Apple is set to remove all games lacking a government license from the Chinese App Store China in July. The move will effectively close a loophole thousands of game developers have been using to beat the strict and slow government review process in China.
In China, if a game is not free or offers in-app purchases, it has to obtain a license from the government. However, Apple has been allowing unlicensed games in the App Store as they await the government review. In contrast, Android app stores have been enforcing the requirement since 2016.
The loophole has been used by games such as Rockstar’s GTA, whose violence would not be allowed by the Chinese regulators. Earlier this year, in February, Apple told publishers to obtain licenses by June 30. Now, according to sources who preferred to remain anonymous, unlicensed games will not be available in China’s App Store after the deadline.
China is one of the largest contributors to App Store revenues, second only to the US. AppInChina, a firm that helps developers with the publishing of apps, estimates that of the 60k games in Chinas App Store, more than one-third are unlicensed. According to AppInChina’s CEO, his firm has received an influx of game license inquiries (three times more than the normal) over the past few days.
This move by Apple is a testament to China’s efforts to tighten the noose on gaming. The government has been cracking down on gaming due to offensive content and alleged gaming addiction in minors. However, stricter policies also mean a slower review process.
Unsurprisingly, when Apple closes the loophole in July, those who will suffer the most are small developers. Big mobile game companies such as Tencent will observe government policies to develop new games.
According to Bloomberg, there is another loophole: using the same license for multiple similar games. But the government is aware of this, and they will soon be caught. Another option is changing the money-making model from in-app purchases to ads to avoid the strict review process. Alternatively, they could consider partnering with big developers such as Tencent or NetEase, who might not necessarily be open to such arrangements.