What happened? Earlier this year, Apple began removing apps from its regional store at the request of the Chinese government. Paid or in-app purchases must be licensed with an ISBN issued by China. Apple has given developers a fair warning that unlicensed applications will be removed. To meet the deadline, Cupertino has carried out the largest purge to date on the last day of 2020.
Apple removed more than 46,000 apps from its Chinese store on Thursday, marking the largest one-day purge. The games accounted for the vast majority of deletions, with approximately 39,000 titles removed. Notable examples include Assassin’s Creed Identity and Ubisoft NBA 2K20. Research firm Qimai said only 74 of China’s top 1,500 games remain in the App Store.
Reuters notes that the removals come after Chinese regulators began cracking down on unlicensed mobile software. In China, paid applications must have an international standard book number (ISBN) issued by the Chinese government. The issuance of ISBNs in the country is very strict, in part due to censorship laws. For example, everything about Winnie the Pooh was banned when viral memes mockingly compared the “stupid bear” to President Xi Jinping.
However, the ISBN rule does not apply to free games. Several F2P games remain in the store, including Call of Duty: Mobile, Honor of Kings and Game for Peace, the Chinese version of PUBG. Apple began warning about deletions in February, and several developers reportedly switched to a free-to-play model to avoid going through the ISBN application process.
Today’s purge was the second this year. Apple removed nearly 30,000 apps over the summer, most of which were games. Apple has not commented on the situation and it is not clear how mass deletions will affect 30% consumption, but we can get involved in some educated speculation.
Most of the nearly 75,000 deleted applications were probably garbage that had made all the money they would ever make. As we have seen with so many other digital markets, such as Steam and others, fly-by-night developers are flooding the store with unnecessary apps to earn a quick dollar. In addition, in July, Niko Partners analysts said that 97 of the top 100 games in the App Store had legal ISBNs. So any impact will probably be minimal for Apple.