Nintendo Sues Creators of Yuzu Switch Emulator

Nintendo Sues Creators of Yuzu Switch Emulator

Ever since the Switch’s launch in 2017, the console has had a fairly active emulation scene. With Yuzu and Ryujinx leading the charge, the system and its games have been gotten to run on all manner of systems, with even the latest titles like Tears of the Kingdom and Super Mario Bros Wonder working almost out of the box.

Unfortunately, it seems like Nintendo isn’t too happy with this situation. Why? Because according to court documents found online, they’re currently in the midst of a lawsuit against Tropic Haze LLC, the creators of the Yuzu emulator. Here’s a tweet about it from games journalist Stephen Totilo:

As well as the original filing as found on the Justia Dockets and Filings website:

Nintendo of America Inc. v. Tropic Haze LLC

It’s bad news for the developers in question, who Nintendo claims are liable for their users downloading 1 million copies of Tears of the Kingdom prior to the game’s official launch date.

But what could this mean? Is Nintendo actually likely to win the case here? Why would they bother to sue now?
Well for the former question, it’s fairly unlikely as far as we can tell. Prior lawsuits against emulator manufacturers have not gone in the other party’s favour, including those by companies like Nintendo in the past. And there are various reasons for this. Most notably, the mere process of emulating another system hasn’t been found to be illegal in the past.

No, unless the company or group actually packed in copyright infringing ROMs, the lawsuit has generally gone in their favour. Sony tried to sue Bleem! for selling a PlayStation 1 emulator as a commercial product back in the 90s, and everything they tried got thrown out or ruled against in court (using the console’s BIOS, advertising the product via photos of PS1 games running on it, etc). There was also a case before that with Coleco and their Gemini product, which was a clone of the Atari 2500 that could run its games. Atari sued Coleco, and lost there as well.

So, we don’t see Nintendo winning in this regard. We also don’t see their arguments about lost revenue/sales due to games like Tears of the Kingdom being emulated being too valid either.

Since 1 million downloads doesn’t exactly equate to 1 million sales lost. No, out of that group, you’ve also got to consider a few things:

  1. There are likely many people who downloaded the game to try out early, but bought the game legitimately later on (or who had it pre-ordered)
  2. Many people also likely downloaded it to run on PC, on the Steam Deck, with mods, etc, while having the legitimate game available at the same time
  3. And that many downloads might not have even come from people. They could be from scripts, bots, scrapers, etc, of which there are plenty online

Hence that 1 million copies could well be closer to 200,000 people that downloaded Tears of the Kingdom instead of buying for it. With perhaps half of that number being folks that basically don’t buy anything period. So, like most attempts by companies at claiming damages, it seems like ‘wishful thinking’ at best.

Either way, we’d be surprised if Nintendo won a court case here. Their best shot of winning would be if the Yuzu folks settled early, or run out of money during the proceedings.

So why would they sue now? Isn’t that a bit late? Isn’t it like trying to close the barn door after the horse has not only bolted, but left the planet on a mission to the edge of the universe?

Yes, yes, it is. The Switch’s lifespan is nearly over, and the system has been emulated for pretty much that entire time period.
But there are reasons a court case might make sense now. One logistical, and one plain business related.

For the former, legal action takes a long time to materialise. Lawyers have to prepare documents, they have to find the defendants and figure out what location to sue them, they have to make sure the defendants get those documents, etc.

And that can take a while. So, it’s entirely possible Nintendo was preparing for this case since sometime last year or before, when the Tears of the Kingdom was still the hottest thing around and the Switch was going through a boom period.

It’s also possible that they’re doing this to deter future emulation efforts too, likely ones related to a possible Switch successor. That’s because we’ve already seen credible evidence that said console is being planned for a 2025 launch, with the reveal likely being somewhere around the corner.

Hence Nintendo’s priorities right now are probably to make sure that emulation doesn’t become a going concern for the system right away. That unlike with the Switch, the Switch 2 doesn’t have people dumping ROMs to PC and emulating games within the first few months of its release.

So, their logic is likely this. If we win, great! Emulation becomes far rarer going forward. If we lose, then it’s unfortunate, but the emulator developers will likely not be willing to risk releasing anything until the dust has settled. Either way, the Switch 2 gets less of an emulation system in its first year.

Still, that’s the situation at the moment. Nintendo is suing the makers of the Yuzu emulator, with claims that it’s costing them sales for games like Tears of the Kingdom and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

But what do you think? Who could win the case this time around? Is this whole situation motivated by a new console that’s just around the corner?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below, on social media, or on our Discord server today.


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