Roblox Pauses Service in China as it Takes ‘Important Transitory Actions’

Roblox Pauses Service in China as it Takes ‘Important Transitory Actions’

On December 8, Tencent’s LuoBuLeSi, a Chinese counterpart of Roblox, abruptly shut down its server five months after it launched on iOS and Android. Surprisingly, many users resorted to Chinese social media to express their dissatisfaction with the little notice. In a message, LuoBuLeSi said that what customers were playing was an “archive-deleting test version.” “Have you seen a testing game that allows users to put dollars to their accounts?” one person demanded.

“We started Roblox China, also known as LuoBuLeSi, last year with the goal of creating an immersive virtual universe of 3D experiences in China, which we have been testing and iterating on along the way,” a Roblox representative told TechCrunch. “We’ve always known that creating a compelling platform in China is an iterative process, and we appreciate the LuoBuLeSi users’ and our worldwide developer community’s support.” Tencent has yet to react to a request for comment from TechCrunch.

Roblox and Tencent launched a joint venture in May 2019 in which the former owns a 51 percent controlling position and Tencent owns the remaining 49 percent, marking a unique arrangement in which a foreign corporation owns the majority stake in a Chinese joint venture. LuoBuLeSi released an Android test version in July 2020 that stated expressly that user archives would erase when the trial time finished. Roblox’s unique offering may have necessitated a longer regulatory approval process. LuoBuLeSi has made a point of emphasizing its educational focus from the start. China, on the other hand, initiated a broad crackdown on the private school sector last year. 

LuoBuLeSi’s exposure to young gamers is expected to be limited due to China’s increased restrictions on children’s gaming time.

It is also worth considering how China’s new data laws have affected foreign internet service providers. Yahoo and LinkedIn will not be the last Western corporations to withdraw their services from China as the country’s cross-border data transmission restrictions tighten.

Roblox’s statement contains a hint: “In order to accomplish our long-term vision for LuoBuLeSi, we must now make the appropriate investments, including investments in our data architecture.” As we work on the next version of LuoBuLeSi, we’ve established that a few key interim steps are required.”

To publish in China, foreign games typically look for a local partner to assist with marketing, distribution, and, probably most importantly, regulatory compliance and gaming license applications. Tencent as an ally would ensure that LuoBuLeSi’s user-generated plays do not offend Chinese authorities. LuoBuLeSi is separate from Roblox’s worldwide platform, thus it lacks the same game library and player pool.

As a result, many Chinese users have used VPNs to access the global version, which is a regular occurrence when a globally popular title’s Chinese edition is censored. Despite this, LuoBuLeSi remains the entry point for many domestic and international developers looking to get into China’s casual-games sector. Many creators will be irritated that no date has been assigned for the “formal” debut. 

According to app analytics firm Sensor Tower, the platform had 1.7 million installs in the China App Store before it was removed on December 8. “We were taking the long view in China when we launched LuoBuLeSi last year, intending to establish a platform that would give a compelling metaverse experience,” said a Roblox representative. “The goal has remained the same.”