Apple says no retro PC emulators on the App Store

From PC World: Recently Apple reversed a long-standing policy that disallowed retro game emulator apps, so now gamers have access to decades of classic ROMs on the iPhone and iPad without work-arounds. But it appears that tolerance does not extend to emulating classic PC platforms, for games or any other purpose. Developers of DOS and early x32 emulators have been shown the door on the App Store.

According to a report from The Verge, Apple told developers that retro PC emulators run afoul of the App Store’s App Review Guidelines, section 4.7. These are the same rules that have proven so problematic for services that stream games from external servers. Though it now explicitly allows “game emulators” and “retro game console emulator apps,” that privilege apparently does not extend to apps that emulate more utilitarian software like DOS and Windows.

The developers of iDOS 3 and the UTM SE virtual machine both had their app submissions rejected, and social media posts indicate that Apple took exception to the programs specifically because they weren’t “emulators of retro game consoles.” The fact that both of these programs can and often are used to play PC games over 30 years old doesn’t seem to enter into the equation.

Apple was characteristically unhelpful in nailing down the guidelines. Would a Commodore 64 count as a console or a PC? Apparently the former, since C64 emulators are available on the App Store right now, despite the fact that the device was sold as a personal computer and could run a wide variety of productivity programs. As usual, developers are at Apple’s mercy when it interprets its own rules, and won’t find out that their app is in violation of those rules until it’s rejected.

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