Thursday, May 2, 2024

Delta Emulator in the App Store

Kyle Orland (MacRumors):

Apple’s decision earlier this month to open the iOS App Store to generic retro game emulators is already bearing fruit. Delta launched Wednesday as one of the first officially approved iOS apps to emulate Nintendo consoles from the NES through the N64 and the Game Boy through the Nintendo DS (though unofficial options have snuck through in the past).

Delta is an outgrowth of developer Riley Testut’s earlier sideloadable GBA4iOS project, which recently had its own unauthorized clone removed from the App Store. Before Wednesday, iOS users could load Delta onto their devices only through AltStore, an iOS marketplace that used a Developer Mode workaround to sideload apps from a self-hosted server. European users can now get that AltStore directly on their iOS devices (for a small 1.50 euro/year fee), while North American users can simply download Delta for free from the iOS App Store, with no ads or user tracking to boot.

It’s not in the EU App Store.

Riley Testut:

Thank God the CTF only applies to downloads in the EU 😅

Shira Ovide (via Hacker News):

The hottest iPhone app in America may owe its popularity to government crackdowns on Apple.


Apple had banned apps like it for years but un-banned them this month without much explanation. Delta’s creators say growing anti-monopoly pressures were responsible for Apple’s flip-flop.

Dare Obasanjo:

Apple was pressured by regulators to allow game emulators on iOS and now the most popular app is a game emulator with a 4.9 star rating.

Remember this when people claim Apple’s restrictions on what you can do on your phone to protect their app store revenue doesn’t harm consumers.

Parker Ortolani:

Delta’s success is proving that there is an insane amount of pent up demand for the things Apple has insisted on keeping from us for 16 years. It is proving the point of critics.

Jason Snell:

Sure, some of that is probably a natural tendency by some of us veteran App Store users to download forbidden fruit before Apple has a re-think and decides to ban it again. But there’s also a genuine interest in reconnecting with older games, something that’s been there all along on other platforms—but has always been blocked from iOS by Apple’s arbitrary policies.


So where do we go from here? While Apple’s acceptance of emulators in the App Store is groundbreaking, and should delight many fans of retro gaming consoles, it’s an extremely limited change. Nobody really knows how Apple defines any of the words in that phrase. How old is retro? Is an old computer on which you can play games a console?

I grew up playing games on early computers, including the Apple IIe. Does the ability to open a spreadsheet in AppleWorks disqualify an Apple II emulator that would otherwise let me play Lode Runner and Choplifter? And if so, why?


Apple should allow retro emulators of all kinds in the app store, and allow game emulators to use JITs to boost performance. Otherwise, its limited expansion of the rules feels mostly for show and not indicative of a real change in approach to App Store rules.

John Gruber:

An incredibly polished, high-performance game emulator, available free of charge with no ads. That’s some old-school internet awesomeness.


Now the questions is: Does Nintendo care?

Brendon Bigley:

Personally though: I really just want to play Pokémon on my phone. The reason I switch to Android is the prospect of playing Pokémon Silver again while I’m on the subway or in the back of a Lyft or while waiting in line. Ultimately Nintendo is unlikely to allow this in a way that lets me pay them directly for the experience. They justifiably prefer having their Nintendo Online subscription service and providing limited access to their valuable back catalog on devices they control entirely. The idea of launching a Pokémon game as an app on the App Store is a non-starter. But with emulation apps present on both Android and iOS and many people already enjoying these experiences, one wonders why not make a change? I would gladly pay Nintendo to play back-catalog Pokémon games on my iPhone and I would be over the moon if they recognized this as a valuable audience segment worth catering to. In a lot of ways, it’s about to be extremely difficult to ignore this user-behavior.

John Voorhees (via Federico Viticci):

So, you’ve probably seen the (totally justified) hype surrounding the Delta emulator’s launch on the App Store and downloaded it because, why not, it’s free. You may have also recalled that, like a lot of people, you have a box of old Game Boy cartridges stored somewhere that are gathering dust. Or, like me, maybe you spent way too much money on second-hand videogame sites during the COVID lockdown. Regardless of your Game Boy cartridge origin story, today I’m going to show you a simple way to breathe new life into those games by bringing them, along with your save files, to your iPhone.

The easiest way I’ve found to pull the game files from a Game Boy, Game Boy Color, or Game Boy Advance cartridge is with a little USB-C accessory called the GB Operator by Epilogue, or as I like to call it the Game Boy Toaster. That’s because the device looks like a top-loading transparent toaster that takes game cartridges instead of bread. If you have a big collection of game cartridges, the GB Operator is a great investment at $50 because it allows you to both play and back up your games using a Mac.

Riley Testut (via Craig Grannell):

So apparently Apple approved a knock-off of GBA4iOS — the predecessor to @delta I made in high school — in the App Store. I did not give anyone permission to do this, yet it’s now sitting at the top of the charts (despite being filled with ads + tracking)

I’ve bit my tongue a bunch in the past month…but this really frustrates me. So glad App Review exists to protect consumers from scams and rip-offs like this 🙄


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Kevin Schumacher

Apple was pressured by regulators to allow game emulators on iOS

Which regulators and when? Of all the antitrust and other concerns I've heard about, "You must allow game emulators," which (if you listen to Nintendo, which regulators would be likely to) only exist to support piracy, has never been one of them. I can't even think of a tangential reason this would be a thing.

They have been pressured to allow cloud gaming, but that is an entirely different beast.

@Kevin I don’t know what the basis is for that statement, but Snell said the same thing. My read is that they were pressured on cloud gaming but decided to allow emulators because it would look bad to have such a popular app only available in an EU marketplace.

No regulator said anything about emulators, to my knowledge, but it's pretty obvious that a EU-only App Store with tons of emulators would have been a huge incentive for a ton of US iPhone users to figure out how to get it running on their phones. I think Apple just preemptively stopped a new wave of "run the EU store on your US phone" jailbreaks.

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