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RetroArch (and Other Stand-Alone Emulators) Gain Further Legitimacy Thanks to… Apple?!

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By Nelson Schneider - 05/19/24 at 03:04 PM CT

In a shocking move that I never believed would happen, Apple – the creator of Walled Garden App Ecosystems whose own walls are some of the highest, widest, and thickest in the industry – has officially decided that emulation is acceptable inside the walls. RetroArch, which made news a while back for being the first officially-endorsed emulator listed on Steam – the biggest and oldest PC gaming digital storefront – is officially up for download on the App Store, along with a few other stand-alone emulators whose RetroArch Cores haven’t quite reached parity, such as the PlayStation Portable emulator, PPSSPP.

This is fantastic news for Apple ‘Tards, who previously had to jailbreak or otherwise jump through numerous technical hoops in order to install emulators on iDevices. Of course, Apple’s draconian and restrictive nature is still on display, with the App Store version of RetroArch unable to support a handful of rather hacky emulation tricks that aren’t strictly necessary, but do help with problematic edge-cases.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Apple officially sanctioning emulation is that… well, it’s Apple, whose obsession with copyright law and maintaining as much legal control of devices and software they’ve “sold” to end users is comparable only to the likes of Nintendo, who continually prove that they are no friends to emulation, regardless of an emulator’s good intentions. Furthermore, while open-source emulators like RetroArch have been officially available in Linux repositories for as long as there have been Linux repositories, and have been available on Android – Apple’s primary OS competitor – for many years, RetroArch and its kin still aren’t available as Modern Apps on the Windows Store!

Microsoft’s OSes have always been a bit like the Wild West, due to their open nature and historically lax security controls. So it’s telling that when the House of Gates decided to adopt Apple’s Walled Garden paradigm, that they ultimately ended up with an app ecosystem that’s just as restrictive as Apple’s was before their recent loosening-up, while simultaneously worse than Apple’s Walled Garden in every way, largely due to Windows users being habituated into that previously mentioned Wild West mentality and willing to download and install software directly from the developers instead of going through Microsoft’s official monetization/advertising layer.

Will the addition of official emulator support be the killer feature that finally puts Apple Arcade on the map as a legitimate contender and gaming powerhouse? Unlikely, as RetroArch and Friends have, as mentioned, been readily available for every other platform for a long time. Really, the only thing RetroArch, and legitimate emulation in general, is getting out of official availability on Apple iDevices is the segment of the market consisting of people who were already going to buy Apple hardware anyway.

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