the COVID kids, so to speak — platforms like Fortnite and Roblox are becoming their own version of a social network. The kids don’t just go online to play. They socialize, chat, and hang out with a mix of real-life friends and virtual ones, blurring the lines between online and offline in ways that traditional social networks, like Facebook, do not.
Google December Product Reviews Update Affects More Than English Language Sites? via @sejournal, @martinibuster
Google’s Product Reviews update was announced to be rolling out to the English language. No mention was made as to if or when it would roll out to other languages. Mueller answered a question as to whether it is rolling out to other languages.
Google December 2021 Product Reviews Update
Our December 2021 product reviews update is now rolling out for English-language pages. It will take about three weeks to complete. We have also extended our advice for product review creators: https://t.co/N4rjJWoaqE
— Google Search Central (@googlesearchc) December 1, 2021
The focus of the update was for improving the quality of reviews shown in Google search, specifically targeting review sites.
A Googler tweeted a description of the kinds of sites that would be targeted for demotion in the search rankings:
“Mainly relevant to sites that post articles reviewing products.
Think of sites like “best TVs under $200″.com.
Goal is to improve the quality and usefulness of reviews we show users.”
Continue Reading Below
Google also published a blog post with more guidance on the product review update that introduced two new best practices that Google’s algorithm would be looking for.
The first best practice was a requirement of evidence that a product was actually handled and reviewed.
The second best practice was to provide links to more than one place that a user could purchase the product.
The Twitter announcement stated that it was rolling out to English language websites. The blog post did not mention what languages it was rolling out to nor did the blog post specify that the product review update was limited to the English language.
Google’s Mueller Thinking About Product Reviews Update
Product Review Update Targets More Languages?
The person asking the question was rightly under the impression that the product review update only affected English language search results.
Continue Reading Below
But he asserted that he was seeing search volatility in the German language that appears to be related to Google’s December 2021 Product Review Update.
This is his question:
“I was seeing some movements in German search as well.
So I was wondering if there could also be an effect on websites in other languages by this product reviews update… because we had lots of movement and volatility in the last weeks.
…My question is, is it possible that the product reviews update affects other sites as well?”
John Mueller answered:
“I don’t know… like other languages?
My assumption was this was global and and across all languages.
But I don’t know what we announced in the blog post specifically.
But usually we try to push the engineering team to make a decision on that so that we can document it properly in the blog post.
I don’t know if that happened with the product reviews update. I don’t recall the complete blog post.
But it’s… from my point of view it seems like something that we could be doing in multiple languages and wouldn’t be tied to English.
And even if it were English initially, it feels like something that is relevant across the board, and we should try to find ways to roll that out to other languages over time as well.
So I’m not particularly surprised that you see changes in Germany.
But I also don’t know what we actually announced with regards to the locations and languages that are involved.”
Does Product Reviews Update Affect More Languages?
While the tweeted announcement specified that the product reviews update was limited to the English language the official blog post did not mention any such limitations.
Google’s John Mueller offered his opinion that the product reviews update is something that Google could do in multiple languages.
One must wonder if the tweet was meant to communicate that the update was rolling out first in English and subsequently to other languages.
It’s unclear if the product reviews update was rolled out globally to more languages. Hopefully Google will clarify this soon.
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