Apple will start removing unlicensed games from its China app store as a deadline given by the American technology giant passes on June 30. The company’s move to enforce Chinese game licensing regulations is expect to affect thousands of mobile games that have relied on a loophole to list on the Chinese app store.

Why it matters: Apple’s move will make it much harder for international mobile games developers to access the Chinese market, requiring them to find a Chinese partner to apply for a license from regulators.

  • Since 2016, Chinese regulations have required all paid games or games that offer in-app purchases to obtain a publication license before they can be uploaded to app stores.
  • Apple required developers to submit a license number to upload games to the store, but a report by The Information suggests that Apple doesn’t actually check the license numbers.
  • Developers were able to list unlicensed games by submitting a random number instead of an official license numbers.

Details: TechNode reported in February that Apple sent a notice to developers requiring them to submit valid license numbers for paid games or games offering in-app purchases before June 30 if they want to distribute in mainland China. 

  • Apple is ready to take action next month as this deadline approaches, Bloomberg reported Tuesday, citing “people familiar with the matter.” Bloomberg reports that the company will start removing thousands of games from its App Store in China next month.
  • “Chinese law requires games to secure an approval number from the General Administration of Press and Publication of China,” Apple said in the notice sent to developers in February.

Context: The Chinese National Radio and Television Administration, China’s top content regulator, issued a notice in 2016 requiring mobile games to obtain approval from the administration before publishing.

  • Only Chinese companies can apply for licenses, meaning that international developers must find a domestic partner to apply.
  • It can take months for game makers to have their titles approved. Titles are often rejected for indistinct reasons. Chinese media has identified (in Chinese) some possible grounds for rejection, including erotic content, gambling, or traditional Chinese characters.
  • China froze mobile game approvals for nine months in 2018, causing the country’s gaming industry to record its slowest growth in at least a decade.

Wei Sheng

Wei Sheng is a Beijing-based reporter covering hardware, smartphone, and telecommunications, along with regulations and policies related to the China tech scene. Before joining TechNode, he wrote about...