PopCap’s recently announced indie studio 4th & Battery was aiming for edgy with its slate of games. It appears it might have been too edgy for Apple’s tastes. The label’s first game, Unpleasant Horse, has been sent packing by Apple because of mature content.
The company went public with its rejection on Twitter with a tweet that read: “WTF? Apple rejected Unpleasant Horse cuz of ‘mature content?’ We thought horses dying in meat grinders was wholesome family entertainment!” The tweet was later removed. Since then, the studio has taken a more upbeat approach saying it would appeal the ruling and resubmit with a higher rating. I reached out to PopCap, and a spokesperson said the company has no comment right now but may issue a statement later.
It’s unclear what age rating Unpleasant Horse was submitted under. The 4+ rating is for apps with no objectionable content while the 9+ and 12+ ratings state there can be some mild or occasionally intense cartoon, fantasy or realistic violence that is not appropriate for younger audiences. PopCap’s super popular Plants vs. Zombies, for example, is rated 9+. It could be that 4th & Battery needs to just resubmit under a higher rating, perhaps the 17+ rating, to get approval.
That might still prompt a debate about where Apple should draw the line on things like violence and issues of taste when it comes to apps. Unpleasant Horse has some violence but it’s done in a cartoony style. The game allows players to smash more well-adjusted horses and birds to the earth, where they’re fed through “a perpetual meat-grinder.”
Without having seen the game, it’s hard to know what rating it should deserve. But with a lot of violent and unpleasant apps already available in Apple’s mobile marketplace, it’s likely Unpleasant Horse will eventually find a home in the App Store. It’s not exactly the reception 4th & Battery might have wanted, but it shows that PopCap is indeed looking to break away from the more wholesome image of its existing brand. Or perhaps 4th & Battery intentionally set the rating for the game too low knowing it would get a little attention by being rejected. Now that would be edgy.