Leaked documents detail Roblox’s problematic Chinese expansion plans

The documents, released as part of a recent hack, show how far Roblox was willing to bend in order to expand into the Chinese market.

A Robloxian in a military uniform stands in front of a blurred-out Roblox storefront.

This article has been updated to include a response from a Roblox spokesperson.

Newly released Roblox documents, which appeared on the web after a recent hack, appear to show the depths of how far Roblox is willing to go to gain a foothold in the Chinese market. As first reported by Vice’s Motherboard, the trove of documents includes a series of presentations that show Roblox’s strategy for expanding into China.  These documents include a China MVP Ideas from Aug Trip (2017) presentation and a document outlining the intricacies of a potential relationship between Roblox and Tencent called the China Government Policy (2018), both of which detail the steps Roblox would need to take if it wanted to expand into the lucrative Chinese market.

In the documents, Roblox discusses compliance with Chinese policies required to do business in the country, which include adhering to China’s view of its territorial integrity. That means the company and any game on its platform must “respect the integrity of the country and not misrepresent the Chinese territory,” in reference to territorial disputes involving self-ruled Taiwan, Tibet, the South China Sea, and Aksai Chin.

It also means Roblox would need to verify the identities of its users in China and collect national IDs as a way to track offenders, such as child predators, more easily. Roblox expresses willingness to adopt this policy, though recommended staying away from letting international players on Chinese servers. These users would also be subject to the same data gathering as Chinese users.

The China Government Policy document outlines other criteria Roblox games would have to meet to comply with Chinese policy. One note is that games can’t tamper with historical facts, with a few vague examples revolving around depictions of Hitler. At the same time, games must not promote division or ethnic discrimination and can’t incite national hatred of any kind.

Horror games and scenes of graphic violence would be prohibited, games can show no images or names of national leaders, and creators can’t promote ideas of polygamy or casual sex.

In response to the leaked planning documents, a Roblox spokesperson told Motherboard, “Roblox policy is to comply with the laws of the regions in which we operate, including China.”

Roblox launched a version of its platform in China in 2021 under the name LuoBuLeSi. However, the site shut down the same year.

“For more context, 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,” a Roblox spokesperson shared in a statement to PCGamesN. “We always knew that building a compelling platform in China is an iterative process, and we are thankful for the support of LuoBuLeSi users and our global developer community. It was necessary to make investments, including investments in our data architecture, in order to realize our long-term vision for LuoBuLeSi.”

Roblox continues to operate in China, as does LuoBu Studio, which enables Chinese developers to publish on both Roblox and will allow them to publish on the LuoBu app when it returns in the future, according to the spokesperson. The company shut down LuoBu after determining Roblox needed to implement a number of transitory actions in the next version of the app.

“To be clear, these changes are only related to the LuobuLeSi app published and operated by our partner Tencent, and will not impact users outside of China who interact only with experiences on the global Roblox platform. Developers can continue to submit new content and experiences for publication in global markets on the Roblox platform using our Studio products as mentioned above,” the spokesperson said.

The leak is just the latest in a host of issues impacting the company. Roblox was also recently forced to address an exploit that automatically banned innocent players. Still, the site appears safe for the time being, so be sure to check out the best Roblox music codes for July 2022, including songs by Lady Gaga, Lil Nas X, and Doja Cat.