Apple is set to begin a deep clean of the App Store in China, removing “thousands” of games that don’t have the proper government approvals, a report by Bloomberg claims.
Developers and publishers have reportedly been told that they will need to secure licenses to continue selling their games starting next month. While regulators have been promising such a crackdown since 2016, they have been slow to push through rules. As a result, unlicensed games were still being published in the interim.
As Bloomberg notes:
“This has until now allowed games such as Grand Theft Auto, whose gory depictions of violence are unlikely to ever pass muster with Chinese censors, to be available within the country’s borders. China’s regulators require all games that are either paid or offer in-app purchases to submit for review and obtain a license before publication, and major Android app stores have enforced such rules since 2016. But unapproved games have flourished on Apple’s iPhone platform.”
Google reportedly has been going along with the ban since 2016. For some reason, however, Apple has not — hence the continued publishing of new titles in the meantime.
In February, Apple told iOS developers they must get the right licenses for titles to be sold in the China App Store by June 30. But it was reportedly only recently that Apple said it will ban and remove any games without the right approvals.
China could be Apple’s future biggest market
There are reportedly around 60,000 games on China’s App Store that fall under the paid category or offer in-app purchases. Of these, reportedly one-third do not have the problem license to operate. The crackdown could result in many games, especially foreign ones, losing one of their biggest markets after the United States. Last year, China made up about one-fifth of the $61 billion in digital goods and services sold in the App Store.
This is not the first time there has been a massive cull in the Chinese App Store. For example, in summer 2018 Apple kicked out an enormous 25,000 apps because they broke Chinese laws. Many of these were gambling related, which is illegal in China outside of state-sanctioned lotteries. Apple removed several hundred more apps later in the year. On that occasion it was for breaking Apple’s own rules, rather than China’s.
Tim Cook has frequently talked about China being Apple’s future biggest market. But Apple has still experienced various challenges doing business there over the years.