Apple closes Chinese App Store loophole, causing thousands of games to be removed

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Apple will start removing thousands of games from its Chinese App Store in July as a result of a policy that requires all paid games or games with in-app purchases to be licensed by Chinese regulators, Bloomberg reports. The action marks the end of a loophole that allowed developers to sell games on the platform while they were awaiting approval.

Chinese regulators can reportedly take months to approve games, giving developers the chance to profit from titles that otherwise risk being banned. Bloomberg says that Rockstar Games has relied on the loophole to sell titles from the Grand Theft Auto franchise in the country, for example. However, back in February, Apple began reminding developers that they would need to obtain licenses by June 30th or risk their games being banned and removed.

The measures are expected to impact at least one-third of the reportedly 60,000 games currently listed on Apple’s Chinese App Store that are either paid or feature in-app purchases and which currently lack a license. For some game developers, that could mean losing all revenue from Apple’s second-largest app market. Developers have the option of switching their games to an exclusively ad-based model to get around the license requirement or, if they have the resources to do so, adjust their games to respond to the demands of censors.

Bloomberg notes that major Android app stores have enforced the requirement to have a license prior to publication in China since 2016. However, the situation with Android app stores in China is different to iOS since these are run by local players like Tencent, Oppo, and Huawei. Google does not offer its Google Play Store in China.

The news of the removals comes in the same month that Apple removed a pair of podcasting apps from its Chinese App Store at the request of the Chinese government. These apps could reportedly be used to access content deemed illegal in the country. Bloomberg notes that China made up about 20 percent of Apple’s App Store revenue in 2019.

Apple declined to comment to Bloomberg about its report, and a representative from the company did not immediately respond to The Verge’s request for comment.

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