Roblox halts service in China ahead of a major revamp

China's strict game and data rules may have played a part.

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Jon Fingas
January 9, 2022 3:46 PM
BRAZIL - 2021/03/30: In this photo illustration Roblox logo seen displayed on a smartphone. Roblox is a multiplayer online game and video game creation system. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Roblox may be enjoying success in many parts of the world, but it's currently in limbo in China. TechCrunch has learned Roblox temporarily shut down the Chinese version of its game platform, LuoBuLeSi, on December 8th for some "important transitory actions" needed to develop a future version. The company was shy on what those moves involved beyond the "data architecture," but a spokesperson said crafting the platform for China was an "iterative process."

The pause hasn't thrilled fans. Roblox only launched LuoBuLeSi five months before the shutdown, and many players felt the company only gave them very short notice. They also didn't buy an official claim they'd been playing a test version, noting they could still spend real money.

There's a chance 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 draw concern from Chinese censors worried about dissent, and the attempt to pitch LuoBuLeSi as a digital education system may have invited attention from 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 users' information.

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Whatever the reasons, the temporary halt underscores the difficulties foreign game developers have in China. They not only have to compete in one of the world's largest markets, but avoid clashes with a government that sometimes has a very different agenda.

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Roblox halts service in China ahead of a major revamp