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Nintendo is suing Team Yuzu, but what took it so long?

yuzu nintendo lawsuit

Nintendo has filed a lawsuit against the creators of the popular Switch emulator Yuzu, the latest chapter in the company’s crusade against piracy of its games.

Nintendo’s history with emulators is a bloody one and nobody seems to be above the company’s wrath. In May 2023, Nintendo sent a DMCA strike against Valve for hosting the Dolphin Emulator, an emulator for the Wii, on Steam. Two years before the Dolphin incident, Nintendo won a $2.1 million lawsuit in damages against notable ROM and emulator site ROM Universe. Despite the win, Nintendo pursued permanent injunction of the site, believing it could relaunch and continue to harm its properties.

More recently, it had a man named Gary Bowser extradited to the United States for a criminal trial in federal court. Bowser was jailed for years and fined millions of dollars. The company also likely has its eyes set on Palworld developer Pocketpair after proof of the company using edited Pokemon models came to light.

With all that history established, it’s no surprise for any Nintendo fan that Yuzu got into its sights.

What is Yuzu and why is Nintendo suing them?

Yuzu is a free and open-source Nintendo Switch emulator.

Nintendo is suing Team Yuzu for illegally circumventing the company’s software encryption and enabling “piracy at a colossal scale.” Stephen Totilo reported the lawsuit filed by Nintendo against Team Yuzu. Since Yuzu’s initial release in January 2018, the emulator has remained free and open-source, meaning any developer can use it for whatever reason without fear of reprisal from Team Yuzu. 

Nintendo’s primary reasoning for the lawsuit is how Yuzu enables piracy of Nintendo Switch games. Nintendo claimed “over one million copies” of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom leaked on Yuzu a week and a half before its official launch.  Thus, Team Yuzu would be secondarily liable for the copyright infringement committed by its users.

Additionally, Nintendo claims Team Yuzu’s business model on Patreon further enables piracy. The company also alleges that the leaks spoiled Tears of the Kingdom for fans, but it’s unclear if this is part of the lawsuit. Team Yuzu has not issued a public response as of this writing. 

What does this mean for Switch emulation?

Nintendo will likely be more aggressive in filing lawsuits against Switch emulators in the future.

Some wonder why Nintendo only filed a lawsuit against Yuzu now instead of much earlier. The Switch 2’s imminent release may have led the company to re-evaluate the emulator’s impact on sales. It’s worth noting that emulators are not inherently illegal. Nintendo hasn’t sued Dolphin Emulator’s devs despite the DMCA Strike against Valve, for example. However, it’s illegal to download and upload ROMs online. 

Regardless of whether Nintendo has a case, the process could be a financially taxing task for Team Yuzu. Yuzu isn’t the only Switch emulator on the internet, but others will likely keep their heads down for the moment.

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Written by Gab Hernandez

Gab Hernandez has a particular love for video games that give players control over the narrative direction, such as Divinity: Original Sin 2 and Disco Elysium. Gab spends just as much time playing games as they do gushing about them online to anyone who will listen. Their work has also been seen on TheGamer, Gfinity, and Wargamer, and you can follow them on Twitter / X at @HardlyWorkinGab.

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