After Years of Ban, Apple Finally Allows Game Emulators on App Store

App Store Emulator apps
In Short
  • Apple updated its App Store guidelines and it finally allows game emulators on the App Store.
  • Apple had to introduce this global policy change due to pressure from the EU to remove the anti-competition issues.
  • The giant specifically warns developers that such software, add-ons, and ROMs must comply with some specific guidelines and all applicable laws.

In March, the European Commission fined Apple $2 billion and announced that it wasn’t satisfied with the recent changes made by the company to comply with the DMA. With that also came a requirement that Apple should “remove the anti-steering provisions” from its App Store rules. As a result, Apple again updated its App Store guidelines on Friday. This time, the Cupertino tech giant allows music streaming apps to redirect its users to an external website in the EU. Also, the recent change reverses an old rule where game emulator apps were strictly banned on iPhones and iPads.

Yes, Apple will now allow game emulators in the App Store to offer downloadable games. For reference, Android supported emulators since the beginning. Now this means, for the very first time, all iPhone users across the globe can head to the App Store and download an emulator without having to opt for any risky workarounds. Previously, a user had to jailbreak his iPhone to sideload emulators or switch to unverified apps that can hide an emulator inside. This is one of the key reasons why iPhone users in the EU might rely on third-party app stores which are now allowed in the region.

With the updated App Store guidelines, Apple now allows developers to create and distribute retro console game emulators on the App Store. The giant sent an email to the developers to confirm this change.

Ever since the first iPhone was launched, developers have been working hard to find ways to distribute game emulators to iPhone users. The strict App Store guidelines never permitted emulator software. That said, some shady apps were able to bypass Apple’s review process by disguising hidden emulators within them. The recent changes by Apple could now head these off.

Now, mini apps and game streaming have been updated to include game emulators. Also, Apple now allows retro game console emulator apps to download games. However, there’s a catch.

Apple clearly warns that developers are solely responsible for any software that’s loadable into an app. In addition, the giant specifically says that such software, add-ons, and ROMs must comply with some specific guidelines and all applicable laws.

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. Additionally, retro game console emulator apps can offer to download games. You are responsible for all such software offered in your app, including ensuring that such software complies with these Guidelines and all applicable laws.“-Apple

Apple specifically wants developers to follow the below rule list:

  • Follow all privacy guidelines, including but not limited to the rules set forth in Guideline 5.1 concerning the 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 purchases 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.

Since the existing emulators often rely on user-provided ROM files, it’s unclear how these conditions will be enforced. Well, the concept of emulators is legal. What’s illegal is using ROM files not owned by the user or source code from the manufacturers to develop the emulators.

Since Apple has just made this change, it might take a while for the first emulator to make its appearance on the App Store. Well, the good news is emulators are finally coming to iPhones, that too globally, which is gonna be a treat for retro gamers.

Of course, all these changes are done by Apple to avoid another expensive fine. Also, since the EU is still not satisfied with the App Store changes, we might get to see a lot more updates super soon.

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