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Nintendo blocked Dolphin emulator release on Steam

By - | Views: 76,947

Update 29/05: According to Pierre Bourdon on Mastodon, who was Dolphin's treasurer for the foundation backing the project (Bourdon is stepping down), Valve actually initiated the conversation to check in with Nintendo on this. So this is not a DMCA takedown request but Nintendo said it would violate the DMCA anti-circumvention provisions, so Valve took it down. So there's technically nothing for Dolphin to counter here.

Kotaku also got a statement from Nintendo on this:

“Nintendo is committed to protecting the hard work and creativity of video game engineers and developers,” a spokesperson for Nintendo told Kotaku in an email. “This emulator illegally circumvents Nintendo’s protection measures and runs illegal copies of games. Using illegal emulators or illegal copies of games harms development and ultimately stifles innovation. Nintendo respects the intellectual property rights of other companies, and in turn expects others to do the same.”

The article title was updated to better reflect the situation.

Original article below for context:

Back in March the plan was announced for the Wii and GameCube emulator Dolphin to release on Steam, along with some useful Steam features but now that seems unlikely to happen.

The Dolphin team has now announced that their Steam page was taken down, as Nintendo sent a cease and desist notice to Valve about it. Here's the statement they released:

It is with much disappointment that we have to announce that the Dolphin on Steam release has been indefinitely postponed. We were notified by Valve that Nintendo has issued a cease and desist citing the DMCA against Dolphin's Steam page, and have removed Dolphin from Steam until the matter is settled. We are currently investigating our options and will have a more in-depth response in the near future.

We appreciate your patience in the meantime.

Such a shame.

Why now though? Dolphin has been around since 2003 for GameCube, adding basic Wii support in 2007, so Dolphin was there during the time the Wii was still being fully supported. Nintendo also only went after the Steam page, not the project as a whole as it can still be found on GitHub and official site. According to a comment from the Citra developer on Reddit, it's due to Dolphin including decryption keys with the project.

Really, it's not going to do Nintendo much good, it's put Dolphin all over the news and even more people will now know about it and end up using it.

Article taken from
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I am the owner of GamingOnLinux. After discovering Linux back in the days of Mandrake in 2003, I constantly came back to check on the progress of Linux until Ubuntu appeared on the scene and it helped me to really love it. You can reach me easily by emailing GamingOnLinux directly. Find me on Mastodon.
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Quoting: scaine
Quoting: Purple Library Guy
Quoting: scaine
Quoting: Eike
Quoting: ripper81358I use Dolphin myself. Having it available on steam is not critical to me. I have Dolphin installed as a flatpak on my end. So any steamdeck user can easily install it that way too.

That's just not how most people will use such a device IMHO.

Usually, I'd agree, but I think any crowd comfortable with tinkering with emulation will be absolutely fine booting into desktop mode to install a flatpak. I'm not much a tinkerer, but Liam's article on adding Decky Loader support is so easy to follow and complete that it's absolutely trivial. I doubt many emulation fans will even care that Dolphin is off Steam.
I would have figured that the main difference of having it available on Steam with no muss and no fuss would be precisely that a whole lot of people who are not "comfortable with tinkering with emulation" would be comfortable just downloading something from Steam.

Sure, but that's not the experience. You download Dolphin... now what? Now you need to rip games off your cartridges, or more likely, source them from dubious sources. My point being that if you're committed to emulation, running a flatpak on your SteamDeck is no big deal.

However, I wasn't aware that this somehow magically enabled cloud-saves, as Arale-senpai pointed out, so that's definitely a loss.
Hmmm, yes. Now if Nintendo were smart, they'd use this opportunity to put up their games on Steam. As has been pointed out on GoL in other contexts, pirating games tends to disappear when the non-pirating user experience is superior. Whether or not it's currently true that most users of emulators pirate the games to emulate (I have no idea myself, having basically zero connection to the emulation scene), a fresh new batch of Dolphin users on Steam with instant access to the games to use with Dolphin, on Steam, would probably just buy them rather than try to figure out how to run around to janky websites and fiddle around.
I think in all this discussion of downloading pirated games, thinking of keeping things in perspective we should remember that this current situation has nothing directly to do with pirating games, or even with copyright.
What Nintendo is objecting to is that Dolphin is allegedly violating a provision of the DMCA that has to do with, well as CatKiller put it back in page 2 of this discussion:
Quoting: CatKillerThe particular quirk of the DMCA is that it prohibits "circumventing a technical measure" to bypass DRM even if the use isn't copyright infringement (and no matter how trivial the "technical measure" is); the Library of Congress has to regularly issue short-term (two or three years, IIRC) exemptions for particular applications.

So yeah, doing that is (probably, mostly) illegal in the US (but not most other places) under the DMCA (which is a stupid law), but it isn't that anyone is alleging Dolphin is infringing anyone's copyright, let alone pirating anything.
In the interest of law, I'd like to draw everyone's attention back to the '80s, where Universal (and Disney, in the background) tried to outlaw Betamax (and by extension VHS) by suing Sony in court for contributory copyright infringement. The idea was that "most" people were using Betamax to infringe on copyright. In the end, the court ruled in favor of Sony because Betamax and VHS have substantial non-infringing use-cases.

