Google have given their Android Market app store a bit of tidy up, in what games developers must feel is a long-overdue cull of emulator apps. Those looking to play retro console games on their Android handsets are going to have to search a little harder to find the apps that allow them to do so now, as they’ve been unceremoniously removed from the store.
Emulator apps such as N64oid, Ataroid, Gamboid and Snesoid are now all MIA on the Market. The news follows the recent removal of the PSOne PSX4Droid emulator app, removed just prior to the launch of the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play handset, likely as it was against the interests of the retro-gaming focussed smartphone’s high-profile launch.
It appears then that Nintendo have been in touch with Google’s legal teams, leading to the latest bout of emulator removals.
Emulators represent a bit of a grey area in gaming legality; emulator software in itself isn’t illegal, though downloading ROM game files to play on them is. Some argue that owning the original retro cartridges means that ROM files are legal in the sense that they are a digital back up, while others state that regardless of ownership of the original cartridge downloading ROM files is an act of piracy.
It’s an interesting move also in regards to the terms of the Android Market. While Google can validly remove any app at will, their about-turn on an entire category of apps in a matter of days will raise eyebrows. One of Android’s main draws is its somewhat unsanitised, cowboyish app store; for the sake of potential malware, you do get access to some app gems that wouldn’t make their way onto Apple’s App Store, for instance.
Yong Zhang, developer of many of the apps that have been removed, has now had his entire Android Market developer account removed, meaning he can now longer trade there.
Don’t worry if you still want an Android emulator fix though; Zhang has moved all his wares onto the SlideME third-party Android app store, and is even offering the emulators free of charge so that those who have already bought, and lost access to, the apps do no have to pay for them twice.