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Dolphin Emulator devs give up on Steam release

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After all the ruckus recently about the Dolphin Emulator for Wii and GameCube coming to Steam, and then being blocked - the team has now given up with the Steam release.

They remained pretty silent on it since the initial announcement, which caused a lot of speculation and confusion but now they're explaining their side and how they feel about it going forward after seeking legal advice. The good news, is that nothing is going to happen to Dolphin and development sounds like it's just continuing as normal. It's just not able to have a release on Steam since Nintendo asked Valve not to allow it on the store.

So, after a long stay of silence, we have a difficult announcement to make. We are abandoning our efforts to release Dolphin on Steam. Valve ultimately runs the store and can set any condition they wish for software to appear on it. But given Nintendo's long-held stance on emulation, we find Valve's requirement for us to get approval from Nintendo for a Steam release to be impossible. Unfortunately, that's that. But there are some more serious matters to discuss, some that are much bigger than Dolphin's Steam Release.

Dolphin Team

The big issue surrounds the inclusion of the Wii Common Key, which is required for the emulator to be able to run Wii games, which they said has been in their code for around 15 years without an issue.

The Dolphin team claim a lot of "armchair lawyers" talked about how foolish they have been for including it but they said "now that we have done our homework and talked to a lawyer, we are no longer concerned". They have no plans to remove it, as after getting legal advice they believe there's no issue since Dolphin itself is "not primarily designed or produced for the purpose of circumventing protection".

After news about it spread around they claim they had "many requests, and even some demands, to remove all Wii keys from our codebase" but they don't think it matters and they think if they removed it and then relied on 3rd party applications it would "make the situation worse for everyone". Their message to the "armchair lawyers":

And to all the armchair lawyers out there, the letter to Valve did not make any claims that we were violating a US copyright by including the Wii Common Key, as a short string of entirely random letters and numbers generated by a machine is not copyrightable under current US copyright law. If that ever changes, the world will be far too busy to think about emulation.

Dolphin Team

Not only will development carry on as normal, so you'll just need to grab Dolphin as you always have done from elsewhere, but some elements from the Steam release will still be continued like the big screen interface that can be used directly with a gamepad. 

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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Purple Library Guy Jul 20, 2023
Quoting: GroganThese companies have their fanboys, but there are also more passive aggressive defenders... defending the behaviour in the first place, admonishing everyone that "All corporations are the same and they have every right..." etc.
One thing I've noticed is that although all corporations are primarily motivated by profit, because the world is actually pretty complicated it's not always clear what kind of behaviour leads to the most profit. This leaves some room for the style and personality of individual leaders or even for a "personality" to arise in the corporate culture, where people assume that their personal instincts are also the best way to make a profit. And so for instance some will try to make a profit by chiseling the customer every chance they get to maximize every transaction, and others will try to make a profit by treating customers well to get repeat sales and word of mouth--there's wiggle room for differences because we can't really be sure which approach works best under what circumstances, and money has clearly been made both ways.

There are some anti-consumer behaviours which are clearly profitable and hardly any for-profit firm will avoid, like planned obsolescence--selling the same customer the same thing once every three years is clearly more profitable than selling it to them every 30 years.
slaapliedje Jul 20, 2023
Just to be contrarian; I just had a sort of hilarious thought...

Everyone is complaining that Dolphin can't be in Steam. I agree, it's dumb (though putting emulators in Steam seems kind of odd, but I understand why it'd be useful for sure). But the on the flip side everyone complains about launchers. Emulators are launchers of large library of other games. Like literally, that's what they are. :P
Penix Jul 20, 2023
Quoting: Mohandevir
Quoting: Penix
Quoting: ssj17vegetaGenuine question here : what's the benefit of having an emulator on Steam, apart from the automatic updates ?
As someone else said: Cloudsaves. Especially with the Steam Deck an absolute game changer compared to manually setting up semi-working auto-sync systems like syncthing or mega. Fortunately, all the big emulators are absolutely fantastic in terms of controller support, so Steam Input isn't that big of a deal compared to games not being on Steam. Steam Deck has better compatibility with games from the Steam Store compared to the desktop mode generic linux app store. While dolphin has a good forum and you can find a lot of stuff on reddit, having an official Steam discussion board is always a big win for finding help with issues of software, exchanging opinions, etc.
And yes, visibility and user base is a big perk of Steam that could potentially heavily increase the Dolphin users and emulator users in general.

But the cloud saves are the biggest perks of having any game/emulator on a gaming platform such as Steam.

