Apple now allows classic game emulators on the App Store

Posted:
in iOS edited April 7

A change to the App Store rules reverses a very old rule that prohibited emulators on the iPhone and iPad.

A MacBook Air
Classic game emulation won't be limited to Mac for very long



One of the App Store's longest standing rules is a prohibition on apps that run external code. This has meant a de facto ban on console and classic game emulators.

A change to guideline 4.7 of the App Store changes all that.

Specifically, Apple is now allowing "software that is not embedded in the binary" to run inside apps hosted in the App Store. The company is specific as to what can run, and "retro game console emulator apps" are included in the list.

Developers are responsible for any software that can be loaded into an app. Apple specifically says that add-ons and ROMs must comply with several guidelines, and all applicable laws.

Specifically, Apple says that the following provisions must be followed:

  • Follow all privacy guidelines, including but not limited to the rules set forth in Guideline 5.1 concerning collection, use, and sharing of data, and sensitive data (such as health and personal data from kids)

  • Include a method for filtering objectionable material, a mechanism to report content and timely responses to concerns, and the ability to block abusive users.

  • Use in-app purchase in order to offer digital goods or services to end users.

  • Apps may not extend or expose native platform APIs to the software without prior permission from Apple.

  • Apps may not share data or privacy permissions to any individual software offered in the app without explicit user consent in each instance.

  • An index of software and metadata must be made available in the app. It must include universal links that lead to all of the software offered in the app.

  • Apps must share the age rating of the highest age-rated content available



Given how existing emulators often rely on user-provided ROM files, it's not clear how this will be enforced. In emulators on jailbroken devices, some rely on Files to import ROM files and BIOS files, and others have a custom file import feature.

Despite what console manufacturers' stance, the concept of emulation is legal. What is not legal is using ROM files that the user does not own, or source code from the manufacturers to make the emulators, which is where the Playstation emulator by Connectix fell down over two decades ago.

There are a series of emulators available now for other platforms -- like the Mac. It likely won't take long for these emulators to arrive on iOS and iPadOS.




Read on AppleInsider

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    chasmchasm Posts: 3,341member
    This is great news. I still enjoy some classic games, and have had to keep older Macs around to run some of them. Looking forward to seeing what iOS/iPadOS developers come up with.
    king editor the gratezeus423watto_cobradewmeOferargonautgregoriusmlibertyandfreebloggerblog
  • Reply 2 of 17
    irnchrizirnchriz Posts: 1,617member
    I have retroarch on my iPad Pro, it’s ace.  I loaded it on via Xcode though.  None of the store emulators will have anywhere near the flexibility unfortunately.
    watto_cobradewmeOferargonaut
  • Reply 3 of 17
    It’s amazing what you can run in emulation on other devices. There’s a pretty good market repurposing old A series chips to make cheap handhelds in China. They mostly use Linux or Android to run the emulators and the hobbyists have been hoping to use Apple hardware for a long time. 
  • Reply 4 of 17
    omasouomasou Posts: 592member
    Given how existing emulators often rely on user-provided ROM files, it's not clear how this will be enforced. In emulators on jailbroken devices, some rely on Files to import ROM files and BIOS files, and others have a custom file import feature.

    Apple won't enforce squat. That is completely a CYA statement to remove their liability.

    Future news stories should be interesting with governments suing Apple to open up and Apple itself removing themselves from a policing role and putting the responsibility and liability on the developer and user for uses cases like the one above.

    Future Apple quote: We only provide the hardware and OS and in compliance with all government mandates. What users choose to do with their free choices cannot be controlled by us (1, 2).

    (1) EU regulations
    (2) US JOD ruling
    thtjas99argonaut
  • Reply 5 of 17
    jeffharrisjeffharris Posts: 797member
    What about old Mac games like titles from Ambrosia Software. Mars Rising, etc?
    There was a developer that released a whole bunch of pinball games.
    Or Hellcats. 

    That would be great!
    argonautlibertyandfree
  • Reply 6 of 17
    This will definitely be interesting especially given the fact that Nintendo's Game Boy Advanced, DS, 3DS and Switch have all used RAM, this opens things up a lot since those probably wouldn't even need a meaningful amount of emulation since they were already ARM chips. (Though I suspect most of those weren't 64bit ARM, and I realize that ARM is a whole different kettle of fish.) Also Dolphin already has PPC chip emulation for the Game Cube and Wii (and I suspect they could bump up to do the Wii U since it was also PPC.)

