Apple starts thousands of games on China’s App Store

Customers line up to get their iPhone 12 cell phones booked at an Apple store in Shanghai on October 23, 2020.

Customers line up to get their iPhone 12 cell phones booked at an Apple store in Shanghai in October 23, 2020.
Photograph: STR / AFP (Getty Images)

Apple is preparing to remove thousands of other video games from its App Store in China due to pressure from the Chinese government, reports the Wall Street Journal. The company had previously warned Chinese video game developers that Game apps were at risk of being removed from the App Store, but the Chinese government is now further cracking down on games that do not have a required license – or any apps it deems illegal.

According to a memo obtained by the WSJ, developers have until December 31 to provide Apple with proof of their government-issued license or else their games and other applications will be removed from the App Store. But Rich Bishop, chief executive of ChinaInApp, told WSJ that very few developers will actually be able to obtain the necessary license from the government to keep their games in the App Store.

This regulatory policy, introduced for the first time in 2016, was supposedly born out of concerns about addiction to games and offensive content, but so far many iOS developers have managed to circumvent the compulsory license law because of a loophole in the policies of the Apple App Store – a loophole that Apple is closing now, judging by this forthcoming purge. It is not clear exactly what this gap involved.

But IIt’s not just games that Apple is removing and will likely continue to remove. A Hong Kong mapping application was removed from the App Store during the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong last fall, after Chinese state media said it endangered the police. Google also removed the same application at the same time. Plague INC., a global simulation game with a pandemic theme has also been removed. PUBG was banned in 2019. Even TripaThe advisor may not be protected from Chinese censors. The travel app is one of more than 100 apps that China has told Apple to remove without citing a reason.

In 2019, The China State Press and Publishing Administration (SAPP) revealed its application approval guidelines, which prohibited anything that violates or threatens China’s constitution, national security or political climate; games that promote racism or religious cults; and obscene content using drugs, extreme violence or gambling, Business Insider reported.

After pressure from shareholders on its willingness to obey Chinese censors, Apple Published a document in September about their commitment to human rights. However, as the Financial Times pointed out at the time of publication of the document, there is no specific reference to China, or what should happen when “China, the largest smartphone market in the world, asks to ban applications that help users escape censorship and surveillance”.

But the document says:

Side by side with the privacy of our users is our commitment to freedom of information and expression. Our products help our customers to communicate, learn, express their creativity and exercise their ingenuity. We believe in the critical importance of an open society in which information flows freely and we are convinced that the best way to continue to promote openness is to remain engaged, even when we may disagree with a country’s laws.

In 2020 alone, Apple removed 94,000 apps from its China App Store, compared to 25,000 games removed last year, according to the Sensor Tower. In July, 2,500 mobile games have been removed before July 31 deadline to obtain a license. It is not clear whether these games werepowered by developers or Apple, but Sensor Tower notes that 80% of those apps have had less than 10,000 downloads in China since January 1, 2012.