Why So Many Games Are Disappearing From The App Store

Illustration for article titled 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’ll 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 $14.99 on the App Store, is not making the transition to iOS9—period.

Illustration for article titled 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 fucked.”

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.

Illustration for article titled 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’ve 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’ll 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 4, 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!

You can reach the author of this post at patrick.klepek@kotaku.com or on Twitter at @patrickklepek.


Vinnie DeCaro

I’m no professional when it comes to this topic, but, when a new update is released, games and apps that become incompatible become so because the developers chose to create the application in an unapproved, “hacky” way, correct? I’m developing an Android app for my senior project in CS using Android Studio, and whenever I do something it finds unusual, it is quick to inform me that what I did is not recommended, and often provides a better solution in order to maintain compatibility in the future.