Roblox stops service in China ahead of major refurbishment

Roblox may have success 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 some “key temporary actions” needed to develop a future version. The company was shy about what those moves entailed beyond the “data architecture,” but a spokesperson said creating the platform for China was an “iterative process.”

The break has not thrilled the fans. Roblox only launched LuoBuLeSi five months before its closure, and many players felt that the company only gave them a very short notice. They also made no official claim that they had played a test version, noting that they could still spend real money.

There’s a chance China’s strict digital regulations may have played a role. The Chinese government requires game licensing and Roblox has more challenges than most developers. Its role as a creative platform could easily arouse the concern of Chinese censors concerned about dissent, and its attempt to present LuoBuLeSi as a digital education system may have caught the attention of officials cracking down on private education. China’s data protection rules could also have contributed to the decision by dictating where and how Roblox stores user information.

Whatever the reasons, the temporary shutdown highlights the difficulties foreign game developers are having in China. They must not only compete in one of the world’s largest markets, but also avoid clashing with a government that sometimes has a very different agenda.

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