Google has removed some of the most popular video game console emulators from the Android Market. Developer yongzh tells Engadget that his account as been terminated and that Nesoid, Snesoid, Gensoid, N64oid, Ataroid, Gearoid, GBCoid, and Gameboid have all been pulled from the Android Market.
Emulators have always been on shaky ground. They don’t necessarily violate copyright law, since the code used is often reverse engineered rather than copies from original game consoles. But emulators are used almost exclusively to play games which are protected by copyright. While it’s theoretically possible to rip your own game from a cartridge or disc, it’s pretty difficult to do and most people simply download game files or ROMs from the internet illegally.
So it’s not particularly surprising that few emulators have ever been approved for sale in Apple’s iTunes App Store… and honestly it’s not shocking that Google is cracking down on emulators in the Android Market.
The good news for emulator fans is that you can install apps on most Android phones and tablets without using the Android Market. You need to jailbreak an iPhone to circumvent the App Store, but yongzh has simply moved all of his apps to SlideME, a third party app store for Android which should work with most phones except for a handful of devices on AT&T’s network which are incapable of installing non-Market apps (without at least jumping through some hoops).
All of the emulators from yongzh will be available for free for a limited time from SlideME, allowing existing users to grab the latest versions without paying twice.
It’s possible that the apps weren’t pulled simply because they allow you to run illegally downloaded games or because they violate any trademarks or copyrights though. Some folks allege that the problem may be in the way yongzh used open source software to develop his apps without complying with all the terms of the original license.