Apple gives ultimatum to indie devs: 30 days till deletion

Apple threatens to completely pull games from the App Store if developers don’t meet an arbitrary update quota.

The days of games going years without updates are over thanks to Apple. That might sound like a good thing, but it couldn’t be worse. Not for the developers who pour their blood, sweat and tears into their art.

While constant updates, roadmaps, DLC, and hotfixes have become a regular part of the gaming industry, static products remain untouched since the day they were deemed finished. That’s not good enough for Apple.

Apple App Store
Image: Apple App Store / Apple

Mobile game developers have received “App Store Improvement Notices”; warnings that their apps are slated for removal.

For those to receive them, the message is clear. Update within 30 days, or Apple will remove your app. Supposedly, this is for the sake of culling dead software, but some claim it puts an unfair burden on indie devs.

This is not the first time a “proactive” change in policy has caused some controversy, and it probably won’t be the last.

Robert Kabwe, a developer of Motivoto, was told that the app he worked on would be removed within 30 days due to a lack of updates. In a Twitter thread, he explained he was doing everything he could to “scrape a living from my indie games, trying to keep up with Apple, Google, Unity, Xcode, MacOS changes that happen so fast my head spins.

Kabwe says the notice is “arbitrary“, and it’s hard to disagree. This requirement seems to have been implemented purely because Apple could and nothing else. The memo doesn’t even specify what actually needs changing. Nothing is truly finished, not when a future update can revitalise the sales of a game.

Indie and experimental game developer Emilia Lazer-Walker weighed in with her own thread, rightly pointing out that “games can exist as completed objects!“.

They said that free projects, like her own games, “aren’t suitable for updates or a live service model” and that they’re “finished artworks from years ago.” A fine sentiment, but one that no longer aligns with Apple’s goals.

Mobile games are big business, making up a whopping 52% of the entire gaming market as of 2021. And it’s a business running out of room for old school app design, products designed to remain as they were on release.

Can a game survive without updates? Does the value of constant growth outweigh artistic intent and design? Let us know!