Last edited by pleasereadthemanual on 30 May 2023 at 1:56 am UTC
poiuz May 30
Quoting: Smoke39So when it comes to enforcing copyright it's serious business and the law is absolute, but when it comes to keeping art alive and accessible it's "just video games" and so not eligible even for consideration. What a convenient double standard.
It's art to signify the importance of preservation. But when we're talking about expressing the art (this includes the platform it's released on), it's suddenly just a product & anything goes. How convenient.

Quoting: GuestNo, but as a consumer, we have the right to keep a copy of a game we've purchased, and that's what we're fighting for.
You can make a copy if you can make a copy. That doesn't mean I'm allowed to download a cracked game from my Steam games.
poiuz May 30
Quoting: GuestEmulation =/= Piracy
Stop trying to equate it.
I've even given the most common reason for emulation: convenience.
Whether it be traveling or just wanting to quickly experience an old classic, emulation makes it much easier to do.
A download from a random source is always "piracy". The source is not allowed to provide the download. That's a fact.

/edit: Added quotes

Last edited by poiuz on 30 May 2023 at 8:43 am UTC
hardpenguin May 30
Nintendo worst company
Eike May 30
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Quoting: benstor214
Quoting: Eike
Quoting: benstor214
Quoting: Eike
Quoting: benstor214“People who emulate games are all committing piracy.”

I can't remember somebody saying this. Could you cite it please?
That’s the nice thing: you don’t need to! You just have to murky the waters and blur the line between emulation, game preservation and piracy. You only need to place one group near to the other and subsequently insinuate that there is no difference between both groups at all. Sooner than not game preservationists are deemed criminal and Nintendo’s upper management opens a bottle of champagne to celebrate the successes of the hard-working minions in forums and comment sections.

I prefer people citing what has actually been said and react to that instead of making up quotes. It always makes it look like they wouldn't trust their arguments enough.
You are right. Consumers don’t need rights anyway.
Most of them even smell badly in my experience.

That's again something neither having been said nor meant.

As said... It always makes it look like they wouldn't trust their arguments enough.

Last edited by Eike on 30 May 2023 at 10:00 am UTC
Quoting: Guest
Quoting: Mountain ManTo put it another way, when you're 90, is it really going to matter to you whether or not you can still play Super Mario Bros.? As I said, it helps to keep these things in perspective.
No, but as a consumer, we have the right to keep a copy of a game we've purchased, and that's what we're fighting for. It doesn't matter that games are simply for leisure, it's something we own, and something we'll want to play again.

And anyway, having Super Mario Bros. available for people in the future would be important for history (the main theme was added to the library of congress. Saying that game preservation doesn't matter, is like saying that Art Museums are useless because it's a bunch of dusty old paintings.

I'm not saying there's no value in preservation, but that value is often greatly exaggerated by those looking to justify illegal acquisition -- whether it's games, music, or movies, the argument is typically the same, but the fact remains, you don't have a moral right to any of it, so there is no justification.

But here is something to think about: countless works of art have been lost throughout human history, and will continue to be lost. Are we worse off as a species because of it? No, I don't think so. It's just stuff, and there are more important things in life.
Quoting: Mountain ManBut here is something to think about: countless works of art have been lost throughout human history, and will continue to be lost. Are we worse off as a species because of it? No, I don't think so. It's just stuff, and there are more important things in life.
I think it's sad that the same laws meant to protect a copyright holder's works are the same laws which prevented archival of many 20th century films where the studio went bankrupt, the copyright holders disappeared, and the orphaned films were thus damned them to the ether. Copyright lasted just long enough for nobody to be able to archive the film stock, and by the time they were in the public domain (back when we had reasonable copyright periods), the film stock had faded away.

On the subject of video games, I found this documentary from Noclip about GOG's archival of old games very interesting. There are some games where it's completely unclear who holds the copyright anymore, so even though the studios which helped create the game would love to publish it again, they can't because they don't know who owns it, really. GOG goes through weeks and months of investigation for some of these games, where everyone thinks someone else owns it, and in the end they might find out for sure...or they may not.

While we can argue about the value of art and its loss, I would say copyright is doing a bad job protecting these works and a great job lowering the value of our public domain. One way to fix this is to go back to reasonable copyright terms. Even though there is some support for this among publishers and copyright lawyers, it's doubtful this will happen.

Last edited by pleasereadthemanual on 30 May 2023 at 1:44 pm UTC
Quoting: Mountain ManBut here is something to think about: countless works of art have been lost throughout human history, and will continue to be lost. Are we worse off as a species because of it?
I mean there is definitely a reason that archaeologists and museums exist, to find, showcase, and preserve old history that were previously lost to human history before discovery.
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