Are you close to the project? Because you seem to know much...

Just an idea and I don't know for sure about it's feasability (more like brainstorming for a solution), but couldn't it be an app that manages all emulators and cloud saves at a "higher level"? Some kind of a custom EmulationStation for Steam BPM/Steam Deck that lets you manage, integrate and save your emulators/roms/saves (all or in part) to the cloud?

Edit: Personnally, I'd be willing to pay for that because having to copy my emulators setups from one rig to another is a pita... Emulators configurations (custom controller configurations) and save games backed up on the cloud, not just for Dolphin, would be a boon!
No, I'm not. Everything I said was knowledge unspecific to Dolphin. Except for the Dolphin forum, all those arguments are just arguments for having games Steam in general (maybe filtered a bit to arguments that I felt would make the most sense for emulators specifically) which I learned dealing with other launchers and having to set up emulators over and over again. While I'm a dev myself, I haven't done any work on emulators yet. ^^

To your suggestion: I've always used direct emulators for specific platforms (Mednafen, a few different SNES specific ones, Dolphin, Cemu, Citra, Yuzu, Ryujinx, PPSSPP, Duckstation, PCX2, RPCS3, Cxbx-Reloaded and Xemu), afaik Retroarch is already a summarized frontend that can load the kernels of different emulators. And Retroarch is on Steam. So at least for the platforms that Retroarch supports, this would already be kind of what you suggested, though chained to the specific versions in Retroarch and not a general way to add your own emulator installations. But I'm not sure if Valve would have a problem with an App that just uses the cloud saves for a completely different purpose. Also, depending on how Steam Cloud Sync works and detects your local save files, it could be hard to add the different saves for different emulators in different locations. At least if it costs something, Valve should have less of a problem of "kinda abusing" the cloud save function^^ I don't see any way that Valve would allow saving ROMs in the Steam cloud though. For newer systems, they are too big anyway and would most definitely be seen as massive Steam Cloud Save Abusement. But roms are usually not as often updated/changed as saves and the library path can usually be completely different from the save path and is usually even suggested to be changed / customly set in most installation processes, so this could be done pretty easily by a private git project and simply having a "EmuLibraries/[GameSystem]/" folder system in your documents or home or "D:/" or whatever folder.

But for saves, that's definitely something that could be worth looking into. And those few bucks that the app would cost could definitely be given to emulation projects. But the most important part of such a cloud save is that it automatically works. For your suggestion, you'd need to have an app through which you always launch all your emulators, so when you close any emulator, it automatically syncs the cloud saves (so you need to be able to add the emulators to your app the same way you can add non-Steam games to Steam and then have the app act as an launcher for all emulators). And if you played on different systems without syncing inbetween (e. g. one system was offline), Steam only gives you the option to use one of both save versions (override local save or override cloud save), so even if you played different games or even different emulators, the save sync could be a problem. But this would have been a problem in its own way if Dolphin got released on Steam directly.

Btw sorry for the long reply. Kinda got lost in your idea and its pros and cons and its possible implementation :D
Eike Jul 20, 2023
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Quoting: Purple Library GuyThere are some anti-consumer behaviours which are clearly profitable and hardly any for-profit firm will avoid, like planned obsolescence--selling the same customer the same thing once every three years is clearly more profitable than selling it to them every 30 years.

Not sure about that. I'd tend to try something from another company after those three years. Which might break all the same - but it's worth a try.
Mohandevir Jul 20, 2023
Quoting: Penix
Quoting: Mohandevir
Quoting: Penix
Quoting: ssj17vegetaGenuine question here : what's the benefit of having an emulator on Steam, apart from the automatic updates ?
As someone else said: Cloudsaves. Especially with the Steam Deck an absolute game changer compared to manually setting up semi-working auto-sync systems like syncthing or mega. Fortunately, all the big emulators are absolutely fantastic in terms of controller support, so Steam Input isn't that big of a deal compared to games not being on Steam. Steam Deck has better compatibility with games from the Steam Store compared to the desktop mode generic linux app store. While dolphin has a good forum and you can find a lot of stuff on reddit, having an official Steam discussion board is always a big win for finding help with issues of software, exchanging opinions, etc.
And yes, visibility and user base is a big perk of Steam that could potentially heavily increase the Dolphin users and emulator users in general.

But the cloud saves are the biggest perks of having any game/emulator on a gaming platform such as Steam.

Are you close to the project? Because you seem to know much...

