Apple deems Palestinian dev's game "not appropriate" for the App Store

UPDATE: Apple relents - Liyla & the Shadows of War published under the App Store's Games category

Apple has asked a Palestinian developer to remove his game from the App Store's "Games" category on the basis of its political content.

Rasheed Abueideh received a notification from Apple that Liyla & the Shadows of War was "not appropriate" for classification as a game on the App Store. "It would be more appropriate to categorize your app in News or Reference, for example," the statement read, while also advising that Abueideh remove references to Liyla being a game from its marketing materials.

Liyla & the Shadows of War is a platformer set in the midst of a fierce battle. It tasks the player with guiding its protagonist, a young girl, through its silhouetted, rubble-strewn levels in an effort to save her family, and includes photos from real-world conflicts in its press-kit. Lilya is also available on the Google Play store, where it remains classified, and unchallenged, as a game.

In the hours following Abueideh's comments about Apple's stance, his Twitter feed has filled with cries of support from the development community.

This is hardly the first time that Apple has taken a stance against the content of certain games on its store, implying a different standard for games than the one it applies to other media. Political content is especially risky for developers, with games like Lucas Pope's Papers Please, Auroch Digital's Endgame Syria and Littleloud's Sweatshop HD among the many that have run aground on Apple's notoriously vague and often contradictory standards.

But the issue goes beyond the political and into the personal. Ed McMillen's The Binding of Isaac, a game based around a story of child abuse, was also rejected, as was HappyPlayTime, a game designed to encourage pride in and exploration of the human body among female players.

Liyla & the Shadows of War received a Reboot Develop Indie Award for visual excellence. It is currently in competition for the Indie Prize at Casual Connect Asia.

Update: Apple has reconsidered its stance on Liyla & the Shadows of War, allowing Rasheed Abueideh to release it under the Games section of the App Store.

The fact that news of Apple's refusal to see Liyla as a game spread rapidly across social media will surprise nobody - except, perhaps, those within Apple who took the decision in the first place. Indeed, in a tweet published yesterday, Abueideh attributed the reversal to the ensuing outcry from the game development community.

Related stories

App Annie: Mobile gaming was the fastest-growing gaming sector in 2018

Firm predicts mobile gaming will reach 60% of gaming market share in 2019, driven by both hardcore and hypercasual titles

By Rebekah Valentine

How Mediatonic is bringing Gears of War to mobile

UK developer discusses the origins of its Gears Pop partnership with Microsoft and how Funko figures will inspire a new take on chainsawing aliens to death

By James Batchelor

Latest comments (13)

John Bye Lead Designer, Freejam2 years ago
This is ridiculous. The game itself is only a few minutes long, but it's still indisputably a game.

On the bright side, without this controversy I would have missed it entirely. So thanks, Apple.
22Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Daniel Trezub QA Analyst, Ludia2 years ago
Anyone can probably list hundreds of war games that have a statement attached to it. EVERY war game has one, but the point is so many of them are so engrained in our minds already (USA is the good guy, everyone else is the bad guy, for example) that anything different from that will be called out.
13Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Charles Herold Wii Games Guide, about.com2 years ago
Imagine if Amazon insisted all political movies be listed not as films but as news. Apple clearly doesn't recognize games as an art form; they'd just as soon people stick with flappy bird clones.
13Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Show all comments (13)
Thanks, Apple! Now the political statement you wanted to discourage is better known to everyone than it would have ever been had you just quietly accepted it! :)
9Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Tom Keresztes Programmer 2 years ago
How many people actually seen the game :
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Adam Campbell Game Manager, Azoomee2 years ago
Thanks to the rejection I just tried it on my Android. Interesting...
3Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Julian Cram Producer 2 years ago
So, clicker apps can be classed as games, but this can't?
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany2 years ago
Downloading. Now i'm curious.
Still personally disagree (and I find inconsistent) Apple's guidelines. But I can't deny their involuntary marketing value.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Adam Campbell Game Manager, Azoomee2 years ago
It is a game if anyone wondered!
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany2 years ago
@Adam: Thanks. I was about to ask myself if "This war of Mine" was a game or not ;)
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Chris Payne Managing Director & Founder, Quantum Soup Studios2 years ago
Happy ending - Apple have relented and it's now on the App Store as a game:

[EDIT: Oh, I missed the article update. As you were!]

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Chris Payne on 23rd May 2016 6:08pm

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Emily Rose Freelance Artist 2 years ago
It's literally the same mechanically as Limbo, a highly praised game. This was absurd. I'm glad Apple relented. hopefully this opens the doors to more diverse games.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Emily Rose on 24th May 2016 7:50am

1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 2 years ago
Well done, Apple. You've managed to create a set of guidelines that says "Games have to be stupid". And then tell the developers to release fictional material as "News".

It's good that they relented on the reclassification of Liyla but they really, really need to fix those guidelines.
3Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply

Sign in to contribute

Need an account? Register now.