Apple Rejects Tank Battle 1942, Then Approves; Shows How Stupid The iOS Approval Process Is

from the frenemies dept

It's not much of a secret that Apple sees itself as some kind of supreme overlord of apps for its iProducts. And that supreme overlord has some very puritanical views, it seems: no nudity, no literature, and no immoral comics (censorship claims based solely on Apple's pure-as-the-driven-snow morality indexer). Far be it from a silly little human like myself to question whether our overlords' iron-grip is good for the app ecosystem, but with all the questionable decisions that seemed to be made in the name of the app approval process, perhaps it's time for a more democratized solution, like letting customers decide whether they want something or not.

I say that because when we've reached the point that a World War 2 strategy game is initially rejected for app store inclusion for the sin of having Nazi enemies in the game, we've reached an absurdity level typically reserved for Monty Python sketches.

Hunted Cow Studios chief Andrew Mullholland just sent me screenshots of the status of Tank Battle: East Front 1942, the followup to the WWII wargame we just reviewed last week. Apple has rejected the game for having Germans and Russians in it. I’m not kidding.
We found that your app contains content or features that include people from a specific race, culture, government, corporation, or other real entity as the enemies in the context of the game, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines. Specifically, we noticed your app depicts real entity as the enemies.
Apple...come on. They're Nazis. Somewhere between playing war as children, playing video games, watching movies, or pretending they're Indiana Jones, roughly every damned person on the planet has either pretend-killed a Nazi or watched a Nazi getting pretend-killed. That's what Nazis are for. You want a little mildly violent entertainment, but you need a fall-guy to shoot at so your friends and family won't think you're a jerk...boom, Nazis! This initial rejection was all the more silly since the game is set in a historical period when half the world was at war with, you guessed it, the Nazis!

Now, because not everyone at Apple is a lobotomized monkey that's been dipping into Steve Jobs' left-behind liquor cabinet, the decision to reject the game was quickly reversed.
Andrew Mulholland just wrote in to say that Apple re-reviewed the game and have reversed their decision without Hunted Cow Studios having to make any changes. Common sense prevails. Tank Battle: East Front 1942 will be on the App Store tonight at midnight.
Nonsense. In what world is it common sense prevailing for this to have ever happened to begin with? The whole censorious process is an amalgam of frustrated confusion, created only because Apple wants to play parent rather than letting their child of an app store go free and grow up. We're talking about an entire situation that never need have happened, and we're calling it a win for common sense?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 6:48pm

    I hate Illinois Nazis.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 6:59pm

    So glad I'm not trapped in a walled garden. Where a glass of water costs $5.

     

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  3.  
    identicon
    Android Owner, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 7:09pm

    I can't see the issue here. Apple can do what they want with their system, and you have the choice to buy into it or not. And the Apple employee who rejected the initial game was following the company policy, and the developer was able to appeal and get it approved. The system worked. No harm, no foul. Nothing to see here. Let's move on.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 7:32pm

    Now they'll remove the game because he was critical of their initial response.

     

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  5.  
    identicon
    tracyanne, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 7:40pm

    Re: you have the choice

    quote:: Apple can do what they want with their system, and you have the choice to buy into it or not. ::quote

    Well that's a relief.

     

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  6.  
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    OldGeezer (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 8:37pm

    Question

    I know I should have asked this on the post a while back about Germany freaking out because the South Park game failed to remove the swastikas from the German release but this is somewhat related. If the swastika is illegal in that country how to they handle things like documentaries and history books? I know that this is a part of their history they want to put behind them but they can't deny it happened. Anyone know how their laws pertain to historical educational media?

     

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  7.  
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    Coyne Tibbets (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 9:34pm

    Automated bureaucracy

    Welcome to automated bureaucracy: Where idiotic and arbitrary bureaucratic rules are coded into a computer and enforced without human intervention.

    Appeal? None, of course. The rules are the rules and the computer is always right.

    Oh, a handful of decisions might get reviewed by an actual person, if the publicity is embarrassing enough (better luck winning the lottery). But human reviews are expensive and the rules set in code; so soon it is back to, "No appeal."

    Such a wonderful future to anticipate.

     

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  8.  
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    Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Mar 21st, 2014 @ 10:30pm

    Re:

    Sure, Apple can approve what it wants, but that just means we can't sue them for it. We sure as hell can make fun of them for it. And we should. If we just let people continue to be wrong without pointing it out, nothing will change (Or worse, it'll get worse).

     

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  9.  
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    TheMoondoggie, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 10:51pm

    Shoot Nazis

    It's funny how this trend evolved immediately after the end of WWII. Oh great, Nazis = evil men. Let's all shoot them and forget the fact that plenty of them only obeyed Hitler out of fear and duty.

    Some can't even stand Hitler and tried to rebel in 1944.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 21st, 2014 @ 11:59pm

    Re: Shoot Nazis

    Thousand of ghetto's (read torture and rape centers) say a lot of them didn't bother to fight it at all. (Yes thousands, it was actually a lot worse than what most realize)

    Evil doesn't start with death camps and all that crap. Evil starts with stupid little bureaucrats making stupid little decisions.

