Nintendo sues creators of popular Switch emulator

Nintendo Switch Logo Header

Nintendo is suing the makers of popular Switch emulator Yuzu, leaning on DMCA laws and with the reasoning that the emulator has facilitated a large amount of video game piracy. If they are successful, it could upend decades of legal precedent that has protected game console emulators.

The lawsuit agains Yuzu creator Tropic Haze is all about how the emulator circumvents Nintendo Switch software encryption in order to run the games, Nintendo states, which facilitates software piracy at “a colossal scale”.

Similar to other emulators of more modern systems, Yuzu as a piece of software is unable to play legitimate Switch games, until it’s provided by a “prod.keys” that has been obtained from a real Nintendo Switch. Using that, Yuzu can then decrypt a Switch game on-the-fly. Nintendo argues that, even without including prod.keys in Yuzu, this is still illegal under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s wording against the circumvention of such protection if the software is otherwise useless. Tropic Haze will be able to argue that Yuzu supports Homebrew software and learning about Switch development as an educational tool.

However, it does seem that Yuzu has flown a bit too close to the sun in how it presents itself to users. On the emulator’s homepage, it shows screenshots of Nintendo Switch games within a Switch line art drawing; the quickstart guide and FAQ walks users through the process of breaking Switch encryption and on how to “start playing commercial games”; and there’s guidance on how to get copyright protected games up and running both on the site and in the Discord server; while Yuzu is free to download and use, it is financially supported via a Patreon.

Nintendo notes that 1 million copies of Tears of the Kingdom were downloaded prior to the game’s release, and with Yuzu’s Patron support increasing significantly in that time, creating an implicit link between piracy and financial support of the emulator.

Really the legal case will hinge on whether or not Tropic Haze providing detailed information and tools to access your own Switch encryption keys is enough to infringe upon the DMCA.

Of course, there’s also the question of if this will ever get to court. Nintendo’s got very deep pockets and has often fired warning shots at fan games and other projects, getting them taken down without heading to court. Tropic Haze likely doesn’t have the financial capacity to take this on, and Yuzu could fold simply under the legal pressure.

We will have to wait and see how this plays out.

Via Stephen Totilo

Written by
I'm probably wearing toe shoes, and there's nothing you can do to stop me!