May 30, 2011
The halcyon days of the Android Market being open to emulators and other apps of sketchy legality may be ending. Months after PSX4Droid was removed, now one of the most prolific emulator developers for the Android Market has had their catalogue of emulators removed from the Android Market. Of course these emulators are not disappearing in their entirety; they’re going to appear in a third-party app store for Android, and APKs will endlessly float around the internet forever. They just will be that much harder to obtain by the average user.
This brings a slight air of legitimacy to the Android Market – no longer having emulators, which while being technically legal, are pretty much meant to be used for piracy purposes. Removing these is a big step toward making the Market seem like less a hive of scum and piracy like it has earned the reputation of being. Plus, while there are a lot of great games being made by mobile developers, many of them do struggle to match the quality of the best games of the 8 and 16-bit era, and if the average user could easily download the apps and files to play those games for free, how could the average Android developer compete? I doubt the plight of the average game developer will be alleviated right away, but this does not hurt at all.
Of course, it does feel like Google is just doing this in part because they’re starting to get in bed with bigger corporate partners with big copyrights they want protected; Sony sure doesn’t want the Playstation Suite games competing with an emulator that is on the official app distribution mechanism for Android. Free is hard to compete with, after all. While it’s doubtful Nintendo would ever release anything for Android, they sure don’t want people pirating their games when they can sell them on the Virtual Console on their other platforms.
Between this and their move to block rooted devices from Android movie rentals, Google is starting to show that they’re willing to get in bed with the big content holders – and they’re willing to start cleaning up the Market’s previous Wild West reputation in order to bolster Android’s mainstream profile. The emulators are just the first part of the equation. They’re on the steps to becoming like Apple. These are baby steps, but they are definitely steps toward the direction of their biggest competitor in the mobile space – for better or for worse.