Roblox discontinues service in China ahead of major overhaul

Roblox may be successful in many parts of the world, but it is currently in limbo in China. TechCrunch has learned that Roblox temporarily shut down the Chinese version of its gaming platform, LuoBuLeSi, on December 8 for certain “important transitional actions” required for the development of a future version. The company was coy about what the moves entailed beyond “data architecture,” but a spokesperson said creating the platform for China was an “iterative process.”

The break did not delight fans. Roblox only launched LuoBuLeSi five months before the shutdown, and many players felt the company had given them very short notice. They also didn’t buy an official claim that they were playing a trial version, noting that they could still spend real money.

It’s possible that China’s strict digital rules may have played a role. The Chinese government requires licenses for games, and Roblox has more challenges than most developers. Its role as a creative platform could easily worry Chinese dissent-worried censors, and the attempt to portray LuoBuLeSi as a digital education system may have caught the attention of officials cracking down on private education. Chinese data protection rules may also have helped the decision by dictating where and how Roblox stores user information.

Whatever the reasons, the temporary shutdown highlights the difficulties faced by foreign game developers in China. They not only have to compete in one of the biggest markets in the world, but also avoid clashes with a government that sometimes has a very different agenda.

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