Roblox is a game creation platform aimed at children that has a market capitalisation of $48.8 billion, as of writing, making it bigger than Ubisoft and Take-Two Interactive combined. But it seems the Californian company has been having trouble in one of the largest video games markets – China.
Roblox's Chinese version is known as LuoBuLeSi – and is published and operated by Tencent – launched on iOS and Android in China only five months ago, but last month its servers were suddenly shut down.
According to a report by TechCrunch, many Chinese users were caught off guard by this abrupt closure and took to social media to voice their complaints. LuoBuLeSi said it had only been an "archive-deleting test version" in a notice the joint venture posted online. TechCrunch reported that one user replied: "Have you seen a testing game that lets users add funds to their accounts?"
The Chinese version of Roblox launched as an Android and iOS app in July 2021 with the company hiring cosplay dancers for its opening ceremony in Shanghai. China, with its 110-million strong population of gamers under the age of 18, not to mention the hundreds of millions of adult players, seemed a potentially lucrative market for the expanding company. Roblox formed a partnership with China's Tencent, allowing it to enter the country, and investors were enthused about the company's plans.
But Roblox or rather LuoBuLeSi faced major challenges. China's strict regulations resulted in censorship of some features while the sweeping online games curfew for minors, which was introduced in September, severely affected many LuoBuLeSi users. LuoBuLeSi also struggled against local competitors such as Reworld, which is owned by ByteDance.
"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," James Kay, a spokesman for the company, said in a statement to The Verge. "It is critical that we now make the necessary investments, including investment in our data architecture, in order to realise our long-term vision for LuoBuLeSi."
Roblox will now make a number of "important transitory actions" and build another version of the app. But the company revealed no further details as to when the new version will be released.
Meanwhile, Roblox has faced allegations of child exploitation and sexual harassment, while its CEO David Baszucki, according to an expose by the New York Times, was revealed to have avoided paying tens of millions in taxes by exploiting a tax break intended for small businesses.
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