Unpleasant Horse is Too Nasty for Apple

By  |  Friday, April 8, 2011 at 9:15 am

Apple’s iOS App Store policies have claimed another high-profile victim.

This time, it’s Unpleasant Horse, the first game by Popcap’s experimental 4th and Battery publishing label. Popcap is best-known for the Bejeweled series and Plants vs. Zombies, the latter of which was among the most popular paid iPhone apps of 2010.

Popcap spun off 4th and Battery to experiment with games that aren’t warm and fuzzy enough for the Popcap label. Unpleasant Horse looks cute and cuddly, but it’s actually quite sinister. From the game’s description: “Your idea of a good time is bouncing from cloud to cloud and on to the backs of other, cuter flying ponies, who will thus be sent plummeting to a gruesome, bone-chewing demise, thanks to an unfortunately placed series of meat grinders on the ground below.”

PC World’s Matt Peckham spotted a Tweet from 4th and Battery saying the game was rejected for “mature content.”

It’s tempting to bash Apple for arbitrary and unclear censorship policies, but the issue might be a little meatier than that. The deleted Tweet from 4th and Battery said the publisher will appeal the decision with “a higher rating.” In a follow-up Tweet, 4th and Battery said it hopes to get “an appropriate rating” for the game.

This suggests that 4th and Battery was trying to get away with a tamer rating than 17+, the most mature rating for iOS apps. If that’s the case, Apple’s not entirely at fault. Here’s the ratings form (via ReadWriteWeb) developers have to submit along with their apps for review:

As you can see, developers have to approximate the amount of mature content in their apps, and Apple decides whether that rating is appropriate. ¬†It’s a form of self-regulation that serves in lieu of a ratings body like the Entertainment Software Rating Board (the group that slaps ratings on retail and console games), but it can lead to situations where the developer and Apple disagree, resulting in a rejection.

With this in mind, I’m not ruling out the possibility that the rejection of Unpleasant Horse is a clever publicity stunt by 4th and Battery. If so, my apologies for taking the bait.

 
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5 Comments For This Post

  1. The_Heraclitus Says:

    Yet another reason to not lock yourself into a computer where the manufacturer can dictate your program choices.

  2. Ron Says:

    Obviously, they weren't being totally honest with Apple when they submitted it, and Apple disagreed with their assessment.

    They will resubmit it with a higher rating, and this will be a non-issue. I'm sure it happens all the time with game developers. Others will immediately jump on it and blame Apple, or the processes involved.

    Maybe they tweeted it just for some free publicity?

  3. Jared Newman Says:

    I tried to call them on it as a publicity stunt on Twitter. Here's what they wrote back:

    "@OneJaredNewman nope. Just us being stupid and having a big mouth. :)"

  4. The_Heraclitus Says:

    Wow! Touched a raw nerve with the blind fan boys/

  5. The_Heraclitus Says:

    One should gather facts before making accusations.