HONG KONG • Apple on Thursday removed 39,000 game apps on its China store, the biggest removal in a single day, as it set the year-end as the deadline for all game publishers to obtain a licence.
The takedowns come amid a crackdown on unlicensed games by the Chinese authorities.
Including the 39,000 games, Apple has now removed more than 46,000 apps from its store.
Games affected by the sweep included Ubisoft title Assassin's Creed Identity and 2K Sports' NBA 2K20, according to research firm Qimai.
Qimai also said only 74 of the top 1,500 paid games on Apple store survived the purge.
Apple did not respond to a request for comment.
The tech giant initially gave game publishers an end-of-June deadline to submit a government-issued licence number enabling users to make in-app purchases in the world's biggest games market.
The company later extended the deadline to Jan 1.
China's Android app stores have long complied with regulations on licences.
It is unclear why Apple is enforcing them more strictly this year.
Analysts said the move was no surprise as Apple continues to close loopholes to fall in line with China's content regulators, and would not directly affect the company's bottom line as much as previous removals.
"However, this major pivot to only accepting paid games that have a game licence, coupled with China's extremely low number of foreign game licences approved in the past year will probably lead more game developers to switch to an ad-supported model for their Chinese versions," said Mr Todd Kuhns, marketing manager for AppInChina, a firm that helps overseas companies distribute their apps.