Apple has a strained history with video games, as the company regulates what is and isn’t a “game.” It’s why Apple initially rejected Liyla And The Shadows of War, about a young Palestinian girl in Gaza, and said it “was not appropriate for the games category.” Apple has now reversed that decision.
Despite the incredible popularity of video games on Apple’s various devices, the company’s own policies limit the ambitions of developers. Here’s the key line from Apple’s public guidelines for the App Store:
We view Apps different than books or songs, which we do not curate. If you want to criticize a religion, write a book. If you want to describe sex, write a book or a song, or create a medical App. It can get complicated, but we have decided to not allow certain kinds of content in the App Store.
The designer behind Liyla And The Shadows of War, Rasheed Abueideh, went public about the situation a few days back:
The game had already been approved for release on the Google Play store.
This is where the story usually ends, with a developer realizing Apple’s walled garden is not for them. It’s why The Binding of Isaac still isn’t on iOS; the game was blocked for “content or features that depict violence towards, or abuse of, children, which is not allowed on the App Store.”
Apple has not yet responded to my request for comment.
What’s particularly strange about Apple pushing back on Liyla And The Shadows of War is how they’ve allowed similar games onto the App Store, like This War of Mine. Apple liked This War of Mine so much that it became one of their coveted “Editors’ Choice” games promoted on the store!
The public backlash to the game was swift, but Apple’s stood firm in the past, so there was little reason to think this time would be any different.
And yet, Apple told the developer it would “reconsider its decision” yesterday, which resulted in Abueideh being able to publish it as a game.
“Thanks to all of you,” he wrote on Twitter.
The game is now live on the App Store, and it’s free to download.