Apple Purges Thousands of Unlicensed Games from China App Store

(Bloomberg) — Apple Inc. removed more than 30,000 apps, 90% of them games, from its iPhone App Store in China on Saturday, Qimai Research Institute said.

The crackdown, which began in June and escalated in July, ends the unofficial practice of allowing games to be published while awaiting approval from Beijing’s censors, which all titles that are paid or offer in-app purchases must obtain. The loophole existed only on the iPhone, as local Chinese Android vendors already adhered to the rule without exception. After the Saturday purge, there were about 179,000 games remaining in Apple’s China store, of which 160,000 were free.

Apple had earlier warned developers and publishers that their iOS games will need licenses to continue operating in China, and the company explicitly said any unlicensed games will be banned and removed after July 31, according to a notice viewed by Bloomberg News.

Read: Apple Set to Nix Thousands of Unlicensed IPhone Games in China

China is one of Apple’s largest markets for selling digital goods and services, with the iPhone maker typically taking a 30% cut from such transactions. The Cupertino, California-based company’s culling efforts highlight a more forceful stance from the Chinese government when it comes to gaming.

Citing concerns about the proliferation of addiction among minors and the dissemination of offensive content, regulators now adopt a much stricter and slower review process than before they temporarily halted all approvals in 2018. Imported games are under particularly tight scrutiny, and the App Store loophole served as a last resort for getting some of them distributed in the world’s largest mobile game arena.

Online advertisers like Tencent Holdings Ltd. and ByteDance Ltd. are likely to also suffer a blow, as they can expect to lose a chunk of their gaming ad buyers.

(Updates with additional details and background from second paragraph)

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