Walmart returns to Roblox after its first games were attacked by consumer advocacy groups

Walmart is returning to Roblox, but this time with a virtual world where gamers can discover new virtual items and accessories to personalize their experience, not browse or shop items from Walmart itself. The retailer a year ago had launched two Walmart-branded experiences on the gaming platform, but came under fire from consumer advocacy groups who wanted the games audited for stealth marketing to kids.

Those two virtual worlds, “Walmart Land” and “Universe of Play,” let Roblox players collect new virtual merchandise, play games featuring popular toys and characters, earn toys from a blimp, attend live concerts, win fashion competitions and more. However, both have since been retired, Walmart tells TechCrunch.

The retailer insists that neither of the two prior games were taken down for non-compliance with the U.S. children’s online privacy law, COPPA, or the guidelines set forth by the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), as the consumer advocacy groups had alleged. But the fact that they were flagged for being potentially non-compliant with CARU could have put the games on the FTC’s radar.

“The intent of our presence on Roblox is to continuously innovate,” a Walmart spokesperson, Lea Ciskowski told us. “Taking down some experiences to work on new ones is part of that innovation. Since first launching on Roblox last September, we’ve created several fun and unique experiences. We saw success from Walmart Land and Walmart’s Universe of Play, and both experiences were retired after their planned runs came to an end. Our learnings from both experiences allowed us to create an offering that was even more endemic to the platform with Walmart Discovered,” she added.

In the new experience, “Walmart Discovered,” launched on Tuesday, players 13 and up can participate in a nomination system where they can vote on the best games, indie experiences and virtual items. The experience will also spotlight over 300 Roblox community creators, ranging from those who design virtual fashion items to Roblox experiences. The voting will take place over the next four months, as the Roblox developers and creators monetize their virtual items via sales paid for with Roblox’s virtual currency, Robux.

The world itself is divided into different “departments,” including sports, pets, racing, beauty, Town & City, Entertainment and Trending. In some, players can shop for virtual items for their avatar, while others, like Racing, are gamified experiences inspired by other racing games on Roblox.

As users shop the virtual items, they can customize the experience further via features like My Department and My Cart. The former allows users to save virtual items they’ve discovered to revisit and purchase later, while the cart — inspired by Walmart’s own shopping carts — can be unlocked after they nominate and discover more virtual items.

Walmart says the new experience was designed based on user feedback, where they learned players were seeking easier ways to discover virtual items and Roblox experiences.

Walmart Discover can be played across devices, including PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Amazon devices, Xbox consoles, Oculus Rift and HTC Vive.