- By Region
An iPad game in which players defend a disputed chain of islands from hordes of invading sumo wrestlers, ninjas and samurai has been pulled from the Chinese version of Apple’s App Store.
The game, Defend the Diaoyu Islands, was withdrawn from sale after falling foul of the technology company’s strict rules concerning racial attacks and excessive violence. The Diaoyu – known as the Senkaku by the Japanese – are an uninhabited archipelago in the East China Sea, ownership of which is one of east Asia’s most sensitive issues.
On Wednesday the entry of Chinese fishing vessels to waters around the rocky outcrops was dubbed “unacceptable” by Japan. The Tokyo regional government is trying to buy the islands from their private owner for commercial development in the face of protests from Beijing, with the foreign ministry promising to “resolutely defend” their sovereignty.
That is exactly what Chinese gamers are – or were – invited to do in the game’s opportunist take on a dispute that dates back more than a century. Before its withdrawal, App Store marketing for the game encouraged Chinese gamers to “vent your frustration” at “sabre-rattling” by Japanese “devils” around what it described as the “inalienable territory of China”.
The free game is in the so-called “tower defence” style, popularised on the iPhone by PopCap’s Plants versus Zombies. Players must fend off a variety of stereotypical Japanese characters from reaching a wall on the side of the screen, by dragging them around in a spatter of cartoon blood and dismembered limbs.
Defend the Diaoyu Islands was developed by Shenzhen ZQGame Network, an online gaming company listed on the Chinese stock exchange, which also has offices in California.
ZQGame did not respond to a request for comment but told the China Daily newspaper that it was given “no explanation” by Apple for the removal.
However, Apple’s App Store rules state: “Enemies within the context of a game cannot solely target a specific race, culture, a real government or corporation, or any other real entity.”
Apple declined to comment on the case.
China is vital territory for Apple, with the latest incarnation of its iPad tablet scheduled for release in the country this month. As well as the base for much of its outsourced manufacturing, China is providing a huge new source of demand for Apple products from emerging middle classes, making it the second-largest region by revenue after the US.
In its second-quarter results in April, the technology group said sales of iPhones increased fivefold in China over the same period a year ago.
“There’s a tremendous opportunity for companies that understand China and we’re making a tremendous effort to understand it,” Tim Cook, Apple chief executive, said at the time.