Apple made good on its promise to pull unlicensed games from the Apple App Store China, with more than 26,591 games already gone in a single day, according to Qimai Data.
This is fast-approaching half of the approximately 64,700 iOS games in China that are either paid or contain in-app purchases. China is typically these developers’ largest market by a wide margin, and the largest in the world at about $8.8 billion.
“We’ve known this would happen since Apple gave the deadline last month, but it’s already considerably more than we originally estimated,” said Todd Kuhns, marketing manager for AppInChina, which helps overseas developers publish their games in China.
Since 2016, Chinese law has required all games distributed in China to receive a game license in China, though free and ad-supported games are currently allowed to publish without one. Though Apple previously ignored this requirement when iOS developers published on their platform in China, the company’s sudden announcement in February that it would begin enforcing it took the industry by surprise.
“This affects small- and mid-sized developers’ incomes the most, but due to the difficulties of acquiring a business license, it’s devastating to the whole iOS game industry in China,“ said Kuhns. “For example, Tetris and Star Wars Galaxies were among the first big titles to get hit.”
It takes 6-12 months to get a game license, and the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA) issued a total of just 1,572 game licenses (domestic and imported) in 2019. Only 779 have been issued so far this year, meaning most of these games will remain off the stores for a while.
Overseas publishers are especially disadvantaged, as non-Chinese companies and individuals are unable to apply for a China game license on their own.
These companies now face two options: Switch to an ad-only revenue model for their game in China, or partner with a Chinese game publisher and wait 8 to 12 months to obtain a game license.
“We’ve already seen a dramatic surge in inquiries for our game license services,” said Rich Bishop, CEO of AppInChina. “We expect to be very busy this month.”
AppInChina helps foreign companies localize, publish and promote their mobile apps and games in the Chinese market through the Apple App Store, Steam, and the major Android app stores.