It’s been a bad week if you’re in the business of marketing the Confederacy.
On the heels of a remarkable tragedy in South Carolina,a public outcry to finally remove the Confederate flag from public buildings has risen, as well as a surprisingly more effective outcry to remove them from retail circulation. Prominent flag makers in the US have confirmed they’ll stop manufacturing the Confederate flag effective immediately. Retailers like Amazon and Wal-Mart won’t stock Confederate flag items on their shelves. Warner Brothers is even halting production on Dukes of Hazzard “General Lee” merchandise because of its depiction of the flag on the vehicle’s roof.
Asides from falling on the right side of history, all of these companies have one other thing in common: they’ve made the decision to stop selling these products themselves.
Such is not the case for Civil War game makers on the App Store.
As first reported by TouchArcade, Apple is removing all apps featuring the Confederate flag from sale. If you’re a developer of historical tactics games like HuntedCow or Hexwar Games, it’s been a very rough morning.
All games using the flag have been removed from sale regardless of context. That means that games depicting historical events — games that neither approve of nor endorse the offensive elements associated with the Confederate flag — are nowhere to be found. The wording that Apple is using with developers, again according to Touch Arcade, is their games have been removed “…because it includes images of the confederate flag used in offensive and mean-spirited ways.”
If this seems harsh, and your first reaction is “how can they allow swastikas in World War 2 games but not Confederate flags in Civil War games?!?,” don’t worry — that’s not allowed either. As far back as 2011, developers were having struggles with the App Store for this very reason, including notable titles like Wolfenstein 3D. We’ve also seen Apple reject historical games based on depicting specific nations as enemies, from the Japanese in Pacific Fleet to the Syrians in Endgame: Syria.
And let’s not forget the time they toyed with banning images of guns from app icons and App Store screenshots (this never officially ended, but there’s no question that guns are starting to slip through again).
In short, today’s move is consistent with Apple’s ongoing desire to not offend anyone by enacting “all or nothing” policies that leave little wiggle room. Whether or not it’s fair is ultimately up to you. Having said that, at the risk of editorializing, I hope that these developers can find some common ground with Apple to help get their games back in front of a hungry audience. There’s not better place for tactics than a touch screen.