Emulators have always operated in a bit of a gray zone, but it appears Nintendo has had enough.

The Japanese gaming giant filed a 41-page lawsuit against Tropic Haze (first spotted by Stephen Totilo), the team behind popular Switch emulator Yuzu, claiming that the software allowed over one million people to play The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom weeks ahead of its official release.

While emulators aren’t technically illegal, pirating games to play on them is, and according to Nintendo, there’s no way to use Yuzu legally, given it’s specifically designed to play Switch titles. On the other hand, there’s also the age-old argument that it is legal to play emulated backups of games you already own, but in reality, this isn’t what most people are doing (and in this instance, Nintendo specifically mentions Tears of the Kingdom, which wasn’t officially available at the time).

Nintendo argues that despite Yuzu operating on a bring-your-own BIOS basis, the emulator “defeats” its security measures, including bypassing decryption using “an illegally-obtained copy of prod.keys.”

“….without Yuzu’s decryption of Nintendo’s encryption, unauthorized copies of games could not be played on PCs or Android devices,” wrote Nintendo in the lawsuit.

Yuzu is free and has been around for several years now. Basically, the emulator allows users to play Switch titles on their PC. However, game compatibility remains spotty, and actually getting your hands on the Switch ROMs and BIOS files required to get it up and running takes a fair amount of work (you really need to know where to look, if you know what I mean👀).

It’s important to point out that Yuzu doesn’t release pirated copies of games. However, according to Nintendo, more than 20 percent of download links on Switch ROM hosting sites point to the emulator as the best method of playing Switch titles on PC and other devices. Yuzu is capable of running across various operating systems and devices, including Windows PC, Android devices, Linux and even Valve’s Steam Deck. Tropic Haze is the same team behind Citra, a popular 3DS emulator.

It’s unclear how this lawsuit will turn out, but it has the potential to be legally precedent-setting, whether it results in the favour of Tropic Haze or Nintendo.

In 2022, Nintendo took legal action against Canadian Gary Bowser, a member of the hacking group Team Xecuter, which sold mod chips for the Nintendo Switch and other consoles. Bowser was sentenced to 40 months in prison but is out now and is required to pay $14.5 million in damages.

Via: @stephentotilo, Polygon

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