Apple continues to remove games from the China App Store as it applies new licensing requirements

A new report in the Wall Street Journal reports that “thousands of video game apps” are in the process of being removed from the Apple App Store. It came after cracking unlicensed games in China, but the move has in some cases extended beyond the gaming sector.

Over the past month, Apple has warned Chinese developers that it is at risk of “removing new waves of paid gaming apps,” the report said. The process is one that Apple has been working on for months, with the first removal starting in the summer.

Apple reminded developers this month that “with the purchase of premium games and apps, there was until December 31 to submit proof of an official license.”

The issue is in the vicinity of a Chinese regulation that requires video games to be licensed before they can be released. App store developers have been able to skirt this requirement over the years. For example, Apple will allow games in the App Store while awaiting their license, and in some cases this will not apply to the requirements.

Today’s Wall Street Journal report adds that China has demanded the removal of Tripadvisor and hundreds of other apps from the App Store, without explanation:

The app-storeies came as China sought to tighten its Internet policing, control and censorship, including removing Tripadvisor and hundreds of other apps from the country’s Apple store. The Chinese cyberspace administration called apps without tripadvisors or other applications illegal, most of which were done by Chinese developers. Tripadvisor declined to comment.

In a statement, an Apple spokesman explained that the App Store is subject to local rules:

“Apple carefully studies these requests whenever we receive them and we often compete with them and do not agree,” a company spokesman said. “Although final decisions sometimes go against our wishes, we believe that our customers are best served while in the country by providing access to products that promote self-disclosure with global privacy protections.”

A report in The Wall Street Journal cites data from the Censor Tower, which shows that Apple played 222,000 games in the Chinese app store last year and has seen at least 94,000 removals from the app store this year. For comparison, Apple removed 25,000 games in 2019 from the China App Store.

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