Apple removed nearly 100,000 games from App Store in China in 2020

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What you need to know

  • The number of games removed from the App Store in China is fast approaching 100,000 in 2020.
  • It comes after changes to licensing laws in the country.
  • Apple recently reminded developers that another cull would take place with a deadline of December 31.

A new report says Apple removed nearly 100,000 games from its App Store in China in 2020, although that number could be as high as 140,000 according to separate reports.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Apple Inc. is booting thousands of videogame apps from its platform in China as the government clamps down harder on such content, illustrating the tech giant's vulnerability to state pressure on its business.The iPhone maker this month warned Chinese developers that a new wave of paid gaming apps are at risk of removal from its app store, according to a memo viewed by The Wall Street Journal, after the company removed thousands of such apps earlier this year.

The memo referred to was reported by AppInChina on December 7, which tells developers:

As you may know, Chinese law requires games to obtain an approval number from China's National Press and Publication Administration. In order to keep your paid game or game with in-app purchases available on the App Store in China mainland, enter your approval number and supporting documentation in the App Information section of your game's page in App Store Connect and submit an update to App Review by December 31. After December 31, your game will no longer be available on the App Store in China mainland until an approval number is provided with your next submission.

The WSJ report says that Apple has removed "at least 94,000" games, according to data from Sensor Tower. However, AppInChina's tracking report suggests this is more like 140,000 and counting, as it doesn't include December's figures. That data includes a whopping August cull of nearly 40,000 games in a single month, including 26,000 games that were removed in a single day.

Earlier in the year, changes to licensing laws in the country put thousands of apps at risk of being removed. Games in China are required by law to obtain an approval number from China's National Press and Publication Administration, however previously developers could submit and publish their apps whilst their application for this number was pending, a practice loosely described as "unofficial" in previous reports. The Chinese government decided to clamp down on Apple's decision to ignore the rules. Previously, Apple would allow developers to submit literally any number whilst they waited for approval from the countries slow-moving regulators.

The new rules, according to WSJ, are making it very difficult for foreign developers to get their games published. Figures from the administration suggest only 97 foreign games were approved this year, from the report:

"Only a small fraction of these games are actually going to be able to get a license, as far as we can tell," said Rich Bishop, chief executive of ChinaInApp, which works with Western companies to get their apps into China. Trade tensions between China and the U.S. and other countries have made it harder to get those licenses, he said.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple. Follow him on Twitter @stephenwarwick9