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Apple takes down over 30,000 games from China app store in one day

All paid games now need government approval—something only 750 Chinese and 27 imported titles have accomplished this year.

iPhone maker Apple has taken down more than 30,000 mobile games from its Chinese app store on August 1 according to local app data tracker Qimai, in what is the largest single removal yet of unlicensed games in a clampdown that started as early as July.

Apple removed the apps to comply with Chinese gaming regulations, which require all paid games or games with in-app purchases to be approved by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television of China.

The company updated its rules in February this year to satisfy the regulation, which was passed in 2016, and asked developers and publishers of paid games to provide licenses by the end of June. In June, the company also informed developers in China that the removal would occur in July, KrASIA reported.

“It’s long-anticipated,” a game developer at a large Chinese internet company, who wished to remain anonymous told KrASIA. While Android app stores have long implemented the 2016 rule, Apple has kept unlicensed games online via a loophole—allowing new games to stay in the store while waiting for a license.

“[The regulation is to] maintain the user experience and environment and make sure the iOS content ecosystem is healthy,” the developer said. “If Apple didn’t comply with the regulators’ policies, the entire Chinese app store would be at risk.”

China is the biggest market for Apple. Whereas the app store ecosystem generated USD 519 billion in billings and sales worldwide in 2019, Chinese users accounted for almost half those sales, at USD 246 billion. Apple takes a 30% cut of digital transactions, the so-called “Apple Tax”.

It is unclear why Apple has waited until now to enforce the rule.

The developer told KrASIA that scrutiny from Chinese authorities probably began in 2019 when the game-license freeze ended after almost one year. The takedown proceeded slowly due to rounds of submissions and oversight as well as holidays in between.

“The removal this time hurts small and mid-sized gaming companies and indie developers most,” the developer added.

So far, 750 Chinese titles and 27 imported titles have obtained approvals this year from the regulator. Last year, 1,570 games obtained approvals.