KEY POINTS

  • Apple reportedly freezes updates on thousands of iOS games in the App Store in China
  • In February, Apple already advised game developers to secure licenses to be able to update their games on the App Store
  • Apple's move is reportedly due to the growing pressure of the country's law

A new report claims that Apple stopped updating thousands of mobile games on its App Store in China because of increasing government pressure to comply with the local laws. Sensor Tower reveals that China is the biggest App Store market of the Cupertino tech titan Apple with sales of $16.4 billion a year. The majority of these sales comes from gaming.

On Wednesday, Apple told developers that they would not be able to update their games without a license, reported Financial Times. The tech company already informed game developers in February that they would be required to show proof that their games have a license before Jun 30, 2020 ends. As of today, game developers are required to get permits from the Chinese authorities to upload their games on the Apple App Store in China.

Apple still allows Chinese games to be downloaded while developers wait for their permits and licenses from regulators. The tech giant has approximately 60,000 gaming apps in China that come with in-app purchases or are paid downloads. China only issued more than 43,000 licenses since 2010 and 1570 licenses were given to developers last year.

Apple says it sees a slower-than-anticipated return to normal conditions in China -- where in both manufactures and sells products -- due to the coronavirus epidemic Apple says it sees a slower-than-anticipated return to normal conditions in China -- where in both manufactures and sells products -- due to the coronavirus epidemic Photo: AFP / NICOLAS ASFOURI

The said regulations were introduced in China in 2016, which requires game developers to secure a license so they could change their content or charge in-app purchases. While Apple was waiting for the country’s regulators to issue authorization, it allowed developers to upload mobile games to the App Store even without the required licenses. According to CNBC, Rockstar Games relied on this loophole for several years.

Several app developers have recently stopped users in China in anticipation of the change in the rules in the App Store. Electronic Arts notified players of “Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes” that the gaming app might be taken down. It also advised users that it would stop offering in-app purchases temporarily.

AppInChina Marketing Manager Todd Kuhns was quoted by Financial Times saying “No one is entirely clear how Apple managed to avoid enforcing the 2016 licensing rule for so long. But considering the US-China trade war began heating up earlier this year, the timing is suspicious.” He estimates that Apple's move could cost the company up to $879 million. Apple is one of the largest U.S. companies operating in China.