Emulators seem to now be allowed on the Apple App Store but with some caveats

by TexasDigitalMagazine.com

Apple’s App Store has famously been a walled garden for a while now. The tight policies have only recently been changing mostly thanks to EU regulations. Though, even taha has been a bumpy process met with a lot of pushback from Cupertino.

Thankfully, things seem to be looking up, and Apple’s most recent App Review Guidelines now offer a more relaxed attitude towards offering additional content from within apps. Notably, this includes retro game console emulators that, under the new rules, may allow users to download games, also commonly known as ROM files.

Emulators seem to now be allowed on the Apple App Store but with some caveats

This could very well mark the return of emulators to the App Store, which have been mostly absent in recent history. The guidelines stipulate that: “You are responsible for all such software offered in your app, including ensuring that such software complies with these Guidelines and all applicable laws.” So everything must be legal and above board. This leaves us wondering about some old game titles classified as “abandonware” that frequently have muddy and uncertain legal strings potentially still attached.

While reading through the new App Review Guidelines, we also couldn’t help but notice that Apple is sort of listing “game emulators” alongside “mini apps, mini games, streaming games, chatbots and plug-ins” and broadly stating that: “Apps may offer certain software that is not embedded in the binary, specifically HTML5 mini apps and mini games, streaming games, chatbots, and plug-ins.” That HTML5 bit has us slightly worried, especially when combined with an additional guideline stipulating, “Your app may not extend or expose native platform APIs to the software without prior permission from Apple.” Does this potentially mean that “native” emulators that leverage things like hardware acceleration powered by system APIs are not permissible? If that is the case and only high-level emulation tech can be used, we can’t realistically expect more performance-demanding consoles to get emulated.

As with all things Apple, especially regarding relaxed regulations and tearing down the “walled garden”, we fully expect that the outcome will be based on a precedent that Apple itself will surely set. We’ll just have to see how things play out (pun intended).

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