Apple begins sweeping App Store in China

Apple has kept its word. It’s removing all IAP and premium games from the App Store in China that had not received a government approval by June 30.

On July 1, over 1,500 games were removed from the App Store China, up from 276 titles removed on June 30. This is according to GameLook. Confusingly, some games affected by the sweep were F2P titles only monetized via ads. It’s possible that those titles were banned by accident. Still others were removed by publishers or because they failed to comply with other Apple’s regulations unrelated to monetization.

IAP and premium titles without a license number that still remain on the AppStore can no longer be updated. Which is not even a problem in itself because they are not goint to stick around for much longer. According to localization and publishing firm AppInChina, there are about 60,000 games on China’s App Store that are paid or offer in-app purchases. At least a third of them don’t have a license. If Apple keeps going through the unlicensed games at its current pace, it will be done in less than a month.

What about new games?

The App Store in China only released 15 new games on July 1, down from 166 new games on June 30. This is according to Qimai, Beijing-based provider of online data services that montiors and analyzes the performance of apps in China.

Qimai’s data suggests that 14 of these 15 new games were released automatically, having been reviewed by Apple before July, which means that only one game was actually approved on July 1.

The only game reportedly approved on July 1 is 快乐大作战 (Happy Battle), a title that has ad-based monetization only. As it offers no IAP, it didn’t need an ISBN license from the government. The game was released with a personal developer ID.

In other words, no new title featuring IAP monetization was approved on July 1.

This grave new world did not arrive overnight. Over the first half of 2020, a total of 550 mobile games have been granted license numbers meaning that an average of only 3-4 new games was reviewed every day. This is a dramatic decline from 100-200 new games released on the country’s App Store daily in the past.

Moving forward, publishers who want to stay in China will have to transition their games to in-app advertising, which is not subject to the same review process. Alternatively, they can partner with publishers like Tencent to obtain licenses.

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