Apple has removed 39,000 games from the App Store in China on 31 December 2020. According to a report, this was Apples’ biggest single-day app takedown as it set the year-end deadline for all game publishers to obtain a licence to distribute their games as required by Chinese law.
This comes as the Chinese government steps up its efforts to crackdown on unlicensed games and tighten control over its internet, citing concerns about the proliferation of addiction among minors and the dissemination of content that is deemed dangerous or inappropriate.
Since 2016, the government in Beijing have required all paid games or games that offer in-app purchases to obtain a licence before they can be uploaded and distributed to app stores in the country. On the other hand, free games are not subjected to the regulatory requirements that affect paid titles.
According to an estimate by AppInChina, a company that helps foreign companies localise and publish their apps in China, there are roughly 60,000 games on China’s iOS App Store and at least a third of them don’t have a license.
9to5Mac said Chinese App Store developers have actually been able to skirt this requirement for years. Normally, Apple would allow games into the App Store while they are waiting for their license to be approved, but it turns out that Apple didn’t enforce the requirement in some cases.
However, it is not known why Apple has not been swift in enforcing China’s licensing rules compared to other major Android app stores operated by Chinese mobile giants like Alibaba Group and Xiaomi.
It turns out that games were not the only apps affected by Apple’s purge. The California based tech giant is reported to have removed 7,000 non-gaming apps as well. This brings the total number of apps removed to 46,000.
Among the notable games that were taken down include NBA 2K20 and Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Identity. Research firm Qimai reported that only 74 out of the top 1,500 paid games on the App store survived Apple’s biggest single-day app takedown incident.
Prior to the 31 December culling, app analytics firm Sensor Tower believed that a total of 94,000 apps had been removed from the China App Store in 2020.
The iPhone maker initially gave game publishers to the end of June 2020 to provide proof of license to continue offering their app in China. It later extended the deadline to 31 December. Apple stated:
In order to keep your paid game or game with in-app purchases available on the App Store in China mainland, enter your approval number and supporting documents in the App information section of your game’s page in App Store Connect and submit an update to App Review by December 31.
Analysts said the mass removal of apps is no surprise as the tech giant has frequently faced challenges when doing business in China.
Todd Kuhns, a marketing manager for AppInChina said:
This major pivot to only accepting paid games that have a game licence, coupled with China’s extremely low number of foreign game licences approved this year, will probably lead more game developers to switch to an ad-supported model for their Chinese versions.
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