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Classic games are having their moment in the sun thanks to a recent Apple policy change, Alex reports today.

Today's newsletter is 996 words ... 4 minutes.

1 big thing: Emulation's big moment

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Apple's recent decision to allow video game emulators on its App Store has sparked a huge wave of fresh interest in playing and preserving classic games.

Why it matters: Emulation — which allows games designed for old devices to run on new ones, like iPhones and iPads — enables older gamers to revisit childhood classics, and younger ones to get a taste of what gaming was like in the halcyon 8-bit days.

Driving the news: After years of barring video game emulators, Apple welcomed them onto its App Store last month.

  • Apple's about-face came amid an antitrust lawsuit here in the U.S. and a new tech competition law in Europe, both of which target what some regulators and lawmakers consider anti-consumer behavior from the Cupertino tech giant.

Zoom in: Delta, which emulates old-school handhelds and consoles like Nintendo's Game Boy and SNES, quickly emerged as a big winner, with millions of downloads in the past month, developer Riley Testut tells Axios.

  • "Emulation needed a moment to become mainstream," Testut says. Previously, "you had to really know what you're doing, or be technical-minded."
  • Having Delta and similar software on the App Store is "a turning point for the discussion about emulation," Testut says.

The latest: Two more emulators, RetroArch and PPSSPP, arrived for iPhones just yesterday.

Friction point: Video game emulation exists in a legal gray zone.

  • Emulation software is not itself illegal, but users aren't supposed to download game files (called ROMs) that they don't actually own.
  • While some iOS emulators have ads, Delta isn't directly monetized. Instead, Testut and co-founder Shane Gill are accepting donations through Patreon.

Between the lines: Video game emulation fans typically come in two forms: those who want to enjoy the classic games they grew up with, and those who want to preserve classic games as an important art form worth celebrating.

  • While some game studios "port" their old games to new systems, others make them harder to access. (Some gamers keep their old consoles and handhelds running, supporting a cottage industry of repair and modification shops.)
  • And some games are lost to the sands of time as studios fold or merge and ownership of old intellectual property gets murkier.

Yes, but: Emulation isn't just about playing classic games in their original form.

  • "ROM hacks" are a popular subgenre, in which game fans with programming know-how modify existing games to create something partially or wholly new.
  • In some cases, people who start with ROM hacks develop an interest in game design that leads to a career.
  • "The ROM hack scene — I would love for it to get so much bigger because I do think that user-generated content — it allows people to experience these things in new ways," Testut says.

💬 Alex's thought bubble: I've been playing a handful of childhood favorite Game Boy games — I own them, please don't sue me! — and boy if it isn't a delightful nostalgia rush.

  • That I now get to easily share them with my son is an added bonus.

The bottom line: It's never been easier to enjoy classic games on the go.

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2. Costco comes to Uber — no membership needed

Uber's new features include a Costco delivery service (left) and a feature that lets caregivers schedule rides for elderly parents and others (right). Images courtesy of Uber

Uber rolled out a new menu of options yesterday — including grocery delivery from Costco, whether or not you're a member. (Sorry, gold bars and hot dogs are excluded, but you can get a rotisserie chicken.)

Why it matters: Uber is a ride-hailing behemoth — and its recent partnership with Instacart could offer a big boost — but it faces several challenges.

  • Customer gripes about high prices have translated to lower ride demand in some places, while mounting legal bills contributed to disappointing first-quarter earnings.

Driving the news: Uber introduced several new features on its annual "Go-Get" release day.

  • Uber Shuttle lets you reserve up to five seats to or from an airport, concert or sporting event, up to seven days in advance.
  • Uber Caregiver will allow caregivers to book rides for an elderly parent (or other loved one) to doctor appointments, grocery stores, etc.
  • Costco on Uber Eats will be a "Costco on-demand" delivery service, available from select U.S. locations.

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3. 📈 Let's do lunch — on the weekend

Three slope charts that show the change in weekly share of restaurant transactions from 2019 to 2023 nationwide compared to select cities. The weekly share of weekday lunch transactions dropped from 21% to 18%, while happy hour transactions was virtually the same and weekend transactions rose from 30% to 34%.
Data: Square; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

Our restaurant spending is shifting from weekday lunch hours to the weekends, per new Square data.

Why it matters: It's a reflection of pandemic behavior changes — and an important insight for restaurants as they continue adapting to survive and thrive.

By the numbers: Weekday lunch's share of overall restaurant transactions fell nationally from about 21% in 2019 to 18% in 2023, based on data from food and drink establishments using Square.

  • By contrast, the weekend's share grew from about 30% in 2019 to 35% in 2023.
  • Happy hour transactions were nearly flat: 7% in 2019 and 8% in 2023.

What they're saying: "There's a perception that consumers are cutting back at restaurants, when in fact total spending has increased. The bigger change is in consumer behavior," Square research lead Ara Kharazian said in the company's new report.

  • "Before COVID, consumers were going out more during the week to eat lunch by their office and grab drinks after work. Now with remote work, restaurant spend has shifted to the weekend, and we now see that weekend traffic is at its peak."

The bottom line: See you at brunch.

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4. New vision for SLC's future

A rendering of proposed changes in Salt Lake City's downtown area. Image courtesy Salt Lake City Department of Economic Development

Salt Lake City officials recently unveiled a proposal to turn part of the city's downtown into a pedestrian promenade and "world-class city center."

Driving the news: The plan calls for removing on-street parking; improving public transit, biking and pedestrian infrastructure; adding more trees and transforming five downtown blocks to honor the area's history and identity.

What they're saying: "Reinvestment in Main Street is essential to keeping Salt Lake City competitive with other major cities," reads the report.

  • It cites other pedestrian-friendly downtown areas, like Denver's 16th St. Mall, Melbourne's Bourke Street Mall and Toronto's Queens Quay.

Reality check: The $125 million proposal needs additional analysis and buy-in from property owners and local and state agencies before moving forward.

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Big thanks to What's Next copy editor Amy Stern.

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