August 19, 2022
Enlarge / Apple’s App Store.

Apple plans to imminently remove games and apps on the App Store that have not been recently updated if developers don’t submit an update for approval within 30 days. This news comes from screenshots and claims shared by various app developers and reporting by The Verge.

Here’s the text of the email that went out to developers:

This app has not been updated in a significant amount of time and is scheduled to be removed from sale in 30 days. No action is required for the app to remain available to users who have already downloaded the app.

You can keep this app available for new users to discover and download from the App Store by submitting an update for review within 30 days.

If no update is submitted within 30 days, the app will be removed from sale.

It’s not clear whether this rule means users must keep the app installed on their devices to continue to access it or if it will be available from the previously downloaded apps list even if the app is no longer listed on the store.

It’s also unclear whether this is a newly enforced rule or just a particularly big wave of notifications about it. Apple announced its intentions to do something similar in 2016, but developers have no way of knowing how often the rule is enforced. And while that initial announcement seemed more focused on apps that lacked support for new iOS and iPhone or iPad features, some of the developers who received this recent email claim their apps work perfectly on modern hardware and the current version of iOS.

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The company has a developer support document titled “App Store Improvements” that provides further details about the move, though it doesn’t answer every question developers have. The initiative is moving forward “to make it easier for customers to find great apps that fit their needs,” Apple wrote.

The document clarifies that if developers submit an update after the 30-day window, their app could ultimately be relisted. It also says that apps “will remain fully functional for current users” and that users will still be able to buy in-app purchases and access online services within the apps.

Apple isn’t the only one with plans to cull what it considers out-of-date apps to improve the user search experience. Just a few weeks ago, Google announced similar plans. However, Google was a bit more specific about its policy. In a blog post on April 6, Google’s Krish Vitaldevara wrote:

Starting on November 1, 2022, existing apps that don’t target an API level within two years of the latest major Android release version will not be available for discovery or installation for new users with devices running Android OS versions higher than apps’ target API level.

On the iOS side, indie game developers have taken to Twitter and other platforms to criticize Apple’s new effort to cull older apps. “Games can exist as completed objects,” wrote Emilia Lazer-Walker, whose years-old free games are targeted for removal. “These free projects aren’t suitable for updates or a live service model, they’re finished artworks from years ago.”

Other developers have suggested that the App Store should be more like the console games market, where you can still buy games from 2000, or have indicated that Apple isn’t being consistent with where it applies the rule.

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Others still approach the topic with an air of resignation. They acknowledge Apple is solving a real user experience challenge but is doing so in a way that causes collateral damage for developers whose games and apps are too small to raise concern within the tech giant.

Some stated that they plan to update their apps to try and keep them listed, but others said they’ll have to let the sun set on their older passion projects.