The App Store in China had its biggest single-day removal of apps ever — with a massive 39,000 games given the boot by Apple on Thursday alone. This is as a result of Chinese laws stating that all game publishers must obtain a special license in order to distribute their titles.
According to research firm Qimai, only 74 of the top 1,500 games in the App Store survived the massive app bloodbath. Major titles that vanished included the likes of Assassin’s Creed Identity and NBA 2K20.
Reuters notes that:
“Apple initially gave game publishers an end-of-June deadline to submit a government-issued licence number enabling users to make in-app purchases in the world’s biggest games market. [It] later extended the deadline to Dec. 31.”
The license requirement has been around for some time. However, it only seems that Apple is enforcing it now. It’s not clear what changed this behavior.
Challenges in China
Apple, for its part, has frequently faced these kinds of challenges when doing business in China. Recently, in response to another report about game removals in China, an Apple spokesperson said:
“Apple studies these requests carefully whenever we receive them, and we contest and disagree with them often. Though the final decisions sometimes run contrary to our wishes, we believe that our customers are best served when we remain in the country providing them access to products that promote self-expression with world-class privacy protections.”
Apple hasn’t always had it easy in China itself. Previously it has had to accept government demands that it run network safety evaluations on all Apple products before they can be imported into the country, had its products booted off the list of approved state purchases in favor of Chinese-made rivals, and been forced to transition iCloud accounts registered in China to state-run Chinese servers.
Tim Cook has talked about China being Apple’s future biggest market. This is just the cost of doing business there. (It’s also not like it runs one way, either. In the US, there’s plenty of discussion about removing “untrusted” Chinese apps from the App Store.)
Still, if you live in China, there’s a good chance the App Store just got a whole lot less fun for you!