Popular emulator, Dolphin, gets a cease and desist letter from Nintendo

Posted on May 31, 2023

This won’t come as a shock to many but Nintendo has sent a cease and desist letter to the creators of the popular emulation software Dolphin. In March of this year, Dolphin announced that it was coming to Steam. This isn’t the first time an emulator made its way to the PC storefront, with popular emulator RetroArch still on the site. The difference between the two is that RetroArch is essentially a blank software in which you load cores. Dolphin, however, directly emulates the GameCube and Wii consoles. On the original Steam page (still accessible via the Wayback Machine), Dolphin doesn’t outright state the word Nintendo. Though, they use words like reliving “the big-N’s cube-shaped and motion controlled consoles”. Alluding to the GameCube and the Wii.

In a statement by the team at Dolphin, they remark their disappointment. The project on Steam is “indefinitely postponed”. In the meantime, they’re investigating other options and “will have a more in-depth response in the near future”. It’s quite the disappointment for those who use emulation as a means to play games that are otherwise inaccessible. Nintendo’s attitude towards emulation is familiar. In 2021, a ROM site was ordered to “destroy” all of their Nintendo games. Even this year, a member of the hacking group Team-Xecuter, Gary Bowser (I wish I was joking), served 40 months in jail. Now, he has to pay 25-30% income for the rest of his life. Nintendo has had quite a vendetta against emulation for years, so it’s no surprise that they would go after Dolphin.

While most of the reporting on this has noted that it’s a DMCA, Pierre Bourdon, Dolphin’s previous Treasurer, posted on Mastodon stating that it’s not entirely a DMCA. Valve’s legal departments contacted Nintendo of America to essentially ask if Dolphin violates any laws. With NoA stating that “it violates the DMCA anti-circumvention provisions” and to also take it down. Thus, Valve takes it down and forwards the letter to Dolphin Foundation. Bourdon suggests that Nintendo’s “point” in justifying the takedown is due to the fact that Dolphin has a “Wii AES-128” disc encryption key. Instead of the user providing a key, the software’s code is packaged with the key. For those unaware, a disc encryption key is essentially a key that verifies the legitimacy of a game copy.

Fans of emulation, or for those who have been wanting to get into it, might be out of luck on the Steam front. However, the software is still available in other places. What do you think about all of us? Were you excited to emulate games on the Steam Deck? Will you have to look elsewhere? Or do you have an opinion on emulation itself? Let us know!