The App Store Forgets It's Not The Android Market, Temporarily Sells NES Emulator

Screen shot 2009-12-22 at [ December 22 ] 2.05.03 AM

As stringent (and arguably overzealous) as Apple’s App review policy is, things still slip through the cracks from time to time. I mean, who can forget the infamous baby shaking simulator slip-up? The latest bit of contraband to hit the App Store isn’t nearly as offensive – that is, unless you’re Nintendo.

Earlier today, an application called “Nescaline” popped up on the App Store. Everything about the application, from the name, to the copyrighted icon, to the very functionality of the application rang of something that Apple would generally deny without batting an eye.. and yet, there it was – for all of one day, at least.

You see, Nescaline is an emulator of 1985’s living room king, the Nintendo Entertainment System. By duplicating the functionality of the system’s hardware in software form, Nescaline would allow you to play NES games on your iPhone. You’re stuck with slightly frustrating touchscreen controls instead of the sharp-cornered, palm-destroying original controller – but hey, it was old school gaming on the go.

Screen shot 2009-12-22 at [ December 22 ] 1.34.22 AMIt’s worth noting that Nescaline didn’t include any copyrighted games out of the box, instead providing just a handful of community-made home brew games. However, if the user just so happened to know the URL of another ROM — be it another home brew game or an unlicensed copy of Super Mario — Nescaline would download the ROM to its internal library.

The legality of applications of this sort are endlessly debated, and remain in a bit of a legal gray area. Apple avoids any potential copyright battles by banning “executable code”, a term just vague enough to work wherever its convenient. They’ve thus far denied all emulator submissions, including those that had their licensing in order. If you want an emulator on the iPhone, you’ll have to jailbreak first.

Apple’s negative stance on emulators is something that fans of Android love to poke fun at, considering that emulators are amongst the most popular on Google’s platform. While Google’s not about to come out and officially support console emulation, the only apps they won’t sell are those that are malicious, explicitly illegal, or adult in nature – none of which fits the bill for most emulators.

Nescaline went up on the App Store early this morning, and was pulled by the end of the night. Assuming that this was an accident and not some App Store reviewer’s way of resigning, we’re left wondering: how’d this happen? The app’s description clearly explains everything – and even if they didn’t read a word of that, the app’s icon was a friggin’ Super Mario mushroom. Maybe the “Approve” and “Deny” buttons are just right next to each other.