If you’re an iPhone owner who finds themselves in the midst of a heated platform versus platform debate with a member of the Android faithful, one of the first things Android fans are quick to point out is the advantage of working in an open system. Android developers don’t have to go through a rigorous approval process like iOS developers do, which in turn makes things a little like the Wild West. After all – how else could you explain the dozens of console emulators that are available for the platform? But with some of these emulators disappearing lately and their developers being blocked by Google, has law finally come to the lawless?
Earlier this week, developer Yong Zhang woke up to a nightmare. His seven apps, highly popular on the Android Market, had been removed without a word of warning. The apps in question? Nesoid, Snesoid, Gensoid, N64oid, Ataroid, Gearoid, and Gameboid – all of which were designed to emulate the video game consoles found in their names.
For those of you not familiar, an emulator lets players play old games simply by downloading the related file from the internet – something that’s a legal gray area at best.
This isn’t the first time in recent memory emulators have been removed from the Android Market, either. Back in April, two emulators were removed thanks to a complaint Google received from SEGA. Likewise a complaint from Sony nixed the existence of PSX4Droid, a Sony PlayStation emulator. In most cases where the developers have spoken out (like PSX4Droid’s ZotTTD and Yong Zhang), they’ve claimed that Google has frozen their developer accounts, cutting them off from any further income or opportunities to publish on the Android Market.
“Google has no developer relations and support,” says ZotTTD in a recent blog post. “Instead of Google simply removing the application in question, psx4droid, they did that and followed up a week later suspending my entire Market and Checkout account, with no interaction on my part.”
What’s worse, says ZotTTD, is that this effectively leaves his existing customers between a rock and a hard place. Yong Zhang is taking a creative approach to solving this – he’s reintroducing his emulators to Android users via a third-party marketplace called SlideME, and he’ll offer them free for a limited time so that previous purchasers can get in at no cost. Likewise, ZotTTD is offering psx4droid free on the developer’s own website, while they too look into the options of third-party markets.
So what prompted Google’s Android Market clean-up? It’s hard to say for sure, but one can’t help but wonder if the recent launch of the Android-powered Sony Xperia Play – aka the PlayStation Phone – might have had something to do with it. What’s more puzzling, though, is why only select developers and apps were targeted. A quick search on the Android Market reveals countless other emulators are still available. Will they be next? Or is there something more to this that has yet to be revealed?