    Really, Nintendo should be looking at some sort of deal where they make their classic games available on iOS (especially for Switch Online customers!)

    Either way I suspect as the EU continues to push for the idea that Apple shouldn't have any control over what software people can install, I suspect Apple will get a bit catty and help destroy the market for the companies who decide to push forward with lobbying these law makers.

    I wonder how much trouble they could or couldn't get into if they actually just let you store your Music Library in iCloud Drive and stream it even without Apple Music or iTunes Match. (I suspect Apple will want to hold on to the revenue they make from Apple Music though). I think they could really tick off the streaming companies if they let you hook up an HDD to an Apple TV and also let you run a torrent client on the Apple TV.

    If Apple made it easier to connect external storage to the Apple TV, and let it run emulators and torrents, I think you'd suddenly see it sky rocket amoungst the home brew type market.

    Beyond that I suspect that once more countries push them to allow more third party software that doesn't make them any money but makes tons (looking at dating apps) I suspect that they'll probably invest in something that would make Tinder absolutely worthless. Not sure what exactly what would be, but I suspect that Apple could easily afford to single handedly fund a 'start up' in the online dating space that could basically do what Tinder does but for free. Sure it would cost a few million to run, but bankrupting Match would be a fun thing for Tim to do before he retires. And since they'd just be lowing the price for consumers, that can't be monopolostic behaviour! 

    Seriously though, I really hope that if Apple is going to be forced to do all this stuff for the EU regulators they just eventually hit a point where they say, "Fine you want these device to be just as open as a desktop computer, fine! Enjoy having all these same companies who were complaining before about our walled garden, now complaining that our walled garden was the only reason any of them had a business model!"
    beowulfschmidtAlex1N
  • Reply 7 of 17
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 15,355moderator
    What about old Mac games like titles from Ambrosia Software. Mars Rising, etc?
    There was a developer that released a whole bunch of pinball games.
    Or Hellcats. 

    That would be great!
    OS 9 can be run via UTM. Apple's change here may have been influenced by the alt store, which will be one of the first 3rd party app stores:

    https://www.theverge.com/24100979/altstore-europe-app-marketplace-price-games
    https://altstore.io/

    The featured apps on that store are emulators like Delta, UTM, Dolphin:

    https://getutm.app/

    Here is UTM running OS 9:



    Emulation speed on M-series chips is very good, some people think M-chips are overpowered for mobile devices but the benefit shows with CPU-intensive apps:



    Nintendo recently sued an emulator developer:

    https://www.polygon.com/24090351/nintendo-2-4-million-yuzu-switch-emulator-settlement-lawsuit

    Some emulators can run current-gen games, which can result in the company losing money, e.g Nintendo Switch games like Mario Wonder and Zelda:





    Nintendo could make a lot of money with an official emulator for mobile for the old systems, especially if they legally supply ROMs.
    roundaboutnowargonautAlex1N
  • Reply 8 of 17
    saareksaarek Posts: 1,530member
    Mario and Tetris here we come! Nintendo will likely now release an emulator for their back catalogue and sell their games, they’d be insane not too.
    Alex1N
  • Reply 9 of 17
    Marvin said:
    What about old Mac games like titles from Ambrosia Software. Mars Rising, etc?
    There was a developer that released a whole bunch of pinball games.
    Or Hellcats. 

    That would be great!
    OS 9 can be run via UTM. Apple's change here may have been influenced by the alt store, which will be one of the first 3rd party app stores:

    https://www.theverge.com/24100979/altstore-europe-app-marketplace-price-games
    https://altstore.io/

    The featured apps on that store are emulators like Delta, UTM, Dolphin:

    https://getutm.app/

    Here is UTM running OS 9:

    Emulation speed on M-series chips is very good, some people think M-chips are overpowered for mobile devices but the benefit shows with CPU-intensive apps:
    Very cool. I have installers for tons of old Mac games on disk images. And quite a few full installations on my archive RAID.
    Never played Nintendo or any other consoles. 
  • Reply 10 of 17
    saarek said:
    Mario and Tetris here we come! Nintendo will likely now release an emulator for their back catalogue and sell their games, they’d be insane not too.

