Apple purges 39,000 game apps from China store to meet year-end licence deadline

(Reuters) — Apple removed 39,000 game apps from its China store Thursday, the biggest removal ever in a single day, in keeping with a year-end deadline for all game publishers to obtain a licence.

The takedowns come amid a crackdown on unlicensed games by Chinese authorities.

Including the 39,000 games, Apple removed more than 46,000 apps in total from its store on Thursday. Games affected by the sweep include Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Identity and NBA 2K20, according to research firm Qimai.

Qimai also said only 74 of the top 1,500 paid games on the Apple store survived the purge.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company initially gave game publishers an end-of-June deadline to submit a government-issued licence number that would enable users to make in-app purchases in the world’s biggest games market.

Apple later extended the deadline to December 31.

China’s Android app stores have long complied with regulations on licences. It is not clear why Apple is enforcing them more strictly this year.

Analysts said the move was no surprise, as Apple continues closing loopholes to fall in line with China’s content regulators, and that it would not directly affect Apple’s bottom line as much as previous removals.

“However, this major pivot to only accepting paid games that have a game licence, coupled with China’s extremely low number of foreign game licences approved this year, will probably lead more game developers to switch to an ad-supported model for their Chinese versions,” said Todd Kuhns, marketing manager for AppInChina, a firm that helps overseas companies distribute their apps.

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Jobber Wiki author Frank Long added to this report.