Why So Many Games Are Disappearing From The App Store

Why So Many Games Are Disappearing From The App Store

Ever year, Apple updates the operating system for iPhones and iPads. Every year, it breaks compatibility with a bunch of games. Every year, a few companies let their games die. It's far worse with iOS 9, however, with Apple straight up removing your ability to download some of those games ever again.

Right now, the list of games you can't play on iOS 9 has some heavy hitters:

  • BioShock
  • Ghost Trick
  • Sam & Max
  • Poker Night
  • Back to the Future
  • Jurassic Park
  • Puzzle Agent
  • Strong Bad
  • Hector
  • Tales of Monkey Island

Fortunately, all of those games are returning in the near future, with the companies involved — Capcom, 2K Games, Telltale — promising fixes and full compatibility with iOS 9. For some, like BioShock and Telltale's games, players can, theoretically, stay on the previous version of iOS (8.4) and they will work just fine, but that's not the world we live in. Thanks to new features, security updates, and a general propulsion towards "new," the idea of purposely lagging behind to continue playing a handful of games seems absolutely ridiculous.

Not every game is so lucky, though. Monster Hunter Freedom Unite, which costs a hefty $US14.99 on the App Store, is not making the transition to iOS9 — period.

Why So Many Games Are Disappearing From The App Store

"This application is not compatible with iOS 9 (including the Beta)," reads the game's App Store page. "There are currently no plans to update this application in the future. Please keep this in mind when updating your OS."

By "please keep this in mind," Capcom is saying "sorry, you're snarfed."

It's not as though Monster Hunter Freedom Unite was a failed experiment, either. There are hundreds and hundreds of glowing reviews game prior to the iOS 9 update, which prompted users to flood the App Store with loud complaints.

Why So Many Games Are Disappearing From The App Store

Can you blame them?

It's complicated, though. Given the way iOS games break, year over year, this presents publishers with a problem not present on other platforms. I don't know how much money Monster Hunter Freedom Unite is (or isn't) making for Capcom. It's possible the game isn't doing well, so they're cutting their losses and moving on. A cynic might say they have a sequel planned and iOS 9 breaking compatibility is a convenient way to shuffle people to the next game.

The only thing we know is that players get screwed over. The only thing we know is that, if you update to iOS 9 like a reasonable person, the game breaks.

That, undeniably, sucks.

Another wrinkle is how Apple handles games broken by iOS 9. If a publisher (reasonably) chooses to pull a game from the App Store while it's being fixed or if they're unable to continue providing support for the game, that software is permanently removed from your purchase history.

This is having some unfortunate consequences. When Electronic Arts decided to pull more 10 games from the App Store, including Mass Effect: Infiltrator, it told players they'd be able to continue playing the games. If they have deleted those games from their devices, however, that's no longer the case. They're gone.

Apple has not yet responded to my request for comment, but one hopes this is an oversight or something the company can tweak, in response to complaints.

In the meantime, one developer has a creative solution. You Must Build A Boat developer Luca Redwood has publicly released an encrypted copy of his game and entrusted Touch Arcade with the decryption key, should the game be removed from the App Store and players require a guaranteed way to play it.

"Recently a number of big-name-games were removed from sale from the iOS App Store," said Redwood over email. "It's not great, but not uncommon, [that] developers don't want the support headache, which is OK. The twist now though is that Apple have said you will no longer be able to download games that have been removed that you previously purchased. It sucks because premium games have a hard time, and will have an even harder time if the player hasn't got any guarantee they will be able to play the game they just dropped 10 bucks [on] in the future."

This isn't just impacting games, either. Touch Arcade noted how when Twitter client Tweetbot removed Tweetbot 3 from the App Store while launching Tweetbot 3, the previous version was removed from people's purchasing history. This wasn't intended by Tweetbot, and they "solved" the problem by having Tweetbot 3 available for sale in a single region, Burkina Faso. What?!

We've gotten used to old games not working on new hardware, but it's a twist for old games to stop working on old hardware and have the company who made the hardware come over and snap the disc in half. What an age we live in now!


    OS updates sometimes break apps, that can't always be avoided, but Apple is the only one of the big three I've seen that almost seems to do it deliberately, or at the very least have a casual disregard for backward compatibility.

      but Apple is the only one of the big three I've seen that almost seems to do it deliberately

      Not seems, it's what they actually do.

      Even some of their OS updates are rigged to not install if Apple has decided to drop that hardware platform/configuration.

      In a cruel twist, it has also gotten worse since Steve Jobs died.

      Last edited 08/10/15 9:47 am

        The problem particularly with some of the titles listed above is they're not small games. Apple might still have its head in the 'games are for kids, they're 5MB and they're stupid' mindset (which explains their rampant censorship too) but some of these games are in the hundreds of MB in size and every OS update that just breaks shit for the sake of it can take weeks of work to patch up, not including the fact you still have to maintain the old codebase for the old OS version so people who haven't upgraded yet can still play. I haven't developed for iOS in a long time so I don't know if the store supports multiple versions of the same app for different OS versions like Google Play does.

          I haven't developed for iOS in a long time so I don't know if the store supports multiple versions of the same app for different OS versions

          I used to remember that trick but can't think of it off the top of my head. Now I'm going to spend the rest of the day wondering about it, :-P

          Jokes aside, it always did wonder me why fat binaries/application bundles were not used more often on iOS.

