Unlicensed mobile games are dropping like flies from the Apple App Store as China’s deadline for registration approaches on Friday.
At the request of the Chinese government, Apple removed nearly 15,000 games since July 1, with more likely to disappear when the August 1 requirement for registration arrives, said Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad over email. For years, China has been the No. 1 mobile game market in the world, and it generated the highest revenue of any country on Apple’s App Store, with 2019 revenues of $12.6 billion, according to measurement firm Sensor Tower.
“We expect thousands of games to be removed from the China App Store this year,” he said.
Niko Partners analysts reviewed the top iOS games in China when the announcement was first made by Apple and found that 97 of the top 100 grossing games on the China App Store have legal ISBNs (International Standard Book Number). Foreign companies have to have a Chinese game publisher apply to get an ISBN from the Chinese National Press and Publication Administration. That process takes about 80 business days, according to publisher Cocos. The NPPA approves or denies games based on its censorship laws.
As a result of the removals, Niko Partners does not expect the enforcement of the regulation to have a significant impact on overall revenue. On the other hand, 50 of the top 100 downloaded games on the China App Store are unlicensed, which means there could be a notable impact on lower grossing casual games and those from small and medium sized developers. These developers will no longer be able to distribute and operate paid games or games with in-app purchases on the China App Store without a license, Ahmad said.
Cocos describes how to register a game in this video:
Earlier this month, Sensor Tower noted that 2,500 games disappeared in the first week of July, including the likes of Supercell’s farming game Hay Day, launched in 2012, as well as Nonstop Chuck Norris from Flaregames, Contract Killer Zombies 2 from Glu, ASMR Slicing from Crazy Labs, and Solitaire from Zynga.
Apple announced in February that it would begin to comply with China’s regulations and is no longer allowing new game launches or game updates without a license number.
Separately, geopolitics is affecting games that are made in China as well. On July 27, India started investigating a number of Chinese apps such as TikTok because of the recent clash on the border between the two countries. The Indian government is reviewing 275 apps for national security or user privacy violations. Among the apps that face bans are Tencent’s PUBG Mobile and other games such as those NetEase and Yoozoo Globa publish.
PUBG Mobile is the most successful mobile game in India, with over 175 million downloads and gross revenue of between $2 million to $3 million each month, Niko said.