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Nintendo+Switch+logo+and+Yuzu+logo+on+a+scale+symbolizing+a+legal+trial.
Iain Klotzbach
Nintendo Switch logo and Yuzu logo on a scale symbolizing a legal trial.

Yuzu, an open source emulator of the Nintendo Switch, garnered the attention of many particularly for its use in pirating Nintendo games, which ultimately led to its downfall.

Although piracy was a less-than-legal use case for Yuzu, Yuzu wasn’t built for that — Emulators are created to preserve and maintain game system software on evolving hardware, and Yuzu is no different.

The emulator had many legitimate uses, a notable reason being that it bypassed the Nintendo Switch’s lacking hardware. At its launch, the Nintendo Switch was only able to output 720p at a maximum of 60 frames per second, something that it has struggled to achieve with most triple A games.

Yuzu allowed its users to bypass hardware restrictions posed by the Switch by running the system code directly on the user’s computer. This meant that if an individual had a computer and monitor that could support 4k resolution at 120 frames per second, they could play Nintendo games at much higher quality.

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“One of the main issues that I usually have while playing on the switch is internet problems,” Elvis Esquibel, a computer science major, said. “One of the main online games I play, Splatoon 3, has moments where the game would lag. There was one time recently where the opponents were standing in place, and the game would tell me that I was splatted by them seconds later.”

Public disdain for Nintendo’s business practices has been a large motivator for pirating their games. Many of their released games were considered by many to be unfinished, with bugs creating laughable moments to game ruining moments.

“Pokemon Scarlet and Violet had both visual and gameplay problems,” Esquibel said. “Even when not online, traveling in water slows the game down. There have also been problems with Pokemon spawning behind walls that can’t be reached.”

Nintendo has also shown a massive dislike for fan projects and make frequent attempts to take down projects that get too much publicity which has led to a conception that Nintendo hates people doing what they do better.

“They are known for slamming people down for copyrights. Roblox Pokémon Brick Bronze was a big example, Nintendo shut it down,” 19-year-old computer science major Ben Huynh said. “They don’t like people doing anything that they deem as theirs, as in their concept and their work. As much as I understand that they want to protect their work, it’s a bit excessive.”

One of Yuzu’s methods for maintaining expenses was to offer custom builds which could be bought through Patreon. This gave Nintendo justifiable reason to target the emulator, on top of a large community which had attracted Nintendo’s attention from the start.

On Feb. 26, Nintendo filed a lawsuit against Yuzu, claiming that Yuzu circumvented security features designed on the Switch to prevent piracy and modification of game code.

The U.S. legal system works through precedent, a system where court rulings determine legality. In the Sony Computer Entertainment v. Connectix Corporation case, it was declared that emulation was legal through the fair use doctrine. The precedent set by this case protected Yuzu from any legal action by Nintendo.

Piracy played a massive role in the lawsuit with Nintendo claiming one of its titles, “The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom,” was illegally distributed over one million times a week and a half before its release.

On March 4, about a week later, Yuzu shut down their services. They agreed to pay $2.4 million in damages and hand over all circumvention tools used for developing the platform. The lead developer, Bunnei, released a statement saying:

“Yuzu and its team have always been against piracy. We started the projects in good faith, out of passion for Nintendo and its consoles and games, and were not intending to cause harm. But we see now that because our projects can circumvent Nintendo’s technological protection measures and allow users to play games outside of authorized hardware, they have led to extensive piracy.”

While no court hearing ever occurred, and therefore no legal precedent was set, the statement Nintendo made through the lawsuit is concerning. It points a gun toward emulators, saying they are not safe from Nintendo.

Several Nintendo based emulators have taken defensive action following the case conclusion, including the takedown of paid services and making the emulators open source.

“I think the takedown of Yuzu will likely be used in future situations.” Esquibel said. “I understand a lot of people go to emulation for games that aren’t available anymore, but companies aren’t going to see it that way. It feels like other emulators are going to be in danger in the future.”

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About the Contributor
Iain Klotzbach
Iain Klotzbach, Freelance Photographer, Videographer
I am a freelance photographer and videographer with a passion for creating great content. I hope to provide professional and high quality photos to the post!

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