Over the weekend, people noticed that Apple had finally approved two emulator apps for the iPhone on its App Store for the first time in forever. iGBA for GameBoy and Emu64 XL for Commodore 64 could emulate your favorite old games if you had a copy.

Since the big videogame companies that make these games don’t have a business like this, downloading an illegal ROM is the only proper way to emulate a game on your iPhone. To no one’s surprise, Apple removed iGBA for GameBoy from the App Store this Sunday night – most likely after a furious call from Nintendo.

I recently wrote that with Apple’s newest rules for emulation apps, Nintendo should take advantage of this change and make a ton of profit from one of its most lucrative and underused assets: old 90s and 2000s games.

Even though Big N focuses on the Nintendo Switch Online subscription, there isn’t a better way to play a Game Boy game than on your iPhone, which resembles a futuristic Game Boy. However, the Japanese company is not fond of people using its intellectual property for free, which is why I think this emulator app was taken down.

Are iPhone emulator apps coming back to the App Store?

Pokémon Crystal running on iPhone thanks to emulator appImage source: José Adorno for BGR

By the beginning of April, Apple opened the App Store to retro game emulators. Here’s what Apple said about this change:

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.

While these rule changes are seemingly in response to an antitrust lawsuit filed by the US Department of Justice in addition to emulator apps coming to European Union users, it’s hard to allow emulator apps and neglected the fact that most people will pirate their games when using them.

What’s also interesting about iPhone emulator apps is that one of the most popular developers in that field, Riley Testut, still hasn’t released its Delta emulator on the App Store. While his app has been approved inside a third-party app store for EU users, it hasn’t been available on Apple’s App Store.

With the news of this iGBA emulator being released, here’s what Testut wrote on Threads:

So apparently Apple approved a knock-off of GBA4iOS — the predecessor to Delta I made in high school — in the App Store. I did not give anyone permission to do this, yet it’s now sitting at the top of the charts (despite being filled with ads + tracking)I’ve bit my tongue a bunch in the past month…but this really frustrates me. So glad App Review exists to protect consumers from scams and rip-offs like this

iPhone emulator apps have already been pulled from the App Store, and no one’s surprisedImage source: José Adorno for BGR

Then, once Apple removed the app, he posted the following:

My frustration stemmed entirely from the fact we’ve been ready to launch Delta since last month. This whole situation could’ve been avoided if Apple hadn’t delayed approving us until after changing their rules to allow emulatorsTo Apple’s credit though, once they were aware of the issue they did take it seriously. So I really don’t believe this was malicious at all — just an unfortunate situation for everyone involved

Wrap up

Are emulator apps coming back to the App Store? Will Delta ever launch legally? Will Nintendo pick up a fight with Apple? There are several questions unanswered at this moment. Still, I don’t think the future looks super bright for iPhone emulator apps, and the only way to fix this would be for Nintendo and other game companies to release their own emulator apps, which doesn’t seem to happen anytime soon.

That said, even with Apple allowing emulator apps on the App Store, they might never achieve their full potential.

BGR will let you know if Apple provides any statements or if the company allows new apps in its store.

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