Apple opens the iPhone App Store to retro game emulators


Apple Store Awards 2023
The App Store will soon list game emulators for download.
Photo: Apple

Apple is opening its walled garden to game emulators. The company has updated the App Store guidelines to reflect that developers can now list retro game emulators for download worldwide.

Additionally, the updated guidelines make it easier for music streaming apps to redirect users to an external website. However, this change is only applicable to the EU.

Game emulators cannot list pirated content

For years, Apple has prohibited developers from listing retro game emulators for download on the App Store. It has actively taken down such apps that have slipped past its review process.

This will no longer be the case, thanks to the revised App Store guidelines. However, developers must ensure all listed games in their emulators adhere to the applicable laws. So, don’t expect pirated games to be available for download.

Apple’s updated App Store guidelines, pt 4.7, state, “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.”

A new Music Streaming Services Entitlements section in the App Store guidelines allows music streaming apps to link to an external site. This can be in the form of a “buy” button and contain pricing information. Music streaming apps can use this entitlement to inform users about alternative ways to purchase content or services.

This entitlement is limited to the iOS and iPadOS App Store and is only available in the EU.

Tweaked App Store guidelines come due to intense regulatory pressure on Apple

The change in Apple’s stance is welcome and likely stems from increased regulator scrutiny and the EU’s Digital Markets Act. The latter forced Apple to open up the App Store to alternative browser engines and app sideloading.

More recently, the US government filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple’s “anticompetitive and exclusionary conduct,” targeting the iPhone’s monopoly.

Given the intense scrutiny on Apple, expect the compact to make more tweaks to the App Store guidelines in the coming weeks.


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