As a senior in high school in January 2017, Alex Balfanz and a friend created Jailbreak, a game on Roblox that cast players in the roles of either criminals trying to escape prison and wreak havoc on a city or as police officers trying to stop the criminals and return them to prison. The Grand Theft Auto/All Points Bulletin-esque game took off like wildfire and has been played nearly three billion times, which has made Balfanz a millionaire before he’s even old enough to legally drink alcohol.
Balfanz started coding at nine, using Roblox as his platform, making “a few thousand dollars” on his previous efforts, but when he and a friend — who remains unnamed — released Jailbreak, everything changed. Describing Jailbreak’s success to CNBC, Balfanz said the game “just blew up,” and he had “no idea that it was going to ever get to the level it was.”
Balfanz is still working on Jailbreak, which offers monthly updates and, as of this writing, has about 17,000 players online right now. That would put it in the top 25 on Steam, right around War Thunder and Paladins. At its peak, Jailbreak had 150,000 players. With the money he made from the game’s microtransactions (“seven-figure profits”), he first bought a $1,000 drone, but has otherwise avoided splurging and is using his earnings to pay for his tuition at Duke University as well as investing in web servers and programming software to further his coding skills.
It’s a great story, and one that could inspire other aspiring game-makers of all ages. And while I’m personally OK with anyone making money by whatever (legal) means they can, in terms of “online game content creation,” I’d rather be known for “really fun Roblox game” than “sex beds in Second Life.”