    "Just following Policy."

    "If I don't do it I'll be fired, and I can't afford to loose my job."

    "But it's making things safer for someone(?)"

    One thing which does apply from WWII is that the most efficiently evil Nazi's weren't the ones who pulled the trigger or fired the gas canisters in the chambers, it was instead the little bureaucrats who were just trying to make things more efficient and better.

    People have the choice if they want to buy into it with apple or not, but each time apple makes these stupid decisions (and they continue to make them) it's apple saying that we know better than you. We are better than you. We have the right to decide what you should hear and see..

    That's peoples own choice I suppose.. But it's certainly not for me.

     

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  11.  
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    zip, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 5:05am

    The first thing that would cross my mind is whether or not this might be another one of those games with the highly-exaggerated blood and guts spattering visual effects.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 6:23am

    "Pure-as-the-driven-snow morality indexer" My Ass

    Yeah, how 'morally pure' is it to manufacture your computers at a place like Foxconn eh? ...And yes, I am well aware that the laptop I'm typing this from is probably a Foxconn-mfg'd defivec.

     

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  13.  
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    Android Owner, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 6:40am

    Re: Re: you have the choice

    Or you can jailbreak the phone. It just seems like a non-issue. Let's face it, you have options here just like you do with your car. You could change the propulsion unit in your car, but you do it at your risk. Otherwise you stick with the parts and operation defined by the mfg.

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Casey, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 10:58am

    Re: Re: Re: you have the choice

    But you should not have to. This isn't physically changing the product. Telling you which apps you can put on your phone would be like a car company telling you which passengers you can have in your car.

     

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  15.  
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    btrussell (profile), Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 11:14am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: you have the choice

    "Telling you which apps you can put on your phone would be like a car company telling you which passengers you can have in your car."

    More like the car company choosing what to sell in their store. Maybe they don't want to sell beer to put in your cup holder.

     

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  16.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 12:24pm

    Re:

    "Apple can do what they want with their system, and you have the choice to buy into it or not."

    No one is saying otherwise. The app store is the #1 reason why I won't own an iDevice. However, we have more choices than "take it or leave it". We can also have fun pointing out the idiocy of it.

     

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  17.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 12:27pm

    Re: Question

    Nazi symbology is not illegal in a blanket sense. Documentaries, political commentary, history books, etc., can and do have it. It's illegal in certain other contexts, such as toys.

     

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  18.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 12:29pm

    Re: Shoot Nazis

    "forget the fact that plenty of them only obeyed Hitler out of fear and duty."

    That fact isn't very important. If you are furthering evil out of fear and duty, you are still furthering evil and deserve to be condemned for it. The only possible excuse is that you couldn't have known you were furthering evil.

     

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  19.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 12:32pm

    Re: "Pure-as-the-driven-snow morality indexer" My Ass

    There's no such thing as a moral corporation. Corporations are amoral.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 12:56pm

    John Fenderson
    [quote]That fact isn't very important. If you are furthering evil out of fear and duty, you are still furthering evil and deserve to be condemned for it. The only possible excuse is that you couldn't have known you were furthering evil.[/quote]
    Would you be a supporter of the foreign policy of the one nuclear and biologically armed state in the Middle East, by any chance, John?

     

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  21.  
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    OldGeezer (profile), Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 2:13pm

    Re: Re: Question

    My son has that game and when the creatures turn into Nazis you blow them away. Hogan's Heros became a huge hit over there probably because they portray the Nazis as idiots. Been a long time since I have seen it but I think swastikas were seen in it. Did they block them out in the German versions?

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Kronomex, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 2:53pm

    "...re-reviewed the game and have..." meaning that they suddenly realised that they would lose MONEY apart from being made to look like (too late) complete cretins.

     

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  23.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 4:26pm

    Re: Re: Re: Question

    I don't know the details of what's allowed and what's not. I am led to understand that there is a bit of inconsistency and arbitrariness to the distinctions made.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 4:28pm

    Re:

    "Would you be a supporter of the foreign policy of the one nuclear and biologically armed state in the Middle East, by any chance, John?"

    Why is it so hard for you to say "Israel"? That's rather odd.

    In any case, no, I'm not. Nor am I a supporter of the foreign policy of most of the nations in the area, including Palestine. Nor of the US, for that matter. When I look at nations, I don't see very many angels.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 4:32pm

    Its their hardware and software, who are you to say what they approve or disprove, especially since they are not a monopoly there are other options out there, if you don't like apple then your free to pick android or windows phone, or blackberry

    Normally techdirt talks about universal issues in this manner, what one company does is fine to have an opinion on but its not an end of the world or big deal topic but you are talking like it is.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Android Owner, Mar 22nd, 2014 @ 8:16pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: you have the choice

    No it is not. Putting passengers in your care is like taking a call.

     

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  27.  
    icon
    OldMugwump (profile), Mar 23rd, 2014 @ 8:23am

    Re: Shoot Nazis

    Agreed. It's odd. Somehow the very words "Nazi" and "Hitler" have become almost unique synonyms for pure evil.

