Amidst tightening restrictions around video games in China, Roblox has pulled its game from the app stores.
About five months since it was released in China, Roblox is now shutting down LuoBuLeSi, the Chinese version of its iOS and Android app, initially launched as a test in partnership with Chinese game company Tencent.
According to a TechCrunch report, Roblox is withdrawing the app to rebuild it and potentially rerelease it later in the country.
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Roblox China removed its app from the iOS and Android app stores on December 8, issuing an announcement on Roblox China’s website.
After thanking players for their active participation in testing the app and promising that its developers will “continue to optimize the product and officially meet with you as soon as possible,” the post goes on to describe several gifts offered to players as tokens of gratitude for their enthusiasm and positive suggestions.
“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” Roblox spokesperson James Kay said in a statement to The Verge.
“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.”
Kay adds that, to prepare another version of the app, “a number of important transitory actions are necessary.” The company has not provided any further details of the release of the new version.
It should be noted that entering the Chinese market with a videogame is quite tricky for an American company. During the past year, the Chinese government has already intensified tough restrictions regulating how much screen-time kids are allowed.
In July 2021, ByteDance was forced to limit users under 14 spent on Douyin – the Chinese version of TikTok – to a maximum of 40 minutes a day. And in the following month, Tencent had to start using facial recognition technology to stop kids from playing video games outside of daytime hours, in compliance with the “Midnight Patrol” initiative to slow down the alarming increase in gaming addiction in children since 2019.
In addition to the communist country’s concerns with the alarming growth rate in Gaming Disorder among younger gamers, Roblox – which marketed itself in the country as an educational game – has to face the fact that it is a foreign business.
This becomes apparent when looking at the company’s struggles against Chinese competitors like the similar ByteDance-owned Reworld.
As the Financial Times reported, Roblox’s compliance with China’s regulatory standards resulted in the censorship of some of its features. A worse fate occurred to Fortnite in November when Epic Games shut down a test of the game in China without much explanation.