Video game emulators come to Apple

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The Future. Thanks to the rise of video game emulators, your iPhone is now a Game Boy, Nintendo 64, and even a full arcade all wrapped into one. What a time to be alive. As more users discover the old-school joy of emulators, it may spark a new trend around modifying classic games with creator-specific Easter eggs in the hope that the remixes can go viral.

Arcade OS
In the wake of antitrust pressure, Apple is allowing video game emulators — software that “allows games designed for old devices to run on new ones,” per Axios — on its App Store.

And gamers are excited.

  • The most popular emulator, Delta, which allows users to play games made for the Game Boy and SNES, racked up millions of downloads over the past month.
  • And more are already gaining steam, including RetroArch (an emulator of consoles like the Nintendo DS and Game Boy Advance) and PPSSPP (an emulator for the PSP).
  • The emulators appeal to older gamers who want to play the titles of their youth, hardcore video game preservationists, and younger gamers curious about the classics.

Why did Apple ban emulators for so long? Other than having its own dedicated Arcade-game subscription, the tech giant didn’t want to platform software that isn’t technically legal — emulators aren’t illegal, but downloading game files (dubbed “ROMs”) that they didn’t pay for is.

Also, emulators allow for what are called “ROM hacks,” which are when programmers tweak the code of games to remix or personalize them — a hobby that’s inspired some to turn to professional game design. But that, of course, has some inherent copyright issues baked in.

David Vendrell

Born and raised a stone’s-throw away from the Everglades, David left the Florida swamp for the California desert. Over-caffeinated, he stares at his computer too long either writing the TFP newsletter or screenplays. He is repped by Anonymous Content.


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