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GameCube and Wii emulation on iPhone unlikely – due to technical constraints, rather than piracy concerns

It’s unlikely we’ll see widespread emulation of GameCube or Wii games via emulators on the iPhone App Store, a new report suggests, despite Apple giving the green light to emulation for games from earlier Nintendo consoles.

This isn’t because these games are free from copyright, or because of Apple’s vague stance that “retro” game emulation is allowed. Instead, this is because of technical limitations, as detailed in a new blog post from veteran Nintendo hacker and dataminer OatmealDome, who works on GameCube and Wii emulator DolphiniOS for jailbroken phones.

In a nutshell, GameCube and Wii emulation on PC uses a technology that Apple typically does not allow on iPhones – something called just-in-time (JIT) compilation. Typically, Apple blocks apps that make use of JIT, with the suggestion this is due to security concerns that external code could be implemented. And without JIT, Wii and GameCube emulation is very difficult.

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Emulation without JIT technology is possible, Oatmealdome says, and below you can see two videos where smartphone emulation is demonstrated with and without JIT applied. The results, however, speak for themselves – and without JIT, the game runs so poorly to be unplayable.

GameCube emulation with JIT enabled.Watch on YouTube
GameCube emulation without JIT enabled.Watch on YouTube

Last week, Nintendo game emulator app Delta was the most downloaded free app on the UK iPhone App Store. As of today, it’s still in the top five. The app allows anyone to play pirated copies of NES, SNES, N64, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS games on iPhone – likely a huge headache for Nintendo.

Eurogamer previously contacted Nintendo for its stance on app store emulators, and was pointed to industrybody Video Games Europe for a response.

“The industry is committed to protecting the creativity and hard work of video game developers,” a Video Games Europe spokesperson said. “Illegal circumvention of copyright protections or engaging in copyright piracy stifles innovation and hampers the development of the entertainment experiences that are enjoyed by millions of players around the world.”

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