Apple has told developers worldwide it would remove any remaining paid games that are not approved by Chinese authorities after Dec. 31, ending a six-month-long purge of unlicensed games.

Why it matters: The move means it will be almost impossible for international mobile games makers to access the Chinese market if they don’t comply with the country’s strict content rules. Chinese Android app stores have long required game makers to obtain such licenses if their apps contain paid features.

Details: In an email to developers on Dec. 2, Apple said that games without a valid game license number will be removed by Dec. 31, according to a report shared with TechNode Wednesday by AppInChina, a mobile services company that helps foreign apps enter the country.

  • “As you may know, Chinese law requires games to obtain an approval number from China’s National Press and Publication Administration,” Apple said in the email. “After Dec. 31, your game will no longer be available on the App Store in China mainland until an approval number is provided with your next submission.”
  • Apple did not reply to TechNode’s request for comment on Wednesday.
  • It is unknown how many titles will be affected. Apple has removed more than 90,000 games from the China App Store since July, according to AppInChina, though these may include removals for other reasons.

READ MORE: Apple purges 3,300 games from China App Store in 2 days

Context: The purge of unlicensed games kicked off in July when Apple started to act on a February warning to developers to submit a valid license number or face removal. The company removed some 1,571 and 1,805 games from its App Store in China on July 1 and July 2, respectively, versus an average of around 200 titles removed in June.

  • Since 2016, Chinese regulators 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.
  • Foreign companies are not allowed to apply for the license. They have to partner with local companies to legally launch their paid games in China. So far, only 97 foreign games were issued game licenses this year, according to AppInChina.

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. He writes a monthly newsletter tracking...