Apple stops updates of mobile games on Chinese App Store

In February, Apple warned game developers they would need to show proof that their games had a licence by June 30

Apple has frozen updates for thousands of mobile games on its App Store in China, as it faces increasing government pressure to comply with local regulations.

China is Apple’s biggest App Store market, with most revenues coming from gaming, with sales of $16.4bn a year, according to Sensor Tower data, followed by the US with $15.4bn. 

Apple has so far allowed Chinese games to be downloaded from the App Store while their developers wait for an official licence from Chinese regulators. But in February, the US company warned game developers they would need to show proof that their games had a licence by June 30. 

Apple has now said developers will not be able to update their games without a licence.

Some app developers have stopped serving China users in anticipation of Apple’s rule change. Gaming group Electronic Arts, being one of them, posted an in-game notice telling users of Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes it expected its app to be taken down, and that it would stop providing in-app purchases in the meantime. 

Apple currently hosts roughly 60,000 games in China that are paid for or have in-app purchases, according to AppinChina, but China’s regulators have only issued just over 43,000 licences since 2010. 

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Only 1,570 were granted in 2019. 

China strictly regulates content based on everything from political taboos to cartoon characters that have “inappropriate hair colours”. The App Store itself continues to operate without an Internet Content Provider licence, which would usually be necessary in China but is also very difficult to secure. 

Apple has not yet commented on the matter.     

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