Apple has removed nearly 100,000 iPhone and iPad games from its digital store in China

Apple earlier this year removed thousands of paid gaming apps from the App Store in China, but the total tally could be close to a whopping 100,000 purged games in 2020 thus far.

That’s according to The Wall Street Journal newspaper, which yesterday ran a story claiming that those removals were in response to demands from Chinese authorities.

Apple had 272,000 games in its China App Store last year, per Sensor Tower, a company that tracks app business globally. For 2020, it has found at least 94,000 removals from the China store, far exceeding the 25,000 game apps taken down last year.

Apple in a statement said it was complying with local laws:

Apple studies these requests carefully whenever we receive them, and we contest and disagree with them often. Though the final decisions sometimes run contrary to our wishes, we believe that our customers are best served when we remain in the country providing them access to products that promote self-expression with world-class privacy protections.

It’s no secret that the government of China likes to police digital content, but Beijing appears to have stepped up those efforts as of late.

Sensing what’s to come, Apple has warned China’s iOS developers in advance that app removals may be happening soon.

Apple this month warned Chinese developers that a new wave of paid gaming apps are at risk of removal from its App Store, according to a memo viewed by The Wall Street Journal, after the company removed thousands of such apps earlier this year.

And this.

Earlier this month, Apple told developers in a memo that premium games and those with in-app purchases had until December 31 to submit proof of a government license. ‘Only a small fraction of these games are actually going to be able to get a license, as far as we can tell,’ said Rich Bishop, chief executive of ChinaInApp, which works with Western companies to get their apps into China.

This issue actually dates back some years ago…

The Chinese government four years ago began requiring videogames to be licensed before being released, but developers were able to skirt the requirement in Apple’s app store. Apple hasn’t said why the loophole existed or why the company began closing it this year. Foreign software developers lament the change, citing difficulty securing approval in China for their games.

China’s arbitrary rules when it comes to policing its Internet were on display earlier this year when the country’s Cyberspace Administration demanded that 100+ apps, including TripAdvisor and the Quartz news app, be purged from the country’s local version of the App Store over so-called platform violations.

Most of the removed apps were developed by local programmers.

The Cyberspace Administration said the apps were illegal without clarifying further. Another example includes the popular game “Plague Inc.”, which got removed from China’s App Store in February in the midst of the coronavirus scare for having “content that is illegal in China”.

Back in 2018, Apple bowed to the Chinese government pressure by removing dozens of VoIP apps and about 25,000 illegal gambling apps from the App Store in the country — again, all at the behest of the Chinese government.

A year earlier, a bunch of VPN apps got yanked from the Chinese App Store, as well as Skype.