Leaked documents from Roblox reveal that the company expected its game to be hacked and cloned by Chinese companies after it launched in China. A hacker leaked the documents after the company refused to pay a ransom. Motherboard then published the documents to expose the many hurdles Western companies face when bringing their products and services to the Chinese market.
In July 2021, Roblox launched a version of its game in China called LuoBuLeSi. In order to launch the game in China, Roblox had to partner with Chinese-based company Tencent. However, LuoBuLeSi was shut down after just five months.
The documents include a slide presentation warning employees that a Tencent clone of the game was likely already in the works despite their partnership. However, there is no evidence that Tencent made any attempt to clone Roblox.
“The slide you reference was from 2017, before we had a formal joint venture relationship in place,” a Roblox spokesperson told Vice in response to the leaked slide. “As normal for a company entering into a new market, we consider risks and opportunities and plan for them.”
The presentation also warned employees that hundreds of people would likely attempt to reverse engineer the code on the Chinese servers and to “expect them to be successful.”
The documents also outlined that LuoBuLeSi servers would be hosted in China and that cross-paly would be prohibited to align with China’s laws. Additionally, Roblox had to agree not to include names or images of national leaders nor to “tamper with historical facts” to comply with censorship laws. All maps created for the Chinese version of Roblox had to “respect the integrity of the country and not misrepresent the Chinese territory,” stated a Tencent presentation provided to Roblox.
Booming in the metaverse (China not so much)
Despite the failure of its Chinese version, Roblox is still a vastly popular metaverse platform. Gap, Forever 21 and Gucci have all set up shop in the Roblox metaverse. Spotify launched Spotify Island, where users can virtually mingle with artists on the popular platform. Even Samsung is joining Roblox, creating a virtual playground dubbed Space Tycoon.