Apple Restricts Emulators to Retro Game Consoles

Apple Restricts Emulators to Retro Game Consoles

Apple has begun allowing certain emulators on its platforms, specifically those emulating retro game consoles. Emulators for personal computers, however, are strictly off-limits.

This policy came to light through the experiences of two developers, one working on iDOS 3, a new version of a popular DOS emulator, and another developing UTM SE, which aimed to emulate Windows on Apple iOS. Both emulators were rejected by Apple.

The developer of iDOS 3 received a rejection notice from Apple stating, “The app provides emulator functionality but is not emulating a retro game console specifically.” This placed iDOS 3 in violation of Apple’s guideline 4.7.

When the developer sought clarification on how to make iDOS 3 compliant, Apple representatives were unable to provide specific guidance. They also did not define what constitutes a “retro game console,” reflecting Apple’s long-standing approach of subjective decision-making.

UTM SE faced a similar fate, with Apple stating, “PC is not a console,” despite the developer’s argument that UTM SE could run retro Windows and DOS games. Furthermore, Apple prevented UTM SE from being notarized for third-party app stores in the EU, citing a violation of guideline 2.5.2. This rule mandates that apps must be self-contained and cannot execute any code that changes the app’s features or functionality.

The situation highlights the ongoing challenges developers face with Apple’s stringent App Store Review Board. The board’s decisions often lack transparency, leading to confusion and frustration.

For now, Apple iOS users should not expect to see PC emulators available in the App Store. However, emulators for retro game consoles may still have a chance, albeit under Apple’s subjective scrutiny.

The tech community continues to watch how Apple handles emulator approvals, with many hoping for clearer guidelines and more consistent decision-making in the future.

The implications of this policy are significant for developers and users alike. For developers, the challenge lies in navigating Apple’s opaque and often inconsistent review process, which can result in the rejection of apps without clear guidelines on how to achieve compliance.

For users, particularly those interested in retro computing and gaming, this restriction limits the availability of tools that could bring nostalgic software experiences to modern devices. As Apple continues to enforce its policies, the tech community is calling for greater transparency and consistency in app approval processes, hoping for a more predictable and developer-friendly environment in the future.