Nintendo suing makers of open-source Switch emulator Yuzu

Nintendo suing makers of open-source Switch emulator Yuzu

Nintendo is suing the makers of Yuzu, an open-source Nintendo Switch emulator, according to a lawsuit filed in Rhode Island court on Monday. Game File reporter Stephen Totilo first reported the suit.

The 41-page lawsuit was filed against Tropic Haze, the company that makes Yuzu. (Nintendo also specifically references a person aliased as Bunnei, who leads development on Yuzu.) Yuzu is a free emulator that was released in 2018 months after the Nintendo Switch originally launched. The same folks who made Citra, a Nintendo 3DS emulator, made this one. Basically, it’s a piece of software that lets people play Nintendo Switch games on Windows PC, Linux, and Android devices. (It also runs on Steam Deck, which Valve showed — then wiped — in a Steam Deck video clip.) Emulators aren’t necessarily illegal, but pirating games to play on them is. But Nintendo said in its lawsuit that there’s no way to legal way to use Yuzu.

Nintendo argued that Yuzu executes codes that “defeat” Nintendo’s security measures, including decryption using “an illegally-obtained copy of prod.keys.”

“In other words, without Yuzu’s decryption of Nintendo’s encryption, unauthorized copies of games could not be played on PCs or Android devices,” Nintendo wrote in the lawsuit. As to the alleged damages created by Yuzu, Nintendo pointed to the release of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Tears of the Kingdom leaked almost two weeks earlier than the game’s May 12 release date. The pirated version of the game spread quickly; Nintendo said it was downloaded more than 1 million times before Tears of the Kingdom’s release date. People used Yuzu to play the game; Nintendo said more than 20% of download links pointed people to Yuzu.

Though Yuzu doesn’t give out pirated copies of games, Nintendo repeatedly said that most ROM sites point people toward Yuzu to play whatever games they’ve downloaded.

Nintendo said its “expended significant resources to stop the illegal copying, marketing, sale, and distribution” of its Nintendo Switch games. It says that Yuzu earns the team $30,000 per month on its Patreon from more than 7,000 patrons. Nintendo said the company has earned at least $50,000 in paid Yuzu downloads. Nintendo said that Yuzu’s Patreon doubled its paid members in the period between May 1 and May 12, when Tears of the Kingdom was released.

Nintendo is asking the court to shut down the emulator, and for damages. Polygon has reached out to Nintendo and Tropic Haze for comment.

The Tears of the Kingdom publisher is notoriously strict with its intellectual property. Nintendo’s won several lawsuits targeting pirated game sites like RomUniverse, where it was awarded more than $2 million in damages. Nintendo also notoriously went after an alleged Nintendo Switch hacker named Gary Bowser, who was arrested and charged for selling Switch hacks. Though he’s been released from prison, Bowser still owes Nintendo $10 million; he paid Nintendo $175 while in prison from money he earned working in the prison library and kitchen.