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RetroArch 1.9.0 won’t be releasing on Google Play Store for now, next version severely downgraded to comply with new policies

We regret to inform you that RetroArch 1.9.0 will not be releasing on the Google Play Store for now.

RetroArch has been available on Android through the Google Play Store since 2012. We encountered two snags this week while trying to update RetroArch on Google Play. First, it complained that our APK size was too big, and that an APK could not be any bigger than 100MB. So we had to go back and start removing some shaders in order to get things to fit.

After this, we tried uploading again. This time, we hit another snag that we have not encountered before:

Issue: Violation of Malicious Behavior policy

An app distributed via Google Play may not modify, replace, or update itself using any method other than Google Play’s update mechanism. Likewise, an app may not download executable code (e.g. dex, JAR, .so files) from a source other than Google Play.

The way we interpret it, the former is not an issue since RetroArch cannot update itself. The latter is probably the issue. We take it that apparently now the Core Updater service is a point of contention, and that it has to go from RetroArch Android. We were not aware of this, and throughout the app’s near-decade presence on the Google Play Store, there has never been a problem before on this front.

Unfortunately, this means that we have to go back to the drawing board now and fundamentally re-engineer RetroArch for Android. However it will be re-tooled, it will unfortunately be a huge setback from an Enduser Experience for the user, there’s no way around that.

Some possibilities that might exist:

  1. We keep RetroArch dynamically linked, but each core has to be installed separately through the Google Play interface as installable DLC. NOTE: We have no idea if this even works the way it can with Steam, so it would have to be explored first.
  2. We make RetroArch statically linked and therefore there needs to be a separate new app store entry for every single combination of RetroArch with every single core.

Whichever of the two we choose, it will mean no more Core Updater. Given the interpretation of the rules, updating assets is probably still permissible as it would be pretty silly to block that, so things like updating shaders and overlays would likely still remain included.

We cannot stress how much of a pain in the ass it will be to have to retool RetroArch like this. It’s almost at the point where it’s almost not worth it from our perspective to do it like this and we feel tempted to just tell people to download it from our site instead, as we certainly have never made a single buck on the Google Play Store to begin with, so there’s no direct profit incentive there. We also don’t know if we even have the manpower right now to be able to make these fundamental changes, but we will certainly attempt to try.

For now, we recommend to users that want the ‘proper’ version to just go to our Downloads page and download RetroArch 1.9.0 from there on Android. You will be installing the APK directly on your phone. You might have to enable ‘Allow outside APKs to be installed’ or some similar setting on your phone for it to be able to be installed, but theoretically any Android phone should be able to install APKs outside of the Play Store.

Where to download RetroArch for Android for now

If you want the latest 1.9.0 version, you can either get it for now on F-Droid, or on our Downloads page here.

Right now on the Play Store, version 1.8.9 should still be available for now.

We apologize for the inconvenience and we hope we can offer a solution soon that is agreeable to both Google and that doesn’t cause us a huge maintenance burden either (although it assuredly will be). We also right now don’t really have a plan ready that will allow us to quickly move on this front, so we’ll just have to see how things go.

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