Approximately 48,000 mobile games were removed from Apple’s App Store in China during December 2020 as publishers faced a crackdown on rule-breakers, according to Sensor Tower App Intelligence data.
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. Apple is now adhering to these regulations, which Android stores in the country were already enforcing, resulting in an exodus of unlicensed titles, affecting premium games and apps that include in-app purchases.
A previous deadline of July 31 for publishers to obtain a licence had been extended to the end of the year. Prior to that date, more than 2,500 games were removed in the first seven days of July. By the end of that month, 5,500 games were removed, while in August more than 27,000 games left the store. During the latest purge, December 31 saw the largest number of game removals, with more than 40,000 titles pulled from the marketplace in a single day. Our estimates include titles that we track; those that have previously ranked on the store’s download or revenue charts. There remains an opportunity for these games to return to the App Store.
The games removed in 2020 had generated close to $3 billion in lifetime revenue in China since January 2012. One title, released in 2019, had generated $85.5 million from player spending prior to its removal from China’s App Store in December. In total, 55 games removed from the App Store there last year had accumulated more than $10 million in revenue prior to going offline.
Removed games had also generated a combined 4.8 billion downloads in China since January 2012, the biggest of which had accumulated 55.5 million installs in the country. Overall, 24 games that were pulled from China’s App Store had racked up over 10 million downloads there.
Notable games removed from China’s App Store in 2020 included Asphalt 8 from Gameloft, Fruit Ninja from Halfbrick, Hole.io from Voodoo, and Hay Day from Supercell.
The removal of close to 50,000 games from Apple’s App Store in China is evidence of just how serious China is about its stringent content regulations. The App Store had existed as a grey market of sorts, but this loophole has now been closed off to publishers. Taken in context, the figure of nearly $3 billion in revenue is a relatively small, yet still notable figure. For downloads, however, the 4.8 billion installs represents approximately 29 percent of all App Store game downloads in the country since January 2012, a clearly significant number, at least historically. China remains one of the world’s most lucrative games markets, but the message is clear: follow the rules or it’s closed to you.
Sensor Tower’s Store Intelligence platform is an Enterprise level offering. Interested in learning more?