    Given that they could have released such an emulator for their very own current devices, and have not done so, even going so far as to close down the online stores for the older devices, suggests that your claim of "likely" is somewhat of an overstatement.
    Alex1N
  • Reply 11 of 17
    MesonMeson Posts: 8member
    chasm said:
    This is great news. I still enjoy some classic games, and have had to keep older Macs around to run some of them. Looking forward to seeing what iOS/iPadOS developers come up with.
    This is great news. See, this is what happens when there's competition on this platform. Apple would not have done this if they were not forced to allow 3rd party app stores on iOS. Now that there's competition on iOS, I would expect more great news to come.

    Remember, competition is good. If it wasn't for Apple or Google, we would all still be using Windows XP. There's nothing wrong with having competition on iOS.
  • Reply 12 of 17
    Rogue01Rogue01 Posts: 161member
    What about old Mac games like titles from Ambrosia Software. Mars Rising, etc?
    There was a developer that released a whole bunch of pinball games.
    Or Hellcats. 

    That would be great!
    Ambrosia games were the best and I still play them on my working LC 575.  Pinball games...8 Ball Deluxe, Crystal Caliburn, Looney Labyrinth.  Yep, I have those three too.
    libertyandfree
  • Reply 13 of 17
    saareksaarek Posts: 1,530member
    saarek said:
    Mario and Tetris here we come! Nintendo will likely now release an emulator for their back catalogue and sell their games, they’d be insane not too.

    Given that they could have released such an emulator for their very own current devices, and have not done so, even going so far as to close down the online stores for the older devices, suggests that your claim of "likely" is somewhat of an overstatement.
    More fool them then.
  • Reply 14 of 17
    I love to see the real ATARI Missile Command arcade game revived in my Mac!

    edited April 9
  • Reply 15 of 17
    clivepclivep Posts: 1member
    Minor nitpick : Connectix Virtual Game Station did not “fall down” and did not include any Sony source code. It was a full reverse engineering of the PlayStation OS. Connectix beat Sony in court on this issue, under fair use provisions, and Sony was forced to buy out the product from Connectix and remove it from sale. Microsoft bought out Virtual PC shortly afterwards and that was the end of Connectix. 
  • Reply 16 of 17
    saarek said:
    saarek said:
    Mario and Tetris here we come! Nintendo will likely now release an emulator for their back catalogue and sell their games, they’d be insane not too.

    Given that they could have released such an emulator for their very own current devices, and have not done so, even going so far as to close down the online stores for the older devices, suggests that your claim of "likely" is somewhat of an overstatement.
    More fool them then.

    Maybe, maybe not.  While it seems obvious to me that a set of emulators for older devices that run on the Switch could be profitable, even if only for nostalgia, it's possible Nintendo knows something I do not.
  • Reply 17 of 17
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 15,355moderator
    saarek said:
    saarek said:
    Mario and Tetris here we come! Nintendo will likely now release an emulator for their back catalogue and sell their games, they’d be insane not too.

    Given that they could have released such an emulator for their very own current devices, and have not done so, even going so far as to close down the online stores for the older devices, suggests that your claim of "likely" is somewhat of an overstatement.
    More fool them then.
    Maybe, maybe not.  While it seems obvious to me that a set of emulators for older devices that run on the Switch could be profitable, even if only for nostalgia, it's possible Nintendo knows something I do not.
    Nintendo uses emulators for classic games on the Switch:

    https://emulation.gametechwiki.com/index.php/Nintendo_Switch_Online
    https://www.nintendo.com/us/switch/online/nintendo-switch-online/classic-games/

    They charge a yearly fee ($20-50/year).



    Expanding this to 3 billion mobile users would probably make a decent amount of revenue, even with limited appeal. If they got 20m mobile users to pay $50, that's $1b/year. They already have 38m using it:

    https://mynintendonews.com/2023/11/08/nintendo-reveals-that-nintendo-switch-online-service-has-over-38-million-paid-subscribers/
Sign In or Register to comment.