App Store rejects WWII game over Japanese flags

Pacific Fleet, now flag-less and inoffensive

Pacific Fleet, now flag-less and inoffensive

It’s going to take a little longer than planned to get your hands on WWII naval combat sim Pacific Fleet, courtesy of the App Store’s arbitrary approvals process.

Developer Paul Sincock’s submission of a release candidate was rejected by Cupertino with a twofold rationale: a bug with iPad support (fair enough) and a violation of App Store Guidelines section 15.3.

According to my colleagues at Information Retrieval, section 15 is the “Violence” guideline, and subsection 3 states the following:

15.3 “Enemies” within the context of a game cannot solely target a specific race, culture, a real government or corporation, or any other real entity.

In order to satisfy the regulators, Sincock has had to resubmit Pacific Fleet sans Japanese flags. Let that sink in for a moment. A game based on somewhat well-known conflict (World War Two, was it?) that cannot feature the flags of one of the combatant states. The mind boggles.

As usual, the problem here is not the App Store Guidelines themselves, which are well-intentioned and quite necessary. The problem is their mindless and inconsistent application. Surely the App Store is not prepared to argue that wargames using flags are all offensive, else we wouldn’t have Battle Academy or European War 3 for sale there.

The guidelines exist to prevent genuinely offensive garbage from appearing on iOS devices, which is a worthy goal. If the simple act of removing flags from the game was enough to surmount the bar of appropriateness, then clearly there was nothing fundamentally racist about Pacific Fleet.

For previous adventures with the App Store review process, see Zarksoft’s Sisyphean journey to approval or the brazenly fake Endless Space that didn’t have any trouble at all.

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