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Apple set to pull unlicensed games from Chinese App Store

Games in the App Store

Last updated

Apple is reportedly preparing to remove thousands of games from the App Store in China in July, taking down listings for iOS games that operate in the country without gaining approval from the country's regulators.

Chinese gaming revenue is an important part of Apple's income for the App Store, but the restrictive regime in the country makes earning money a challenge for foreign developers. In the latest move that affects external developers, Apple will allegedly be removing listings for games from the regional App Store covering China, preventing those that do not have regulatory approval from being bought or played.

Developers have been informed they require licenses from Chinese regulators to continue offering their games in the iOS App Store from July onwards, people familiar with the situation told Bloomberg. Chinese regulations require games with paid components to be reviewed and to acquire a license before publication, with games that lack the license becoming candidates for removal.

So far, Apple has allowed games without the license to be made available in the App Store, and it has done so even though the rival Google Play Store has limited access since 2016, complying with regulatory demands. While Apple has been slow to move, there have been some signs of change on the horizon.

In February, Apple started to inform developers they needed to include Chinese gaming license numbers for games in the App Store, if they were to be continued to be offered in mainland China. Developers had until June 30 to submit the license.

To get the license, which is issued by a Chinese government regulator, companies have to go through an approval process, one which can be potentially expensive for a non-Chinese developer to undertake remotely.

Apple's shift to comply with local regulatory demands for licenses is the latest in a series of events where it has agreed to the demands of the Chinese government. On June 11, it removed the popular podcasting app Pocket Casts from the regional App Store following a takedown from the country's cyber watchdog agency.

Previously Apple removed apps for Quartz and police monitoring during the 2019 Hong Kong protests, and pulled multiple VPN apps in 2017 that may have been used to get around China's "Great Firewall."