There Was an iPhone Game About Foxconn Until Apple Killed It

The new iPhone game Phone Story hits awfully close to home—the game concerns itself with the real-world costs of creating a smartphone. A few hours after launch, Apple removed it from the App Store.

Phone Story charts a course from Coltan mining in the Congo to the horrendous manufacturing workers' conditions that led to the notorious Foxconn suicides, continuing through commercial release and planned obselescence driven by a culture of "want". The story concludes by depicting the environmental and human toll of unchecked eWaste.

Our own Joel Johnson did a thorough investigation of Foxconn that ran in a series of posts at our sister site Gizmodo and culminated in a bracing, in-depth article at Wired.

Molleindustria, the studio behind Phone Story (as well as other politically charged games like McDonald's: The Game and Leaky World), pledged to give all of the money that they made from sales to "organizations that are fighting corporate abuses."

Molleindustria has now posted a new page on their site, saying that Apple pulled their product for the following reasons:

Phone Story was pulled from the iTunes App Store on Tuesday September 13 at 11.35am, only few hours after its official announcement.

Apple explained that the game is in violation of the following guidelines*:

15.2 Apps that depict violence or abuse of children will be rejected

16.1 Apps that present excessively objectionable or crude content will be rejected

21.1 Apps that include the ability to make donations to recognized charitable organizations must be free

21.2 The collection of donations must be done via a web site in Safari or an SMS

Moleindustria states that "We contest the violation 21.1 and 21.2 since it's not possible to make donations through Phone Story. Molleindustria simply pledged to redirect the revenues to non-profit organizations, acting independently."

Molleindustria says that they are considering coming up with a new version of Phone Story that "depicts the violence and abuse of children involved in the electronic manufacturing supply chain in a non-crude and non-objectionable way."

Of course, it is probably not possible to depict such a thing in a non-objectionable way—that's the point. Kotaku has reached out to Apple for comment, and will update this post as the story progresses.

[Update: We have tracked down some video of the game in action, and you can view it here.]


You can contact Kirk Hamilton, the author of this post, at kirk@kotaku.com. You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and lurking around our #tips page.