HONG KONG (Reuters) – Apple removed 39,000 game apps from its Chinese store on Thursday, the biggest removal ever in a single day, as it set the end of the year as the deadline for all publishers to games get a license.
The withdrawals come amid a crackdown on unlicensed gambling by Chinese authorities.
Including the 39,000 games, Apple removed more than 46,000 total apps from its store on Thursday. Games affected by the sweep included Ubisoft title Assassin’s Creed Identity and NBA 2K20, according to research firm Qimai.
Qimai also said that only 74 of the top 1,500 paid games on the Apple Store survived the purge.
Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Apple initially gave game publishers a deadline of late June to submit a government-issued license number allowing users to make in-app purchases in the world’s largest games marketplace.
Apple then extended the deadline to December 31.
Android app stores in China have long complied with licensing regulations. It’s unclear why Apple is enforcing them more strictly this year.
Analysts said the move came as no surprise, as Apple continues to fill gaps to align with Chinese content regulators, and would not directly affect Apple’s bottom line as much as previous removals.
“However, this major pivot of only accepting paid games that have a game license, coupled with the extremely low number of foreign game licenses in China approved this year, will likely lead to more game developers moving to a ad-supported model for their Chinese versions,” said Todd Kuhns, chief marketing officer of AppInChina, a company that helps overseas companies distribute their apps.
Reporting by Pei Li; Editing by Alex Richardson