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Apple to remove thousands of unlicensed games from Chinese App Store

07:27 | 23/06/2020

Roughly 20,000 games are thought to be using a loophole to sell games on the App Store in China without a license. And the U.S tech giant Apple has informed developers who offer iPhone games in China that they are now required to obtain a license from the Chinese government in order to continue offering those games in the Chinese App Store.

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apple to remove thousands of unlicensed games from chinese app store
Apple set to pull unlicensed games from Chinese App Store. Photo: Apple Insider

Apple is about to start removing thousands of mobile games from its App Store in China, following the government’s crackdown on a loophole that has until now allowed developers such as Rockstar Games to get unapproved games into the hands of Chinese players, said Engaget.

Also reported by Bloomberg, developers and publishers in China have until the end of June to obtain a games license from the local government or the app will face removal from the App Store beginning in July. 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.

apple to remove thousands of unlicensed games from chinese app store
There are about 60,000 games on China’s App Store and it is speculated that at least a third of them do not have a license. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

As noted by Apple Insider, 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.

China accounted for about a fifth of the US$61 billion in digital goods and services sold via Apple’s App Store in 2019, making it the largest market after the US, the Analysis Group estimates, cited South China Morning Post. Apple takes a 30 percent cut from most of these transactions.

apple to remove thousands of unlicensed games from chinese app store
The mobile game Plague Inc, in which players create and evolve a pathogen to annihilate the human population with a deadly disease, topped the download charts on China’s App Store for weeks during the country’s Covid-19 lockdown. Photo: Shutterstock

As Bloomberg reports, there are some 60,000 games on China’s iOS App Store that are paid-for or offer in-app purchases, and at least a third of them don’t have a license. It’s not known how long it will take to remove these unlicensed games. "These companies will suddenly lose all revenue from what is typically their second-largest market after the US", AppInChina CEO Rich Bishop told Bloomberg.

apple to remove thousands of unlicensed games from chinese app store
Want to have fun? You need a license for that. Photo: imore

"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", said Luke Dormehl, a UK-based journalist with daily news website focusing on Apple named Cult of Mac.

apple to remove thousands of unlicensed games from chinese app store
Apple’s latest move ends the unofficial practice of allowing mobile games to be published on the App Store in China, while awaiting authorisation from the country’s regulators. Photo: SCMP via Agence France-Presse
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