Okay,

I realize that I don’t post to this blog very often. I don’t expect this to get the sort of visibility that it probably deserves, but I feel compelled to write about this somewhere publicly. Therefore, I am going to reach out to my fans for this one.

 

Here’s The Problem

The other day, while browsing Reddit, a post on /r/iOSGaming caught my attention. It would appear that the game “The Binding of Isaac” was no longer available for download on the iOS app store. I searched for the game on my iPad Pro and my iPhone 7+, and was able to indeed confirm that the game was no longer available. What is most concerning, however, is that not only is the game no longer available for purchase, it is also unavailable for re-download for people who already purchased the app. I happen to be one of those people, and I paid the full price of $14.99 for the game. I checked my email receipts, as well as my purchase history on iTunes, and checked to verify the game was indeed downloaded on my iPad… it was, and it does still run as of this morning. It is not downloaded to my iPhone, nor am I able to download it from my purchase history on the app store. Okay, so what the hell is going on? After reading comments from others who were able to receive refunds from Apple, I decided to reach out to Apple myself to figure out what’s going on.

You might be thinking to yourself, “Apoc, why is this such a big deal? You’ve already got it downloaded, so you’re good, right?”

Well, no, not exactly. As anyone who uses iOS can tell you, it is very much a “walled garden” of sorts. It’s not like a Windows or Android device where you can simply save an app, copy it, and install it whenever, wherever. The only way to back up your apps is to rely on a full system backup with iTunes, and that won’t allow you to install the app on another device like my iPhone. Additionally, If anything goes wrong with that backup (which, in the world of iTunes, happens all the time), you’re S.O.L. as far as restoring that backup. What if I need to wipe the slate clean and start over due to a software issue? Bye-bye Binding of Isaac.

So, I tried the normal method of refunding an app, but since I paid for it so long ago (1 year ago to the date, December 26, 2017), I was unable to use the “report a problem” link typically found in purchase history. Nope, I was going to have no choice but to contact Apple support directly. Here’s what happened:

Apple Support
Thanks for contacting Apple Support. My name is Apple Support. Please give me a moment to look over your information.

Apple Support
Hey there, Justin! How are you?

Me
Okay mostly

Me
But I am really confused as to why an app I purchased can no longer be downloaded

Apple Support
Oh no! Sure thing, I’ll be more than happy to assist. What’s going on?

Me
The Binding of Isaac. I bought it last year for a pretty steep price, and now it isn’t showing up in my purchase history. I’ve seen other reports online of the same thing, that it was pulled from the store completely.

Apple Support
Ah, I see! That is strange, so it appears that it’s been removed from the App Store completely?

Me
It would appear so

Me
It doesn’t show up in searches, or in my purchased apps list to re-download

Apple Support
Right, I see. Thank you for bringing that to our attention! In that case, if it has been removed from the App Store, you would likely want to get in touch with the developers of the App.

Apple Support
It’s not showing up at all when you search in the App Store?

Me
Not at all

Me
The order ID is:
(redacted)

Apple Support
Got it! Thank you for that, Justin. What is your Apple ID?

Me
(redacted)@gmail.com

Apple Support
Great, thank you for that, Justin! In that case, I don’t really have access to any information as to why the app has been removed from the App Store. When did you purchase this, can you recall?

Me
According to my purchase history, exactly 1 year ago today

Me
Dec 26, 2017

Me
I don’t game a lot on my iPad, but I did spend $15 on it, and it kinda sucks that if I ever get a new iPad/iPhone I won’t be able to download it again.

It was at this moment that the support chat experienced an error, and ended that chat. I was quickly reconnected with another support agent.

Apple Support
Thanks for contacting Apple Support. Please give me a moment to look over your information.

Apple Support
/hi

Apple Support
Hello Justin, how are you today? *

Me
…am I really going to have to start this process all over again?

Apple Support
Im sorry to see that you were disconnected, you will not have to repeat yourself, as I see your previous case history.

Me
Okay, good, thank you

Apple Support
You are trying to redownload binding of Isaac correct?

Me
Yes, and it does not exist anymore

Apple Support
Ill be happy to help track it down for you. If needed, mind me asking a couple questions?

Me
Sure

Apple Support
Did you download binding of Isaac on your iPad last year, or was this done on a different device?

Me
I downloaded it on my iPad

Apple Support
Great, and if you go to settings > general > about. What does it show for version on the ipad?

Me
12.1.1

Apple Support
Thank you

Apple Support
Please open the App Store, then tap today at the bottom of the screen.

Me
I know how to find things in my purchase history. I already tried that. It is not there. There are people on Reddit reporting the same problem with the same game.

Apple Support
Thanks for confirming that for me.

