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Apple Removes Game Boy Emulator iGBA From App Store Due to Spam and Copyright Violations


Apple today said it removed Game Boy emulator iGBA from the App Store for violating the company’s App Review Guidelines related to spam (section 4.3) and copyright (section 5.2), but it did not provide any specific details.


iGBA was a copycat version of developer Riley Testut’s open-source GBA4iOS app, which has long been distributed outside the App Store. The emulator rose towards the top of the App Store charts following its release this weekend, but users on social media complained that the app was a blatant ripoff overlaid with ads.

“So apparently Apple approved a knock-off of GBA4iOS,” said Testut, in a Threads post on Saturday. “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).” He quipped that he was “so glad App Review exists to protect consumers from scams and rip-offs like this.”

It is unclear if Apple removed iGBA because it felt the app ripped off GBA4iOS. We have asked Apple for clarification about the app’s removal, and we will update this article if we receive any additional information about the decision.

iGBA lets iPhone users play Game Boy games by loading free ROMs downloaded from the web. ROMs can be found online for a wide variety of games, including those from the popular Pokémon and The Legend of Zelda franchises. The emulator can still be used by those who installed it on their iPhones before it was removed from the App Store.

On its customer support website in the U.S., Nintendo says downloading pirated copies of its games is illegal. It is unclear if Nintendo sent a complaint to Apple about iGBA, and whether that may have been a factor in the app’s removal.

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An excerpt from section 5.2 of the App Review Guidelines, related to intellectual property:

Make sure your app only includes content that you created or that you have a license to use. Your app may be removed if you’ve stepped over the line and used content without permission. Of course, this also means someone else’s app may be removed if they’ve “borrowed” from your work.

iGBA appeared in the App Store just over a week after Apple updated its App Review Guidelines to permit “retro game console emulators,” but it is inevitably not yet certain what Apple will allow exactly following the app’s prompt removal.

As for Testut, he went on to create another Nintendo game emulator called Delta, which is distributed outside of the App Store. Delta will also be available through Testut’s alternative app marketplace AltStore on iPhones in the EU. It is not clear if he plans to make Delta available in the App Store following the rule change.



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