Apple removes its own mobile game from the App Store outside of the U.S.

Apple removes its own mobile game from the App Store outside of the U.S.
Back during Apple's annual meeting this month, CEO Tim Cook announced Apple's first game for the iPhone since Texas Hold'em from 2008. Called Warren Buffet's Paper Wizard, the idea of the game is to toss newspapers to homes and condos. The app is named after billionaire investor Warren Buffet, who was a paperboy in his (much) younger days. The game takes players from the streets of Omaha, Nebraska (where Buffet was born in 1930) to Cupertino, California (where Apple is headquartered). Players must avoid vehicles and birds in order to accurately toss the papers to subscribers, and receive Warren Bucks in return. Although the listing of the app in the App Store says that Warren Buffet's Paper Wizard was developed by Wildlife Design Inc., the copyright shows that Apple is actually the company behind the app.

The game, which sounds a lot like Atari's Paperboy, has been removed from the App Store outside of the U.S. according to MacRumors. Most likely it was created in the first place to be a tribute to Buffet, whose Berkshire Hathaway holding company is the third largest institutional stockholder in Apple. In the past, Tim Cook has welcomed Buffet's purchases of Apple since the so-called Oracle of Omaha is a stable investor who keeps his investments long term. In fact, Cook himself shows up in the game welcoming players to Apple's Cupertino headquarters.

The story of Apple's Texas Hold'em actually pre-dates the introduction of the iPhone in January 2007. Apple originally developed the game in 2006 for the iPod. When the App Store was launched in 2008, the game made its way to the iPhone and iPod touch. The latter version of the game was more complex and had many more features than the 2006 version, and led many to suspect that Apple was about to take a leading position in mobile gaming. That never happened, and Texas Hold'em was dropped from the App Store by 2011. Warren Buffet's Paper Wizard is a free game, perhaps additional proof that it was created as a tribute to Buffet; Apple charged $4.99 to install Texas Hold'em.

While Apple Arcade will launch this fall as a subscription service, the games in Arcade's library will be exclusive, high-quality titles from third-party developers. Apple appears content to be the gatekeeper, charging a monthly fee to allow iOS users to enter the Arcade. Even though Apple is creating original content for Apple TV+, over the years it has never seemed interested in developing mobile games for the iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.

Why did Apple pull the game outside of the U.S.?

Speaking of the App Store, earlier today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Apple is a direct seller of apps and not an intermediary as the company claimed. As a result, a class-action lawsuit accusing Apple of acting like a monopoly will be allowed to proceed. Previously, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that Apple was a "distributor of apps and not selling apps directly to iOS users. Now that the suit can move on, the plaintiffs can take Apple to trial. The suit alleges that Apple's 30% cut of the revenue generated by paid apps and in-app purchases artificially raises the price of these apps in Apple's storefront. Unlike Android users, who can easily sideload apps from third-party app stores, iPhone users are forced to install apps from the App Store and pay more for them.

So why did Apple remove Warren Buffet's Paper Wizard overseas? It appears that the game is a tribute to Buffet, and the billionaire is not as well known overseas as he is in the states. So Apple's intent might be lost on foreign iOS users. And if Apple was worried that overseas iOS users might see this as an example of what they will be paying for if they subscribe to Apple Arcade, it would explain the quick hook for the title outside of the U.S.

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