Just an idea and I don't know for sure about it's feasability (more like brainstorming for a solution), but couldn't it be an app that manages all emulators and cloud saves at a "higher level"? Some kind of a custom EmulationStation for Steam BPM/Steam Deck that lets you manage, integrate and save your emulators/roms/saves (all or in part) to the cloud?

Edit: Personnally, I'd be willing to pay for that because having to copy my emulators setups from one rig to another is a pita... Emulators configurations (custom controller configurations) and save games backed up on the cloud, not just for Dolphin, would be a boon!
No, I'm not. Everything I said was knowledge unspecific to Dolphin. Except for the Dolphin forum, all those arguments are just arguments for having games Steam in general (maybe filtered a bit to arguments that I felt would make the most sense for emulators specifically) which I learned dealing with other launchers and having to set up emulators over and over again. While I'm a dev myself, I haven't done any work on emulators yet. ^^

To your suggestion: I've always used direct emulators for specific platforms (Mednafen, a few different SNES specific ones, Dolphin, Cemu, Citra, Yuzu, Ryujinx, PPSSPP, Duckstation, PCX2, RPCS3, Cxbx-Reloaded and Xemu), afaik Retroarch is already a summarized frontend that can load the kernels of different emulators. And Retroarch is on Steam. So at least for the platforms that Retroarch supports, this would already be kind of what you suggested, though chained to the specific versions in Retroarch and not a general way to add your own emulator installations. But I'm not sure if Valve would have a problem with an App that just uses the cloud saves for a completely different purpose. Also, depending on how Steam Cloud Sync works and detects your local save files, it could be hard to add the different saves for different emulators in different locations. At least if it costs something, Valve should have less of a problem of "kinda abusing" the cloud save function^^ I don't see any way that Valve would allow saving ROMs in the Steam cloud though. For newer systems, they are too big anyway and would most definitely be seen as massive Steam Cloud Save Abusement. But roms are usually not as often updated/changed as saves and the library path can usually be completely different from the save path and is usually even suggested to be changed / customly set in most installation processes, so this could be done pretty easily by a private git project and simply having a "EmuLibraries/[GameSystem]/" folder system in your documents or home or "D:/" or whatever folder.

But for saves, that's definitely something that could be worth looking into. And those few bucks that the app would cost could definitely be given to emulation projects. But the most important part of such a cloud save is that it automatically works. For your suggestion, you'd need to have an app through which you always launch all your emulators, so when you close any emulator, it automatically syncs the cloud saves (so you need to be able to add the emulators to your app the same way you can add non-Steam games to Steam and then have the app act as an launcher for all emulators). And if you played on different systems without syncing inbetween (e. g. one system was offline), Steam only gives you the option to use one of both save versions (override local save or override cloud save), so even if you played different games or even different emulators, the save sync could be a problem. But this would have been a problem in its own way if Dolphin got released on Steam directly.

Btw sorry for the long reply. Kinda got lost in your idea and its pros and cons and its possible implementation :D

No offense taken.

This said, yeah I wrote Roms, but I knew it could get quite massive. No doubt it wouldn't be included in any form of cloud saves and since roms are static data, I don't think it's a big issue, either.

Like I said, I was just brainstorming. I'm no dev. Thanks for your input.

Quoteso even if you played different games or even different emulators, the save sync could be a problem. But this would have been a problem in its own way if Dolphin got released on Steam directly.

That's interresting. I would have been curious to see if possible at all and how the Dolphin team would have solved this issue.
Purple Library Guy Jul 21, 2023
Quoting: Eike
Quoting: Purple Library GuyThere are some anti-consumer behaviours which are clearly profitable and hardly any for-profit firm will avoid, like planned obsolescence--selling the same customer the same thing once every three years is clearly more profitable than selling it to them every 30 years.

Not sure about that. I'd tend to try something from another company after those three years. Which might break all the same - but it's worth a try.
The scheme does work better once you've got the field down to a few big firms who can quietly agree to all do it and all help block entry by outsiders . . . but the motivation is strong.
ElectricPrism Jul 21, 2023
Quoting: emphyWell, as an armchair lawyer myself I can tell you that it's not any alleged copyright on the key that is the legal problem, it's that one can use the key to circumvent digital restrictions.

For the same reason, most linux distro's don't ship with decryption libraries for dvd's or bluray disks.


As a criticism of Euro-logic (not your post at all)

Kitchen Knives should be banned because someone might do something illicit with it.

Cars & Trucks should be banned because they might be an accessory to vehicular manslaughter.

