Apple’s App Store Emulator Controversy: The Rise and Fall of iGBA

Apple recently updated its App Store guidelines to allow retro game emulators on iOS devices, a move that brings iPhones in line with Android devices. Following this update, the iGBA Game Boy emulator, developed by Mattia La Spina, gained popularity on the platform. However, controversy arose when it was discovered that iGBA may have been based on an existing emulator without proper accreditation. Riley Testut, creator of the open-source GBA4iOS emulator, claimed that iGBA was an unauthorized version of his project and raised concerns about potential legal issues. Despite its initial success, iGBA was swiftly removed from the App Store due to violations of the platform’s guidelines. Testut expressed his frustration on social media, highlighting the situation and emphasizing the unauthorized use of his work.


“So apparently Apple approved a knock-off of GBA4iOS — the predecessor to Delta I made in high school — in the App Store,” he said on Threads. “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.”


He also provided a statement to The Verge regarding the issue:


I’ve been working with Apple to release AltStore as an alternative app marketplace for over a month now, and I’m disappointed to see that they’ve approved a knock-off of AltStore’s flagship app Delta in that time. However, we’re still planning to launch Delta ASAP, and we’ll have more to share on that very soon.


La Spina, when contacted by The Verge, didn’t confess to using Testut’s code. He mentioned he was surprised by the impact of the app and apologized for it. He also noted that he has emailed Testut, seemingly looking to make amends.

Testut, on his end, has indicated on Threads he holds no grudge against La Spina:


To be clear, I’m not pissed at the developer. I’m pissed that Apple took the time to change the App Store rules to allow emulators, and then approved a knock-off of my own app.

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