Apple is removing games with the Confederate flag from the App Store

UPDATE: Now claims apps used for "educational or historical uses" are exempt.

UPDATE 26/06/2015 4.52am: We've acquired a couple of statements from game developers affected by this.

Ultimate General: Gettysburg's lead game designer Nick Thomadis over at Game Labs told Eurogamer, "They [Apple] notified us during the night of 24th about the removal of the game, as probably any other developer. I want to state that Apple was very, polite and professional when communicating to us."

"Also an interesting fact is that Valve has put our game on the main store page yesterday."

Hexwar Game's Andrew Mulholland sent Eurogamer the following response:

"Since the recent statement by Apple on TechCrunch, we've asked Apple to review our apps again due to them being in a historical context. Hopefully they will be reinstated in their current form but we've not heard back just yet. If not we'll go ahead with our update to change the flag to the less controversial 1861 version."

UPDATE 26/06/2015 3.10am: Apple is now claiming that it will not remove apps that use the Confederate flag for "for educational or historical uses.”

An Apple statement received by TechCrunch adds an addendum to the previous response we saw. This time Apple said:

“We have removed apps from the App Store that use the Confederate flag in offensive or mean-spirited ways, which is in violation of our guidelines. We are not removing apps that display the Confederate flag for educational or historical uses.”

The TechCrunch report went on to say that after extensive talks with Apple the publication believed that certain games were pulled that shouldn't have been and may be reinstated. It turns out that the line about the flag being used in "offensive or mean-spirited ways" is just the blanket language Apple was using when removing apps with the controversial banner.

The question is whether Apple will resort to scrutinising its library with a fine-tooth comb and reinstating those arguably erroneously exiled from the marketplace.

We saw this sort of thing before when civilian-massacring shooter Hatred was removed from Steam Greenlight only for Valve boss Gabe Newell to apologise for the company's hasty decision before reinstating it.

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UPDATE 25/06/2015 10.48pm: Apple has addressed the matter of its removal of games with the Confederate flag from the App Store... sort of.

"We have removed apps from the App Store that use the Confederate flag in offensive or mean-spirited ways, which is in violation of our guidelines," Apple said in a statement to Touch Arcade.

Touch Arcade went on to note that "sources close to the company" claimed Apple would be working with developers affected by the ban to sort out a solution that would enable them to get their games back on the digital storefront.

"The developers will have to either remove or replace the Confederate flag," Touch Arcade reported.

We'll update should we find out more.

ORIGINAL STORY 25/06/2015 8.23pm: Apple is removing numerous games that display the Confederate flag - a symbol representing the South's desire to secede from the United States during the Civil War, in no small part because it wanted to keep slavery legal.

As such, it's frequently viewed as a racist symbol in the US, though there are those who celebrate it as an important part of their cultural heritage. Following last week's shooting in which a white man opened fire at an African-American church in South Carolina, several retailers such as Walmart, Amazon, eBay and Sears have decided to ban Confederate flag merchandise.

Apple CEO Tim Cook suggested he would follow suit last week on Twitter. "My thoughts are with the victim's families in SC. Let us honour their lives by eradicating racism & removing the symbols & words that feed it," he stated.

And now he's done just that. As reported by Touch Arcade, such titles as Ultimate General: Gettysburg and Hunted Cow's Civil War games have been removed from the App Store due to their portrayal of the controversial flag.

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Ultimate General: Gettysburg. The problem flag is the one in the upper left.

"Some of our Civil War strategy games are currently unavailable to buy on iPhone / iPad due to their use of the Confederate flag," tweeted Hexwar Games, developer of such titles as Civil War: 1862, Civil War: 1863 and Bull Run 1861.

"We are working on updates to change the flag images and hope to have them available again soon," the developer added in a follow-up tweet.

Ultimate General: Gettysburg developer Game Labs has run into a similar issue. "Apple pulled the tablet version of Ultimate General: Gettysburg from AppStore because of the Confederate Flag," the developer said on Twitter.

Game Labs' Maxim Zasov offered the following statement to Touch Arcade on the matter:

"We accept Apple's decision and understand that this is a sensitive issue for the American Nation. We wanted our game to be the most accurate, historical, playable reference of the Battle of Gettysburg. All historical commanders, unit composition and weaponry, key geographical locations to the smallest streams or farms are recreated in our game's battlefield.

"We receive a lot of letters of gratitude from American teachers who use our game in history curriculum to let kids experience one of the most important battles in American history from the Commander's perspective.

"Spielberg's Schindler's List did not try to amend his movie to look more comfortable. The historical Gettysburg movie (1993) is still on iTunes. We believe that all historical art forms: books, movies, or games such as ours, help to learn and understand history, depicting events as they were. True stories are more important to us than money.

"Therefore we are not going to amend the game's content and Ultimate General: Gettysburg will no longer be available on AppStore. We really hope that Apple's decision will achieve the desired results. We can't change history, but we can change the future."

We've requested comment from Apple on this issue and will update should we hear back.

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Jeffrey Matulef

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