Apple Reportedly Set to Pull Thousands of iOS Games From App Store Over Chinese Licensing Issue

Image: Gizmodo
Image: Gizmodo

Apple is reportedly gearing up to pull thousands of games from its App Store in China because they lack licenses from Chinese regulators, a move that could see the removal of popular games like Grand Theft Auto.

Citing sources familiar with the matter, Bloomberg reported Monday that the crackdown on unlicensed games will begin in July. Potentially tens of thousands of games that are paid for or offer in-app purchases will be removed, per China’s regulatory policy that was initially introduced in 2016 and strengthened last year over concerns of gaming addiction and offensive content. The review processes can be lengthy, however, as regulators vet games for things like depictions of violence.

The crackdown will almost certainly target unlicensed but wildly popular games like Grand Theft Auto, Bloomberg noted. As the entire premise of this game is Doing Crimes in wildly graphic ways, the future of the game in China is unclear. Neither Apple nor Rockstar Games, maker of the game series, returned requests for comment.

Previously, according to Bloomberg, Apple allowed developers to put their games on the App Store while they awaited Chinese approval. In February, however, the company gave developers a heads up that they had until July to comply with regulators and secure an approval number, CNBC reported at the time. In a message to those parties, Apple said the Chinese government’s “law requires games to secure an approval number from the General Administration of Press and Publication of China.” Now, apps without approval numbers will reportedly be purged from the store.

Bloomberg noted it’s unclear why Apple has failed to enforce the policy in its App Store prior to now. As CNBC noted, it appeared at the time that Apple was allowing unlicensed apps to be published to the store. I’m sure that had absolutely nothing — no part at all! — to do with the hefty chunk of change Apple makes off these kinds of apps with its so-called “Apple tax,” which is incidentally a very hot topic at this week’s WWDC.