More Than 2,500 Mobile Games Removed from China’s App Store in First Seven Days of July as ISBN Crackdown Bites

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More than 2,500 mobile games were removed from China’s App Store in the first seven days of July following a crackdown on titles that are available without a license for release, according to Sensor Tower App Intelligence data.

Strict Regulations

China’s mobile gaming regulations require that all titles receive a license from the country’s National Press and Publication Administration before release, confirming that the app meets the country’s strict rules on content. Despite this, many titles were previously able to release on China’s App Store without such approval. Now, however, Apple will be adhering to the nation’s regulations, and developers will have until July 31 to enter their approval number and supporting documentation to their game’s page in App Store Connect. After July 31, premium games and any title that includes in-app purchases without an ISBN will be removed from China’s App Store until a license number is provided.

In the first seven days of this month, close to 660 games have been added to the marketplace, while more than 2,500 titles have been removed. For comparison, close to four times as many games have been removed than were delisted in the first seven days of April, while there have been five times more removals than in the first seven days of May, and over four times more than the same period in June. Note that our figures only capture titles that were large enough to rank in the App Store’s games subcategories at some point and that have been removed for five days or more. Of the games removed, nearly 2,000 titles, or 80 percent, had generated less than 10,000 downloads in China since January 1, 2012.

China App Store Game Removals by Week

The games removed in the first week of July had generated a combined $34.7 million in lifetime gross revenue in China, with one accumulating more than $10 million, and just six that earned over $1 million. The titles had racked up a combined 133.4 million lifetime downloads in China, with one title generating more than 10 million installs, while 30 had picked up over one million.

Notable games removed from China’s App Store during this period include Contract Killer Zombies 2 from Glu, Solitaire from Zynga, ASMR Slicing from Crazy Labs, and Nonstop Chuck Norris from Flaregames. In more recent days outside this dataset, Hay Day from Supercell was also taken down from the marketplace.

Tougher Restrictions, But Still Lucrative

China has for years been the most lucrative mobile games market in the world, and generated the highest revenue of any country on the App Store for the category. In 2019, games on China’s App Store generated an estimated $12.6 billion, representing 33.2 percent of all global games spending on Apple’s marketplace last year. The No. 2 country was the United States, which accumulated $9 billion, or 23.7 percent of total App Store games revenue. In the first half of 2020, meanwhile, China’s App Store has racked up $6.7 billion, or 30 percent of the worldwide total, while the U.S. store has accumulated $5.8 billion, or 26 percent.

In terms of the overall market, the $34.7 million in lifetime revenue generated from the removed games is not all that significant. As the deadline looms for publishers to obtain an ISBN, however, we can expect to see further removals during the next month and it will be more challenging than ever for international companies to release their games in China.

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