Yesterday, on the Ouya console forums, forum administrator Ed Krassenstein announced that several emulators will officially be available on or near the March 28 launch of the Android-based console. The additions of said emulators to the upcoming console have been in discussion since as early as July of last year. When released, these emulators can technically run classic Nintendo titles.
Wait, rewind. Is that something the creators of the moddable console can do? There's some legal grey area here. The hope, I imagine, is that Ouya owners will be able to play SNES, NES, N64 and other older Nintendo titles (like potentially N-Gage games, according to the forum and this tweet) through legal means, aka the proper IP licensing, or that they can play homebrew games made for those platforms.
This isn't necessarily new, as we've seen the Google Android store flooded with all sorts of emulators. But to have a representative of a rival console promote emulators for Nintendo's tech — the kind of emulators that traditionally are associated with piracy as much as they might be with homebrew — is strange.
When I reached out to an Ouya representative to figure out exactly what the boundaries and legality of these emulators are, they had this to say:
OUYA will accept emulators as long as they adhere to our content guidelines and are not submitted with any games. Meaning, if they have games they would be breaking our IP infringement guidelines.
Here are those guidelines. But what happens when people start submitting games for those emulators? The response:
They would have to have a legitimate licence to the IP to submit content. Also the content would have to come in an .apk.
When asked to elaborate, I was told:
We only accept .apks - ROM's won't be available / accepted in the OUYA store.
It's not clear if that .apk format requirement will effectively block users from figuring out a way to run pirated Nintendo games on the emulators. Especially when we've already seen the Ouya running an emulated game, likely not exactly legally.
In terms of Nintendo actually selling their games on the Ouya? Also not likely. I imagine Nintendo wouldn't easily give up access to their games, especially when their own console is capable of running their classics. Of course, there are ways to use an emulator legally. Like submitting content through the proper checkpoints.
I reached out to Nintendo but haven't heard back yet. I'll update as soon as I do.