With mobile gaming holding the largest piece of the gaming industry pie, it’s really no wonder that it harbors its fair share of app game controversies. With all those companies vying for our cash in a notoriously lucrative market, some toes are bound to get trodden on. It’s just a shame that, sometimes, they’re our toes. 

But everyone loves a drama, especially when we’re not the ones embroiled in it. So grab that popcorn and check out this list of some of the most controversial app gaming moments. 


App game controversies


Mobile Legends & League of Legends


There’s a reason that Mobile Legends made our list of the best MOBAs on mobile. And in the eyes of League of Legends developer Riot Games, it’s because they copied their homework. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But when there’s esports levels of money to be made, you can shove your compliments where the sun doesn’t shine.

We suggested in the previous article that perhaps Riot was a smidge bitter about Moonton pipping them to the post when it came to cornering the mobile MOBA market. But it would be disingenuous to not note the glaring similarities. Similar mechanics are unavoidable in MOBAs. What’s more avoidable, however, is barely reskinning heroes as famously unique as LoL’s and claiming they’re entirely new concepts. A notion that wasn’t lost on LoL loyalists.

What ensued was a series of court battles in California and China, with the result being minor tweaks to Mobile Legends (including a rebrand to Mobile Legends: Bang Bang) and a cool $2.9 million in damages to Riot (and Tencent) for their efforts. 

To be fair, with the huge success of the eventual mobile rendition of LoL: Wild Rift, being as huge as it was, we’re pretty sure that the mountains of cash it generated was plenty to placate the developer.


App game controversies


Pokémon Go


To say that the king of all AR games, Pokémon Go, had some teething problems in its wildly successful first few years is putting it mildly. The litany of global crackdowns and condemnations came thick and fast thanks to this unique new game-cersize concept. 

First came the tone-deaf inclusion of somber locations such as cemeteries and the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum as fertile Pokémon catching grounds. Then the myriad accidents experienced by oblivious Pokémon hunters walking headlong into danger for the sake of a Snorlax. Then there were more specific cases of Pokémon Go controversies such as a blasphemy case against one Russian player who dared catch ‘em all while in a church.  

But luckily for us, the net benefit of Pokémon Go won over and saw Niantic deftly navigate the early problems by liaising with the relevant authorities. Now if they could get through a Pokémon Go event without drawing the ire of fans, then they’ll truly be sitting pretty.


App game controversies




There isn’t much to add on the myriad Roblox controversies that wasn’t already covered in our list of games that have been banned around the world. But here’s a summary: Roblox’s main demographic is young kids. It also encourages people to create their own games and is rife with microtransactions. If that isn’t the perfect recipe for controversy then we don’t know what is. 

But without covering the same ground as before, we’ll bring up the most recent of Roblox’ controversies – and that’s the complaint that has been filed against it by Truth in Advertising. The complaint is with Roblox’s failure to properly signpost games that have been created by large companies such as Netflix with the intent of advertising their products.

Which is fair enough – for example, searching ‘Stranger Things’ in Roblox will bring up both fanmade games and the Netflix game. But only one of those is intended as an ad. It’s good work all round from Truth in Advertising. We just wish they’d appear in this next entry.


All the False Advertisements and Trailers


App gaming controversies are rife with huge gaming companies going toe-to-toe in the courts. But the attention given to the little man (that’s us) swindled into downloading a game that is as far from advertised as can be is woefully scant. And many are left wondering why it’s still such a prolific practice.

We’ve all seen the advertisements: a ‘pull the pin’ game involving a man, a goblin, a damsel in distress, and chambers filled with lava or treasure. Or some other weird combination of poorly animated content. Some of us may have even downloaded it. 

But those that did fell hook, line and sinker for the ploy. Time is money, and if the several minutes spent watching the ads in a game that turns out to be nothing like advertised is anything to go by, these free-to-play titles are expensive. 

One of the most high-profile cases was Playrix’s Homescapes, which despite advertising the classic ‘pull the pin’ mechanic that is, for some inexplicable reason, the false advertisement industry standard, turned out to be a match-3 game. This did end up in the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority coming down on them with a wrist-slap. But given that Homescapes is one of the most played app games on the market, we suspect Playrix got over it pretty quickly.


App game controversies


Hearthstone & Hong Kong


This is not the first time that Blizzard will appear in this list of app game controversies. In fact, the Hearthstone developer really lived up to its name during 2021 by being embroiled in a storm of its own design.

But before the woeful tales of workplace malpractice came a high-profile one of the most controversial app gaming moments rooted in the competitive Hearthstone scene and the Hong Kong protests of 2019-2020. In what was to become known as the ‘Blitzchung Controversy’, professional Hearthstone player and Hong Kong resident, Ng Wai Chung (AKA Blitzchung), used the airtime of an official streaming event to rightfully voice his support for the Hong Kong protesters.

In response, Blizzard banned Blitzchung from the Grandmaster tournament and rescinded the prize money he had amassed to that point – which totaled a cool $4,000 at the time. They pointed to the tournament rules that prevented competitors from offending the public or impugning Blizzard’s image. They also terminated the two interviewers, ‘Virtual’ and ‘Mr. Yee’ for their perceived part in abetting the pro-Hong Kong message. 

The aftermath saw fans revolt with a #BoycottBlizzard protest, deciding to hit the giant developer where it hurt by canceling subscriptions. Esports sponsor, Mitsubishi Motors, also withdrew their sponsorship in response.

Needless to say, Blizzard backtracked pretty hard by returning Blitzchung’s prize money and reducing the bans it doled out to 6 months instead of a year. Players may talk politics when given the floor, but money talks louder. 


Epic Games Vs. Apple & Google


A classic story of Goliath Vs. Goliath & Goliath. Not content with one suit, Epic Games was keen to embody the battle royale spirit for which it is known by taking on the two preeminent app game storefronts at the same time all in the name of pride. And by ‘pride’, we of course mean ‘profits’. 

The long-and-short of this epic legal brawl between three tech giants is that Epic Games was unhappy with sharing 30% of their revenue with the platforms playing host to their game. What resulted was one of the more interesting app game controversies that to this day has seen Epic digging its heels in complete with a rousing page on their website presenting their cause in the ongoing legal battle. 

Dubbed “Project Liberty”, Epic Games aims to bring an end to what it sees as a monopoly being orchestrated by the two mobile giants. And whether we’ll see any benefits from either party winning out, at least we can witness the spectacle in the meantime.

App game controversies


Diablo “Immoral”


The case of Diablo Immortal is the reigning champ of app game controversies in 2022. So far, anyway. The controversy started at its inception, managing to become one of the most notorious game announcements in recent years. “Do you guys not have phones?” is a quote that will go down in the annals of gaming history. 

And for those who booed in response, whether in-person at Blizzcon 2018 or at their computer screen, the problem wasn’t necessarily that a game that was born on PC would be migrating to the portable screen. It was more likely out of mistrust on how Blizzard might abuse the F2P system of an app game. And the result was a stark reminder that vindication isn’t always sweet.

Rampant monetization of this beloved title has seen Diablo Immortal earn the lowest user score ever on Metacritic. P2W mechanics, predatory microtransactions and a business model reliant on whales have marred what is otherwise a beautiful game. It turns out this game about hell is full of sin – and that sin is greed. 

There you have some of the most controversial app gaming moments in recent memory. But with the app gaming market set to grow to gargantuan levels in the near future, we fully expect more app game controversies to come thick and fast. So let’s grit our teeth and hope that we’re not in the firing line next time.