Apple Support
Please bear with me a few minutes to check my resources on this.

Me
Okay

Me
Here is all that comes up:
(link provided to screen shot of issue via Dropbox)

System Message
Just a few more moments. Your Advisor will be right with you.

Apple Support
Would you be able to send the screenshot via the + icon in the chat box? I apologize I cannot open links for security reasons.

Apple Support
Thanks!

Me
Sure

Me
(sent screenshots via support chat)

Apple Support
and same thing if you tap on not on this iPad as well?

Me
It is installed on the iPad. I’m trying to download it to my phone.

Me
I just took a screen shot on the ipad because it’s in front of me

Apple Support
thanks for the clarification.

Me
For the sake of completion though, I will send proof from the phone as well

Me
(sent screen shot of same thing on the iPhone)

Apple Support
Thank you.

Me
If you’re allowed to follow Reddit links, here’s a thread with a lot of people having the same problem:
https://www.reddit.com/r/iosgaming/comments/a9384u/binding_of_isaac_no_longer_on_the_app_store/

Apple Support
Still looking into this for you. Just want to double check that I’m understanding you correctly. The game is downloaded on your ipad, but when you check the iPhone’s past purchase its not there, correct?

Me
It’s not in purchase history on either device

Me
But my receipts clearly show that I purchased it

Apple Support
Thanks for the clarification, I see.

Me
I did not refund it, either

Apple Support
Thank you after reviewing my resources, it does appear that the game was removed from the App Store.

Okay, so there’s the confirmation that it was removed. But why?

Me
Can you say anything as to why it was removed?

Apple Support
it has been removed from the App Store by the content provider. Once an item has been removed or modified on the iTunes/App Store, you will not be able to redownload it.

Apple Support
For more information on why it was removed, you would have to contact the content provide. If you’d like to provide feedback on this issue : https://www.apple.com/feedback/itunesapp.html

Me
Okay, well, since I can’t access my purchase, may I have a refund? It’s one of the most expensive app purchases I’ve made, and I only got to use it twice.

Apple Support
My Itunes advisor Rohith has reviewed our case, and would would like to take over to further discuss this with you. If you’re comfortable with this, please type “yes I am” and have a great rest of your day.

Apple claims that the app was removed from the store by the content provider, Nicalis. According to the developer via Twitter, this is a lie.

Oh man, do I hate being lied to. All the same, I consented to speaking with another staff member as requested.

Me
yes I am

Apple Support
Thanks for contacting Apple Support. My name is (redacted). Please give me a moment to look over your information.

Me
Okay

Apple Support
I have reviewed your case it looks like the content has been removed from the iTunes Store.

Apple Support
Once the content is removed from iTunes Store you won’t be able re download it.

Me
Yes, that much has been made clear

Apple Support
Okay. Since the item was removed from the store by the content provider, you’ll need to contact them directly to know any further information about why it was removed.

Me
I’m not concerned about why it was removed. I am concerned that I can no longer access content I paid for.

Apple Support
Because once a content has been removed from the store by the content provider, you’ll not be able to redownload it. Please note that they control all the mechanics of their applications.

Apple Support
However, you can request a content to be made available again or submit a feedback to this link:

Apple Support
https://www.apple.com/feedback/itunesapp.html

Me
Okay, I don’t think you’re understanding me, so I will clarify.

Me
If I purchase content on Steam, or the Google Play store, and that content is later removed, be it by the publisher or the developer, I am still able to download and use that content, even if it is no longer being updated.

Me
It is of great concern to me that the Apple policy is to allow developers to retroactively remove access to purchased content, and not provide a means to still access the content as it was last published.

Me
Therefore, I am asking for a refund (to store credit) of what I paid for this application

Me
I am heavily invested in the iOS ecosystem, but if this is possible, and I am not able to be refunded, I am very hesitant to spend anything further on iOS or iTunes at all.

Apple Support
If you have the app downloaded on your device, you should be able to access it without any issues. However, if you’re trying to redownload the app, you won’t be able to as it has been removed from the store.

Apple Support
After carefully reviewing, we have determined that t he purchase does not meet the conditions for a refund. For more information ab out our terms and conditions, see this link: https://www.apple.com/legal/internet-services/itunes/

Me
I do not have it downloaded on the device I am trying to download it to, which is my iphone.

Me
And… are you kidding me right now?

Me
This is no small deal, this is retroactively taking things from me that I paid for

Me
This is unacceptable

Me
I’ve got an iPhone 7+, an iPad pro, and my wife has an iPhone 7 and iPad too. If this is the way it’s going to be, we’re selling all of them and never coming back.

