MAME Emulator Shown Running Well on New Apple TV

Earlier this month, developer James Addyman got his emulator, Provenance, working on the Apple TV Developer Kit provided to developers via lottery, and now developer Kevin Smith has gotten the popular MAME game emulator running on the device.

In the video below, a tvOS version of the MAME emulator is demonstrated on the fourth-generation Apple TV. For those unfamiliar with MAME, it stands for Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator. Over the years, several apps with the MAME code have snuck into the iOS App Store, letting people illicitly run old arcade games.


In the video, Smith shows several old arcade games running on the Apple TV, including Donkey Kong, Galaga, Street Fighter II, Raiden, and Metal Slug - Super Vehicle. All of the games are said to run well, though there are some lingering sound issues with a few of the titles.

The video's description includes some of the technical hurdles that had to be overcome to get the emulator working on tvOS.

I created a target for tvOS and set about getting the code to compile for arm64 (Mandatory for AppleTV), fixed a variety of compiler and linker errors. Removed code which was incompatible with tvOS frameworks and simplified code to work on tvOS. Added a basic icon compatible with tvOS. I added some tweaks to the source to allow the pause button to exit the game and supporting the resolution for the 1080p display.

While developers have been able to get emulators running on the developer versions of the fourth-generation Apple TV, which were handed out to help developers create Apple TV apps, emulators won't be available on the tvOS App Store. Apple doesn't allow emulators on iOS and will likely adopt the same policy for tvOS.

There is a possibility that emulators will be able to sneak into the tvOS App Store in the future, buried deep within legitimate apps, but as on iOS, such apps will only survive for hours before being pulled once discovered by Apple.

Related Roundups: Apple TV, tvOS 13, tvOS 14
Tags: MAME, emulator
Buyer's Guide: Apple TV (Don't Buy)

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
63 months ago

They should really let it slide for Apple TV

Yeah, it's only copyright infringement. Surely all the companies that made the games will understand and will be perfectly okay with Apple letting it slide.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
63 months ago

Yeah, it's only copyright infringement. Surely all the companies that made the games will understand and will be perfectly okay with Apple letting it slide.

The companies themselves should just create their own emulators with a built-in store that takes in-app purchases and make available all of their titles for a fee, $.99 - $4.99 per title would be a fair price to pay to have "legal" access to titles you enjoyed playing as a child, or whatever.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
63 months ago
They should really let it slide for Apple TV
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
63 months ago

Sure, classic games may be fun, but, to me, emulator is like a slap in awesome hardware's face.

Well when you give grandma (Apple) the keys to the Porsche (hardware), the hardware goes to waste anyway. See new AppleTV's restrictions.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
63 months ago
Building one is simple. Getting it approved and into the App Store is the challenge.

Isn't sideloading thru Xcode now possible? My experience with emulator apps that sneak onto the store is problematic as once you switch to a new device it won't be restored or not compatible with the newer OS's. But, if the developers of emulators are not trying to profit off app sales can't they make the package available to sideload?

You can create apps for your own organization. So companies can make custom apps just for their employees to use.

I suppose someone could open source the emulator and then people would compile it themselves within Xcode and run it at home. Though I imagine it would be a nightmare. People struggle even with the simple jailbreaks already. Imagine a bunch of people with little technical knowledge attempting to compile such a program. There would be a billion support threads all over the internet when they hit a compiling error.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
63 months ago
Some ROMs are considered abandonware, in that there's no recorded copyright holder anymore. Even for the copyrighted ROMs possession of the physical ROM may grant you the ability to "move" that to an emulator. That'd be a novel argument even if anyone bothered to sue (ie: is it the equivalent of "place shifting/time shifting?").
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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