RetroArch – being the reference frontend for libretro – is meant to be a no-strings attached project. That means there is no in-app advertising in it, there is no ‘donate here’ button – there is no crippled ‘Pro version’. That means there is only ‘one’ version – the full, official, real deal.
RetroArch is/was licensed under the GPL for pragmatic reasons. Had we known about the fact that app store ‘developers’ use the ‘GPL’ as a cloak for their illegitimate money racketeering ways by stating that the ‘GPL allows this’ – we probably would have thought twice about licensing it this way. But it is what it is – and RetroArch has been in existence in one form or another since early 2010 – well predating the point when emulators on tablets/phones became truly popular.
I have seen two examples now over the past weeks of ‘forks’ of RetroArch being published littered with advertising and/or other unscrupulous money-making means. Below are the two examples that have recently come to my attention:
* – Emu4iOS/AllEmu. This is a guy who also goes by the alias ‘PyroFilmsFX’. He apparently provides an ‘Over-The-Air’ service to non-jailbroken iPhones and iPads that lets them install emulators and other apps that wouldn’t be allowed to exist on the official Apple App Store. RetroArch has apparently been added to this ‘app collection’ at a certain point – and it would be an understatement to say this version of RetroArch has proven to be more popular in terms of download hits than the Cydia version for jailbroken devices ever was.
Unfortunately, there are some nasty elements to this version that makes me disapprove of this version entirely:
1 – It comes with in-game iAd advertising. Apparently, not only does it show long iAd Movies before the start of a ROM, but apparently ads also pop up while you are running a game. This ad revenue is obviously going to somebody’s account – and that somebody is certainly not us. The guy running Emu4iOS claims it is not him that is receiving the money but the ‘distributor’ of this ‘RetroArch version’ – a guy by the name of AllEmu who ‘purportedly ‘lives in Russia. I have severe doubts about whether or not that is true, but as this is the Internet there’s no way to truly know whether what somebody claims is the truth or not.
2 – Neither Emu4iOS/AllEmu offers any ‘support’ for this version. Instead, users of this ‘version’ send me e-mails and post on our forum badgering us with questions and inquiries about this version. On more than one occassion I have received e-mails questioning why I say on my site RetroArch will never have in-app advertising, yet this version does so. They don’t seem to understand that this version is not provided by us and moreover, it is making a mockery of our mission statement.
3 – These versions of ‘RetroArch’ can be installed on non-jailbroken iPhones/iPads by way of an enterprise account ‘hack’. Apple has already put a stop to this illegitimate way of ‘abusing’ enterprise accounts – but apparently you can still install these apps by setting the clock on your iDevice back by a year.
Because of ‘3’, we can not in good conscience provide a ‘competing’ version with no ads in it. We are simply not going to tip toe in these hot waters especially when we still want to maintain good relations with Apple so that we can eventually appear on the Apple App Store with legitimate versions of Dinothawr and a non-emulator focused RetroArch (and I still maintain that RetroArch is NOT an ‘all-in-one’ emulator frontend).
** – RetroArch Blackberry 10 – There has existed a void for some time ever since CatalystG no longer provides updated versions of RetroArch on Blackberry 10. Several guys have popped up on the Crackberry forums and started to offer ‘fixed’ versions. We have not received any upstream patches for these even though GPL requires these people to provide them. Instead, they have started entertaining the thought of soliciting for donations or even – worse – in-app advertising.
We humbly asked that if people wanted to see further development of RetroArch for the Blackberry 10 that we were prepared to take on that additional development time if somebody were to provide a Blackberry 10 to us. We don’t have a Blackberry 10 and we don’t have the monetary means to buy just about any device under the sun just for this project’s sake.
Instead, not only have we seen other people popping up and offering their own version, but even trying to start up ‘revenue chains’ around these fork versions.
When I saw this, I entered their forums to tell them that I disapproved of this and that I didn’t want them to start generating revenue off ads in RetroArch. What followed was a callous treatment by some of the Crackberry guys that I had no right to deny them this ‘revenue stream’ and that this is what the GPL ‘allowed for’.
The sad part about this is that the GPL indeed ‘allows’ for this. It is for that same reason that the GPL and the FLOSS community are frankly becoming ever-more toothless and undesirable by the way because the ‘mobile scene’ just sees it as an open letter to generating money off the work provided by others.
I find it incredibly insulting that we are in an age and an era where people no longer pay tribute and respect to authors who make it well known they DO NOT WANT RetroArch to be monetarily ‘used’ this way. You can say what you want about the GPL or whatever ‘license’ you think is a justifying excuse for your dishonest way of wanting to ‘make money off intellectual copyright infringement’ – but there is a stronger moral framework at play here that overrides all this – we DO NOT WANT YOU TO DO THIS. We are the engine behind this project – we are the ones who have invested countless amount of hours and time into this project to make it what it is now, and THIS is how we are ultimately treated by the community?
On one end we have people like the MAMEdevs blasting us and calling RA “dangerous” even though we have done everything possible to make RetroArch “free” in beer and “free” in libre. We also implemented all of the possible checks and balances to make it as undesirable as possible to ‘fork’ RA and use it in a money-racketeering way by simply offering a superior version for free with no ads or whatever. And on the other end we have this ‘mobile slime’ dev circle that just takes open source software and tries to create a revenue channel out of it. We are damned if we do, damned if we don’t.
I don’t know what the proper response to this is going to be but what is ultimately clear is that this is a continuing trend and that this is causing a massive amount of damage to the RetroArch project – to the point where I no longer enjoy working on it knowing that it’s just being used by people in this way. And what gets me even more is the lack of ‘respect’ this ultimately signals and the ‘dishonesty’ involved.
Maybe I should have expected this all along and this is just us being the victim of our own ‘success’. Maybe we can still beat these people and not let them damage RetroArch’s reputation and crap all over it with their ‘ads’. But as more and more devices start springing up and more and more of these ‘app developers’ come up that all want to be ‘reimbursed for their owrk’, it will become ever harder to keep up with it all.
I felt like making this blog post because honestly things have gotten to a head over the past two days and it’s gotten to the point where it’s starting to negatively affect my passion for this project and the goals I’ve set for it. Make of it what you will.