Apple Further Explains Why Game Boy Emulator iGBA Was Removed From App Store

Over the weekend, a Game Boy emulator named iGBA appeared in the iPhone's App Store, but Apple quickly removed the app due to violations of the company's App Review Guidelines related to spam and copyright. Apple has since shared additional details about why it removed iGBA from the App Store, and it also clarified its guidelines for emulators.

iGBA Feature Slashed
iGBA was a copycat version of developer Riley Testut's open-source GBA4iOS app, with the addition of ads on top. While it did not explicitly name GBA4iOS, Apple told us it removed iGBA from the App Store after learning that it was a knockoff app that copied another developer's work and attempted to pass it off as its own.

Notably, Apple confirmed to us that emulators on the App Store are permitted to load ROMs downloaded from the web, so long as the app is emulating retro console games only. Apple also said it had approved iGBA's functionality, before learning that it was a knockoff app, suggesting that Game Boy emulation is permitted on the App Store, but the company has yet to share any other examples of retro game consoles.

All in all, it appears that iGBA was removed from the App Store entirely because it was a ripoff of GBA4iOS, rather than due to piracy concerns resulting from users being able to load any ROM downloaded from the web. However, exactly which consoles Apple considers to be retro, and if there will be any other restrictions, remains to be seen.

It also remains to be seen how Nintendo reacts to Apple approving Game Boy emulators for distribution through the App Store on the iPhone. On its U.S. customer support website, Nintendo says downloading pirated copies of its games is illegal:

Pirate copies of game files are often referred to as "ROMs".

The uploading and downloading of pirate copies of Nintendo games is illegal.

We have reached out to Nintendo for comment.

Apple updated its App Review Guidelines to permit retro game console emulators earlier this month. Apple says developers of emulators are "responsible for all such software" offered in the app, including compliance with "all applicable laws."

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Top Rated Comments

Logamaniac Avatar
10 weeks ago
So why won’t Nintendo just launch a gameboy app that plays old gameboy games they could sell on the AppStore? Seems like free money for very little effort.
Score: 33 Votes (Like | Disagree)
truthsteve Avatar
10 weeks ago
public: why didn't Apple delete the app sooner?
the same public: why does Apple have the power to control what gets on the App Store?
Score: 30 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BaldiMac Avatar
10 weeks ago

Cases like this -- where something is approved, then not -- show the lack of competence and lack of communication in Apple's internal operations. And something like this keeps happening. Here they made more noise than they would have wanted by approving the thing first and then pulling it. If they had rejected it from the start, there would be some noise, but less of a situation.
Not really. They published something. They were notified it was a unauthorized copy. They removed it.

Your premise that Apple should have known it was unauthorized before they were notified doesn't seem reasonable to me.
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
turbineseaplane Avatar
10 weeks ago
Nintendo has no say in this

The Yuzu situation was totally different as those devs were themselves exchanging Nintendo IP
Additionally, Yuzu requires encryption keys ripped from a real Nintendo Switch to do anything at all, which may further muddy the situation

Emulators on their own are fully legal
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
vertsix Avatar
10 weeks ago
FINALLY SOME CLARIFICATION from Apple on what specifically it allows of emulators!

Seems like emulators are now allowed and can load executables (ROMs) on iOS!!!!!

17 years later...


Beautiful! Finally!

I didn't think this day would ever come. One of the biggest reasons to use Android has now been undercut.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
spyguy10709 Avatar
10 weeks ago
GBA4ios is an open source project that integrates another open-source emulator as its “core”.

Riley didn’t make the code that emulates the gameboy. Why he’s able to exert this control over somebody else’s work (Emu-EX-plus in a wrapper as GBA4ios) yet the developer of iGBA somehow doesn’t — is curious at best.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)