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Apple just opened up the App Store to retro game emulators

Published Apr 5th, 2024 6:26PM EDT
Delta Emulator running on an iPhone.
Image: Riley Testut

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In a rather stunning turn of events, Apple updated its App Review Guidelines this week to allow retro game emulators on the App Store. Unlike many of the recent changes to iOS, this change won’t be limited to Europe. In the coming days and weeks, developers all around the world will be able to launch their emulators on the App Store legally.

Here’s what the App Review Guidelines say about retro game emulators as of this week:

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.

Emulator apps have been banned from Apple’s App Store for years, and any that did manage to sneak through the certification process were swiftly removed. If you wanted to play an emulated game on your iPhone or your iPad, you had to find a workaround or jailbreak your device, both of which require far too much effort for the average user.

As The Verge notes, these rule changes are seemingly in response to an antitrust lawsuit filed by the US Department of Justice. The lawsuit accuses Apple of blocking game streaming apps such as GeForce Now and says “super apps with mini programs would threaten its monopoly,” referring to apps with a variety of features, services, and abilities.

The Verge also points out that many of the third-party app stores that Apple will have to allow on its devices in Europe will offer game emulators. In fact, I’d argue that it may be the primary draw of a third-party app store for a sizable portion of the audience. Rather than give those stores an easy win, why not just take Google Play’s lead and allow the apps?

Personally, I’ll be keeping an eye on Riley Testut’s Delta Emulator, which is among the most feature-rich and impressive mobile emulators on the market. Currently, the only way to access the app is through a rather involved process, but it’ll be on my iPhone in a heartbeat if Apple allows Testut to make the app available on the App Store.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.