There’s an app for that?

This week saw multiple developers receive an email from Apple to let them know that they would soon be removing the games and apps they made from the App Store.

The email, titled “App Store Improvement Notice” warned those affected that their apps would soon be unavailable to download if they had not been updated in an unspecified amount of time. Before saying that developers had just 30 days in which to do just that.

One-man indie studio Protopop Games was one of the first to react to the news with an understandably exacerbated response, “I feel sick. Apple just sent me an email saying they’re removing my free game Motivoto because it’s more than 2 years old. This is not cool. Console games from 2000 are still available for sale.”

Another developer with countless smaller iOS games under their belt also weighed in, “Apple is removing a few of my old games because they have ‘not been updated in a significant amount of time.’ Games can exist as completed objects! These free projects aren’t suitable for updates or a live service model, they’re finished artworks from years ago… It isn’t viable for me to spend multiple days updating each of a few free small games I built in ~2014.

”In some ways, the move is understandable; the App Store is home to countless millions of games and apps and there’s simply no way to review compatibility and quality for each on a case by case basis. But in other ways, and certainly as far as games are concerned, the news is troubling. These are fully-functioning games – finished pieces of work – and updates simply aren’t necessary. A large percentage of these game were created by tiny teams or even a single person years ago, and for many, the cost (and possible risks) of tweaking code and submitting an arbitrary update just isn’t feasible.

Their work will disappear.

Perhaps more troubling, is that the games that obviously won’t be affected by this policy change are the kind of live service games that make the App Store infamous in all of the wrong ways already, and something that Apple’s own Apple Arcade service was designed to discourage. Could this be the end of the once-and-done, self-contained games the App Store was once so wonderfully good at? Classic titles like Peggle, Plants vs Zombies, and Drop 7 from the glory days (which have themselves in recent years been replaced – by their publishers it must be said – with free-to-play versions) could become a thing of the past.

As always, a workable solution that suits all parties would be impossible to achieve. But surely Apple’s brute-force love-it-or-lose-it approach could be finessed just a little.

This article is an extract from The Week in Games newsletter.

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