How to install MAME on Apple TV using Xcode (even if you don’t know what it is)

In 2015, Apple TV became a much more interesting device, having – at last – its own applications with which to make the most of its hardware . A power that, both in the fourth generation Apple TV – now renamed to Apple TV HD – and in the Apple TV 4K, enables games as spectacular as those we see in Apple Arcade, or those we can download from the App Store.

Apple’s commitment to video games was made clear by its support for PS4 and Xbox One controllers since the last WWDC19

How to install MAME on Apple TV using Xcode (even if you don’t know what it is)
How to install MAME on Apple TV using Xcode (even if you don’t know what it is)

The arrival of iOS 13 in the past WWDC19 also meant a very important change in the gamer aspect of a device that was crying out for something basic in the living room: a appropriate video game controller . Apple explained in last year’s keynote that with that operating system we could now find the best controllers available – and that many of us perhaps already had at home: the Dualshock 4 for Sony’s PlayStation 4, and the Xbox One controller from Microsoft . These controllers can be connected from iOS 13, iPadOS 13, tvOS 13 or Catalina like any other bluetooth device, only – and this is the interesting thing – the operating system takes care of mapping its buttons and its vibration engine ready to be used. Without installing software such as gateway or complicated drivers.

We have already seen what these devices are capable of doing with the games we can access from the App Store. But what about the emulators? There is one in particular that would be very appropriate to play in the living room where we usually have the Apple TV: MAME, Multi Arcade Machine Emulator – the well-known arcade machine emulator. Apple does not allow “open” emulators in the App Store, so there is no official version in the app store. However, we can compile and install it ourselves . Here and now. Even if you’re not a developer, don’t know what Xcode is or have never done anything like that, I’ll explain it to you step by step. Let’s go for it.

Don’t panic. This tutorial is much simpler than it seems , although you can see that there are many steps to take: I wanted to tell you in the best visual way each step so that nobody gets lost. To do this, you don’t need experience of any kind, not even a paid developer’s account ( we’ll create one for free ).

All you’ll need is an Apple TV HD or 4K, and a Mac with Catalina macos. Installation is much easier than it looks.

You will only need a Apple TV HD or Apple TV 4K updated to the latest version of tvOS 13, and a Mac with Catalina macOS , also updated to the latest version available. In this guide I won’t go into detail about why each step is done, to make it as simple and straightforward as possible. If you need more info, ask me in the comments.

1.- The first thing we have to do is download Xcode . As simple as going to the Mac App Store and looking for Xcode. Download it – depending on your internet speed it may take several gigs – and let it install:

2.- If you already have an Apple developer account ( both paid and free ), you can skip this step. If not, let’s create one right now. It’s very simple, just go to https:/developer.apple.comaccount and follow the steps. When you’re done creating, you can close the browser:

3.- We are going to download the source code of the MAME application. There are several versions of MAME for tvOS, but this tutorial is based on Yoshisuga – which has a spectacular January update with a lot of new features and improvements for our Apple TV ( like a graphical menu whose illustrations and screenshots are automatically updated from the Internet ). To get the source code, go to https:/github.comyoshisugaMAME4iOS and click on the green button that says “Clone or download” and it will show you a URL. Copy it.

4.- Now open Xcode . It will show you a welcome window. Click on “Clone an existing project”:

5.- You will have to paste the URL you have copied before, and a list will appear where you can choose what to clone. Choose – in case it doesn’t come out by default – the “master” branch. And click on the button Clone .

6.- You will be able to download all the source code of the application from the developer’s URL to a folder on your Mac:

7.- If you haven’t changed the download folder, you will have a folder in Documents with the name MAME4iOS ( look for it by this name with Spotlight if you can’t find it ). Right click on it, and in the drop down menu, choose “New terminal in folder”. This will open a command line window right in that folder. If you don’t see this option in the drop-down menu, you can activate it from “System Preferences Keyboard Quick Functions Services New terminal in folder” ( this is very useful if you’re used to caching with the Terminal ):

8.- A command line window will open in the MAME4iOS directory where the software has been downloaded. Now let’s compile the application . This means that all the source code will be converted into executable code on the Apple TV. First, type in this screen “xcode-select –install” (without the quotes) so that the tools needed for the compilation are installed. You will be asked for your Mac user password. When you are done, type “.make-tvos.sh” ( without quotes ) and press enter. The compilation script will work its magic, you will see on the screen what it is doing at any given time. It can take quite a while, so don’t be nervous, don’t stop it. Have a quiet coffee and wait for it to finish.

9.- When you are done, will automatically open Xcode with the MAME4iOS welcome screen. Now we’re going to wirelessly link your Apple TV to your Mac, in case you haven’t done so. Both devices must be on the same network. In Xcode, go to WindowDevices and Simulators and leave that window open.

10.- On the Apple TV, go to SettingsCommands and devicesApp Remote and devices . If your Mac is not linked, you can link it from here by clicking on it when it detects it, and it will then go to the top list of devices, like mine:

11.- As both windows are open and both devices are in the same network, the Devices and Simulators window should look like this: click on “Pair with Apple TV…” and follow the steps to link it ( is very simple ):

12.- Now we’re going to add our developer account that we created at the beginning. Go to XcodePreferencesAccounts and click on the “+” sign. Choose Apple ID and enter the account name and password you created it with:

13.- We are almost there. Now we are going to select as source the version we want to compile, and as destination our Apple TV . First, click on the left column where it says MAME4iOS. Then, where you see a (2) in the image, select the “MAME tvOS Release” version on the right and your “Apple TV” (the one we have linked to in the Devices and Simulators) on the right. Then, in step (3), select as Team your developer account that we have added before, and as “Bundle Identifier”, you can change it to any name you want. I have added an “Apple” in the middle of the identifier.

14.- The moment of truth has arrived! Click on the “Play” button at the top left (to the right of the square (“stop”)… and it will start compiling and generating the app. If it asks you for a password, it will be your Mac’s (it does this to access the secure key to the development account that has been stored on the keychain). Just enter the password and you’re done. With a free developer account, the compiled version could expire in a week, but to reinstall it you just need to click this button again to get it back on your Apple TV.

If all goes well… you will have your freshly baked Mame on the Apple TV menu , ready for action!

15.- If we enter it, as we have no games, it will show us this image. It is the way to add ROMs wirelessly, type in a browser any of these custom URLs that will show you:

16.- We can download free and legal ROMs from the MAMEdev.org website itself, I have tried Gridlee . The ROM will be downloaded in zip format. You don’t need to unzip it, we can upload it like this.

17.- We enter one of the URLs shown by Apple TV, in a browser on our Mac and we will see the web interface for uploading game ROMs. We go to the “Roms” folder and right here we can simply drag the .zip of the game Gridlee that we have downloaded before. If you have several games, you can drag them all at once:

18 .- Then it would be . Clicking on “Reload ROMs” using the Apple TV remote will already display the MAME GUI on the Apple TV . All we have to do is select the game we want to launch… and enjoy it! We also have the classic Mame menu, which as you can see is shown here as another ROM called “MAME4iOS”:

If you have a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One controller, connect it to your Apple TV to take advantage of these games. There is no need to configure anything anywhere, just add it as another Bluetooth device to your Apple TV. In this video from our Apple channel on YouTube, we told you how to link it for Apple Arcade ( but it works the same way ):

Here’s some homework: the same code we downloaded to install the Apple TV version has the iPhone and iPad versions… Who would dare to install them too, since we already have almost everything set up? Enjoy your Apple TV with this powerful and complete emulator!

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