Dihydrogen Monoxide
is a dangerous chemical and should be banned.

And TL;DR -- Just make illegal things illegal and then criminals will snap their fingers "Aww shucks" and obey the law after all.

Eurologic: Thing X can be used for bad, destroy Thing X

Experts agree: Food is the #1 cause of climate change, destroy all the food!
BTRE Jul 21, 2023
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Quoting: GuestAll game corporations don't act like this. [...]
This is a tiresome trope. This Capcom? This Sega? They are not your friends. Nintendo is not special, they are just blunter about their copyright enforcement.


Last edited by BTRE on 21 July 2023 at 1:54 am UTC
BTRE Jul 21, 2023
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Quoting: GuestAlright, I actually wasn't aware of either of these. So I'll go with the "corporations are our friends" approach and say that they have active interest in blocking these projects because they were remakes, and they are/were potentially remaking games.

At the end of the Sega article, they posted that Sega released a port of Streets of Rage 2 the next day.
As for Capcom, I believe they've recently put out a survey asking if fans want remakes of non-numbered entries or something. So it's quite likely that their own Code Veronica Remake is in development (even though the fan remakes presumably would've been closer to the original games).

I'll admit that I've lost in this case, but I don't think either company has shut down fan games that aren't remakes (though, I'm clearly going to have to do research on this topic).
Yes, Nintendo's attempts to stop fan sequels, remakes and the like is fundamentally different because ... reasons, I guess. Well worth singling them out. Capcom has shut down RE remakes of all sorts year before their own products came out (2, 4 come to mind). Look it up. Don't even get me started with Sega (I would recommend a video from the channel I recommended on Sega and IP, incidentally). You won't convince me that this isn't just hypocritical apologetics without evidence.
Pengling Jul 21, 2023
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Quoting: BTREI'll forever be bemused by the special hatred Nintendo seems to attract from corners of the internet; they simply act like any other corporation; corporations are not your friend and are businesses first—including Valve who notified Nintendo about Dolphin on Steam and set the ball rolling.

Emulation is also legally shakier than most people realize and I'd recommend anyone curious as to the why and how of this whole fracas watch this video from an actual lawyer. There's good historical context there that gets omitted or distorted in most discussions about emulation.
Quoting: BTREYes, Nintendo's attempts to stop fan sequels, remakes and the like is fundamentally different because ... reasons, I guess. Well worth singling them out. Capcom has shut down RE remakes of all sorts year before their own products came out (2, 4 come to mind). Look it up. Don't even get me started with Sega (I would recommend a video from the channel I recommended on Sega and IP, incidentally). You won't convince me that this isn't just hypocritical apologetics without evidence.
I just wanted to say how utterly fantastic these videos you've posted about are. I will surely be digging into this channel further - many thanks for that, as it's exactly the sort of thing that I enjoy learning about.

My gripe with Nintendo is merely as a consumer (they've gone off in a direction I don't enjoy and I'm not happy with their products anymore, so I simply took my entertainment dollar elsewhere - nothing for me to be worked up about, since we have competition in the market precisely for this reason ) and even as one of their customers I was always well aware that what they do with regard to fan-works/events/etc. is well within the letter of the law and I never had a problem with that, so I was already aware of a lot of the stuff in the excellent Dolphin video. Nonetheless, there were still new things I learned here, and it was also fun to get a dose of nostalgia about the days of Connectix and bleem!, which were what sparked my own interest in emulation, and also gaming legal issues, in the first place. The "big red button" analogy is the best I've ever seen it put! Everybody should watch it. Fantastic stuff, and Moony has a real talent for translating legalese into everyman terms. Also all of the Ace Attorney references made me grin - everybody should play those games and watch the TV-show, too.

The Sega video was amazing, as well. Some stuff I already knew (Sega doesn't have as fluffy a reputation as is commonly believed, after all), but also loads to learn about, which was very eye-opening! I've long gotten the feeling that, at least in some cases, there is misplaced guilt out there from some who regret not buying into consoles that didn't suit the market at the time and thus feeling that they caused the original Sega to go out of business, and I do wonder if this plays into why that company is seen differently even though their behaviour is little different to Nintendo's or anyone else's. It was interesting to see that the video did not cover the fact that Sega let the Sonic The Hedgehog trademark die in 1993, though - presumably that would've lost them certain protections and this is why they market that series as "Sonic the Hedgehog" now; I would've liked to see more on that since I wonder how it impacted on Sega-Sammy's handling of the IP, as was covered in the video.
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