    Yeah, Apple are anti-consumer jerks and have been for a while now. Probably since around that time that they realised they literally had more money than the US government.

    This kind of thing can happen on Android too. It's just controlled by the devs there.

    I bought an app a couple of years ago, and when I got a new phone and tried to re install it I discovered it had been wiped from the store and my purchase history.

    Annoyingly, the app actually still exists, the developer just uploaded it again with a slightly different name.

    Apple working with devs/publishers to remove these apps is a good thing, imo.

    It's better than Alphabet/Google and devs/publishers just leaving these broken (for Lollipop and up) games on the Play Store...only for people to buy it and then find out it's not compatible with Lollipop, etc.

    Last edited 08/10/15 9:42 am

      I've never encountered that. You should read the reviews. You know you can filter for Current OS and your actual device? If you are going to drop money on something that you are a bit unsure about, that's a great way to check.

        I just hate how my Jet Set Radio game and a couple of my Sonic games broke when Lollipop was released :(

          That would most likely be due to the new runtime ART.

            I know...ART and Dalvik :(

            Last edited 08/10/15 2:19 pm

      From my experience, the app store simply won't show apps incompatible with your device, or will grey out the purchase/download button at the very least.

      Google Play informs you before you install an app whether it will be compatible with your device or not.

        I just hate how my Jet Set Radio game and a couple of my Sonic games broke when Lollipop was released :(((

    Another win for anti-consumer corporations.

    And they wonder why so many consumers don't feel bad about piracy.

    When you metaphorically say, "Fuck you," to someone, you should probably expect them to say it right back.

      Yes, if you try to artificially restrict my ability to PAY you for something, I'll find another way. I WANT to give you my money but noooooo.

      I think you're over simplifying the matter. It's not just Apple. When an OS is updated some changes can cause incompatibilities due to its internals.

      If say an application was made by Apple, then it is reasonable to expect Apple to update their application to suit.

      But a lot of applications on the App Store are made by independent software developers, most likely one person teams. Some updates can be complex and time consuming and some such indy developers may do this as a hobby not a job which quickly saps motivation for them to correct their applications.

      But don't get me wrong. As I just aside above, Apple has a history of forcing updates on users and even hardware upgrades that are not required but with the App Store, the number of players got far larger.

        I think the increasingly prevalent concept of 'games as a [temporary] service' (instead of a product, like y'know, the LAW dictates) suffers heavily from the unstated 'temporary' part.

        It's fantastic for publishers and developers because they don't have to be responsible for updating old works that aren't making them money anymore, but the status quo is a dog in the manger, forbidding/preventing users from taking that matter into their own hands.
        "We're not doing anything with this anymore, but even though you paid for it we won't let you do anything with it either. It's gone. You didn't pay for a product, you rented a licence. Get over it."

        Which is a) horse shit that's been rejected in courts, and b) unnecessary and anti-consumer.
        These things aren't considered 'products' by those who sell them all to often not for any reasons of mechanics but because it's more convenient for them to call it that.

        It's an offense against what we know to be fair and it should get a lot more pushback than it does.

        Edit: It might be an oversimplification, but it's also the end-result of whatever the excuses are.
        It really doesn't matter how 'reasonable' someone might think they're being, the end-result is, "This is bad for you but good for me so I'm going to do it anyway," then that's what's going to get the, "Oh, that's how it is? Guess I'll do the same then," treatment.

        Last edited 08/10/15 10:05 am

    Surely Capcom and co should take some of the blame for willingly taking money knowing that the game won't work soon? OS updates aren't an overnight "surprise nothing works!" thing, they take months to develop and roll out. The game companies have CHOSEN not to update their games, and let their customers suffer. Apple aren't the only "bad guys" here...

      It's not worth time updating software for beta OS until it gets very near to launch. Things are in flux a lot during the update development, it's basically chasing your own tail if you try to update your app early based on some API or security changes that end up getting changed another 20 times before the update publishes.

    this whole 'planned obsolescence' that alot of the big consumer corporations use gets worse and worse every year.

    I just hate how my Jet Set Radio game and a couple of my Sonic games broke when Lollipop was released :((

    So when you buy an app you actually just agreed to lease it for an unspecified period of time with zero guarantee said app will continue to function though Apples firmware release cycle?

    Yes, you just got fucked by the small print.

      It's not unusual for products of all kinds to be sold as-is. You're not buying the guarantee of updates in perpetuity every time the platform changes, that'd be financially unviable. Updates for new operating system versions are a bonus, not an entitlement.

        I now have devices on each major iteration of IOS back to 3.12.

        I accept that it is not always viable to keep a product current, however, as I read it, your ability to download something you paid for has been removed.

        I was under the impression that one could still get an old version of say the ebay app, a version compatible with an older device. I don't really care if its the latest release or if some of the functionality has diminished or really if it fails to work properly anymore, I still feel I am entitled to be supplied with it if I paid for it. Maybe that's the PC in me.

        Without having to have an itunes backup; makes me feel justified in Jailbreaking.

          I only really skimmed the article, if I missed something I apologise. If an app has been removed altogether, it sounds like that might be something in Apple's policies on keeping apps up to date rather than the developer specifically removing it. Do we know which side is responsible for the removal?

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