    Godwin's Law has formalized this - the moment "Nazi" is mentioned in any discussion, rational debate stops and you're in the territory of moral absolutes.

    For example, we can't complain about "Gestapo" tactics of the NSA - we have to call them "Stasi" tactics. Because NO MATTER WHAT THE REALITY, it can't possibly be as bad as the Nazis. By definition.

    Not that Nazis weren't evil - they were every bit as horrible as their reputation.

    But why are they perceived as uniquely horrible? What about Pol Pot, or Vlad the Impaler, or any number of historical conquerors who routinely murdered every single man, woman, and child in a captured city?

    The Nazis were indeed evil, but the only thing unusual about their evil was how efficient they were at it and their proximity to the center of Western culture.

    I can't think of another defeated enemy that has become so demonized.

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2014 @ 11:39am

    ...roughly every damned person on the planet has either pretend-killed a Nazi or watched a Nazi getting pretend-killed.

    Including 90% of Germans. (7.5% are pacifists and 2.5% are Nazis.)

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2014 @ 12:32pm

    Re: Shoot Nazis

    ...plenty of them only obeyed Hitler out of fear and duty.

    But not everyone joined the Nazi party. There are different levels of collaboration. Many people who were virulently opposed were silent out of fear. They survived only because of this. Others built careers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2014 @ 12:33pm

    Re: Re:

    A sane voice.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 23rd, 2014 @ 6:22pm

    6 of 10 apps on Google Play are malicious. I'll take the security of SOME oversight over none, thank you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
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    Jeff Green (profile), Mar 24th, 2014 @ 4:05am

    WSTOTC

    Won't somebody think of the children!

    Sorry, no-one had said it already so I thought I ought to ...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), Mar 24th, 2014 @ 6:28am

    Re:

    > I can't see the issue here.

    The only issue here is that this choice of behavior by Apple should be shouted from the rooftops far and wide.

    If Apple is not proud of this behavior, then they should stop it.

    If Apple is proud of it, then they should not have any problem with publication of it.

    If Apple is not proud of this behavior, but does have a problem with publication of it, then maybe Apple should re evaluate their own practices. If the first two conditions hold, but they don't want to re evaluate their practices, then this information should be published all the more loudly, far and wide.

    Maybe Apple should only be trying to "protect" people from technical problems and bad practices of bad developers that want to take advantage of or inflict harm upon end users. Maybe Apple should have NO concern at all of being a morality nanny.

     

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  34.  
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    DannyB (profile), Mar 24th, 2014 @ 6:34am

    Re: Re: "Pure-as-the-driven-snow morality indexer" My Ass

    > There's no such thing as a moral corporation. Corporations are amoral.

    I think you should say immoral as well as amoral.

    Corporations want only one thing. To increase shareholder value. They will do anything legal or illegal to accomplish that. If they are prosecuted for illegal behavior and after the penalty the illegal behavior was still profitable, then it fulfilled the goal of increasing shareholder value. The resulting prosecution and punishment is merely a cost of doing business.

    It may not sound nice, but that is how it really is done.

     

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  35.  
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    DannyB (profile), Mar 24th, 2014 @ 6:36am

    Re:

    There is nothing wrong with talking about the bad or stupid practices of a company. Even if the bad or stupid thing they do is perfectly legal. Even if people are free to leave and even if there are other choices available.

    So what's your problem?

    TD talks about stupid and/or bad things that companies do all the time.

     

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  36.  
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    DannyB (profile), Mar 24th, 2014 @ 6:38am

    Re:

    Citation?

    I've been using Android almost since it came out. I have tried many different apps. I've never had a problem.

     

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  37.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 24th, 2014 @ 6:42am

    Re:

    We are their customers or potential customers, that's who.

     

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  38.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 24th, 2014 @ 8:55am

    Re:

    Pure BS.

    The most damning report about the percentage of malicious apps on Google Play that I can find puts it at 12.7% -- and that report came from the manufacturer of security software for Android, so it should be taken with a rather large grain of salt.

    I couldn't find statistics about the percentage of iDevice apps that are malicious (which I find very weird), but we know for a fact that it's nonzero.

    In any case, it's not true that Play Store apps lack oversight. They are vetted as well. You might debate whether or not that process should be stricter, but you can't argue that it doesn't exist.

     

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  39.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 24th, 2014 @ 9:07am

    Re: Re: Re: "Pure-as-the-driven-snow morality indexer" My Ass

    I think "amoral" is the correct term. It means acting without regards to morality. As you say, corporations act to maximize profit. They don't care if those actions are moral or immoral, only if they're profitable. That is the very essence of "amoral".

     

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  40.  
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    nasch (profile), Mar 24th, 2014 @ 10:17am

    Re: Re: Shoot Nazis

    The Nazis were indeed evil, but the only thing unusual about their evil was how efficient they were at it and their proximity to the center of Western culture.

    We're also very familiar with them. Most Americans know little about Pol Pot and probably almost nothing about Vlad Tepes.

     

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  41.  
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    nasch (profile), Mar 24th, 2014 @ 10:25am

    Re: Re: Re: Shoot Nazis

    Why are my italics not showing up all of a sudden?

     

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