On Dec. 2, Apple sent an email to the remaining developers who own unlicensed games on App Store China, informing them their products will be removed if they fail to submit a license approval number by Dec. 31.
A previous deadline was set on July 1, when more than 26,000 games were removed from the Chinese App Store in a single day. Thousands, however, remained.
Even though the company has consistently refused to comment on its removal plan, according to AppInChina, a Beijing-based platform helping companies to localize, publish and promote apps and games on App Store, this should likely be the last group of unlicensed games to be targeted by Apple.
Scheduled for removal are unlicensed apps in the games category that are paid and/or contain in-app purchases. Apple’s latest email is similar to previous messages it has been sending since February, when it first announced such a change.
Chinese laws require all games distributed by the company to apply for a special game license from the government.
However, this has generally only been enforced for games that are paid or have in-app purchases. Products that are monetized through advertisements are not affected, and have not been targeted for removal by Apple so far.
Only 97 foreign games were issued game licenses in 2020 by China’s National Press and Publications Administration (NPPA.)
Previously, a loophole existed in Apple’s system whereby the company asked for an ISBN/game license approval number but did not verify its validity, meaning any number entered would work. This allowed tens of thousands of unlicensed apps to continue to flood the App Store unchecked over the past four years.
The company only began to bring its games into compliance with the Chinese regulations this year in a sudden move that took many developers by surprise, leaving them with little or no time to apply for the required ISBN number, which can take six months to one year to receive.
The majority of Android app and game stores have been enforcing this law since 2016, when the regulation first came into effect.