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Apple pulls iPhone GBA emulator, but not because it encourages piracy

Turns out the emulator itself was pirated.

Mario pulls up a vegetable in this Super Mario Advance artwork.
Image credit: Nintendo / Eurogamer

Just days after changing its policies to allow video game emulators on iPhone, Apple has pulled Game Boy Advance emulator app iGBA from its App Store.

But this wasn't due to a change of heart by Apple on the moralities of emulators themselves. Instead, it was because iGBA turned out to be a rip-off of another emulator, the open-source GBA4iOS.

An Apple spokesperson confirmed the decision and the company's reasoning for the emulator takedown to MacRumors, and restated its position that emulators which ran downloaded versions of games, or ROMs, were still allowed on the App Store, despite piracy concerns.

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Apple has suggested its stance extends only to emulators for retro consoles, though has not provided a list of what it takes this definition to mean. iGBA being allowed, at least initially, suggests Apple sees the Game Boy Advance era as retro. But how about DS? Or 3DS?

Why has Apple made this change? It's thought the move is a response to growing European pressure to allow certain kinds of apps on iPhones without the need for jailbreaking the operating system and side-loading the programs manually.

With the recent ruling that Apple has to permit third-party app stores in the EU, this could be a way for the company to stave off some users defecting to App Store competitors.

Eurogamer has asked Nintendo for its position on all this, considering its typical views on any forms of console emulation and piracy, but is yet to hear a response.

Back in February, Nintendo sued the makers of Switch emulator Yuzu for facilitating piracy "at a colossal scale". Work on the emulator shut down just days later, with the creators agreeing to pay Nintendo $2.4m (£1.9m).

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