Roblox shut down LuoBuLeSi, the Chinese version of its iOS and Android app on December 8th of last year. Taken down after only five months in the Chinese market the app was prematurely released. The app was put into the market to test the company’s recent partnership with Tencent and it’s expected to be reworked and re-released in the China in future.
The official announcement on Roblox China’s website addresses this shutdown and thanks to players for testing the app, adds that they will “continue to optimize the product.” In his interview with The Verge, Roblox Spokesperson James Kay said the following:
“Last year, we launched Roblox China also known as LuoBuLeSi with a vision to build an immersive virtual universe of 3D experiences in China that we have been testing and iterating on along the way. It is critical that we now make the necessary investments, including investments in our data architecture, in order to realize our long-term vision for LuoBuLeSi.”James Kay
About the shutdown, Kay said that “a number of important transitory actions are necessary.” Although his emphasis on the need for another version of LuoBuLeSi is prominent, he didn’t share any details about the changes planned or the time of release.
Roblox’s time in China wasn’t easy by any means: Both the local competitors and the regulations & restrictions of China challenged the company for good. Penetrating the Chinese market is a challenge for any western studio, due to the controlling nature of the Chinese government. In their short period in China, some features of Roblox were eventually censored.
Keeping up with the rules of the Chinese market is an obstacle that many studios have suffered. A few months back, the test of Fortnite was closed despite the efforts of Epic Games to comply with China’s regulations. The country’s efforts to substitute western options are evident, especially in the game industry: Steam is also banned at the end of to year to probably replace it with the Chinese version.
It’s no surprise that the Chinese government isn’t fond of video games, comparing them to “spiritual opium.” Any studio that’s looking for a vast audience of China should be ready to face heavy censorship.