Me
So, I hope you have something better to tell me than that

Me
I am trying my best to be polite here, but I must be honest, I am absolutely livid right now. It’s not just the money, it’s the principle of the matter.

Apple Support
I am sorry but as informed earlier, the purchase does not meet the conditions for a refund. For more information about our terms and conditions, see this link: https://www.apple.com/legal/internet-services/itunes/

Me
Okay, so your response is basically: Fuck you

Me
Got it

It was at this point that I lost my cool, and stopped being polite. Their response to me is complete dismissal of the problem. What comes next is not my proudest moment.

Apple Support
If you’d like to submit a feedback, click this link: https://www.apple.com/feedback/itunesapp.html

Me
Oh, you’re getting feedback, you can bet your ass

Me
I won’t be recommending my friends to get iPhones anymore

Me
Back to Android for this household

Me
So much for customer service

Me
Tip for next time: At least take me to dinner first before you fuck me

Apple Support
I am sorry for the inconvenience caused but I do not have the option.

Apple Support
Is there anything else I can help you with?

Me
You haven’t been any help at all, so no

And that’s where it ended, so far at least.

 

Why Am I Making A Big Deal About This?

As I stated during my discussion with Apple Support, it is a big problem when you sell digital content and retroactively revoke access to that content. I did not pay $15 to rent the app, I paid $15 to purchase a perpetual license for said app. It is not okay to do this without notifying/refunding the consumer. I’m now wondering what other apps I paid for in the past that are now no longer available for download that I don’t even know about. I’ve had my Steam account since 2004, and every single purchase I have ever made is still available for me to download, install, and use. Even on the iOS app store, I am able to download even the first purchase I ever made in 2008 on my first iPod touch. It still works to this day. My Google Play Store purchases from all of history are still able to be downloaded. So, why is this different?

If we take a look at Apple’s own terms and conditions, we find the following:

All Transactions are final. Content prices may change at any time. If technical problems prevent or unreasonably delay delivery of Content, your exclusive and sole remedy is either replacement of the Content or refund of the price paid, as determined by Apple. From time to time, Apple may refuse a refund request if we find evidence of fraud, refund abuse, or other manipulative behavior that entitles Apple to a corresponding counterclaim.

Well, I don’t know about you, but given the expectation of downloading apps from your purchase history as an available feature, I would definitely call this a technical problem. There’s definitely no fraud either, since I paid for the app using an iTunes gift card I received for Christmas. However, reading further into the terms and conditions, you’ll find the following:

You may be able to redownload previously acquired Content (“Redownload”) to your devices that are signed in with the same Apple ID (“Associated Devices”). You can see Content types available for Redownload in your Home Country at https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204632. Content may not be available for Redownload if that Content is no longer offered on our Services.

And there it is. We’ve all agreed to this policy. I would assume this to be the case for apps that were not updated for 64-bit support. That much makes sense, even though it does sting. I could also understand it for apps that break the rules, containing malware or other disallowed content, however in that case if the app is no longer available, we as consumers should be entitled to a refund.

Another thread filled with complaints about Binding of Isaac popped up here late yesterday evening: https://www.reddit.com/r/iosgaming/comments/a9u6hf/binding_of_isaac_has_been_deleted_from_the_ios/

As user PaxterBaxter on Reddit points out:

Ladies and gents, welcome to the world of digital game purchases.

What digital stores don’t tell you (well, they technically do in the fine print of the terms and conditions) is that you purchase the right to play the game as long as it is made available. You never OWN the game, you merely pay for the right to play for an undetermined period of time.

I know it’s official policy, but it’s a bad policy, and we as consumers should not simply let it happen. Nintendo is currently being sued in Europe for their “no refunds” policy.

 

In Conclusion

I don’t expect to ever hear anything back from Apple about this, even after submitting feedback. I’ll try to get this out to as many places as possible, but I suspect that it will change nothing in the end. I made the switch back to iOS about a year ago after getting sick of poor software update support and poor battery life on Android devices, as well as privacy concerns that come along with a Google-owned operating system. I’ve defended Apple as being more consumer-friendly due to the privacy policies, but after this, I fear I’m going to have to trade a bit of privacy in exchange for a better policy regarding available app purchases. At least with Android, I have the option of backing up and side loading apps. If it was Nicalis that pulled the game, and not Apple, then I will no longer be supporting them anymore, either. I have, to date, purchased the Binding of Isaac on every available platform, so they already got my money anyway.

Update: January 24, 2019

Binding of Isaac is back on the app store! I temporarily made the switch back to Android with a Samsung Galaxy Note 9, but sadly, since my wife has very poor reception at work, iMessage and Facetime are basically mandatory for us. Maybe Android will have iMessage or something similar that works cross-platform in the future, but for now, I’m stuck with iOS.