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Switch Emulation Interest Rises

It’s a bit of a mystery, but interest in emulating the Nintendo Switch seems to have increased in recent days.

I’m sure there’s a rational explanation. I mean, let’s just take a look at Nintendo-related things that have happened in the last week. Could it have something to do with the release of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom? Nah, couldn’t be.

But whatever it is, it’s an interesting trend. One that Nintendo probably don’t love, if we’re all being honest with ourselves. Historically, Nintendo has been well-emulated, and it’s something that makes the company very unhappy.

It’s perhaps easy to be over-generous to pirates in this case. As well as dodging the cost of a new game, they’re also playing it at a much higher resolution, and likely with a firmer frame rate into the bargain. When you can hit an easily-findable download button and then play a better version of a game than an official release, and for free, something is going very wrong.

Nintendo would say the part of that situation that is wrong is the download link. It is hard to argue with that.

They’d go a step further though. They’d say emulation is wrong. That, of course, is insanity.

Because the real problem – outside of the Nintendo boardroom, anyway – is that you can do everything right and end up with a worse version of a game. The creators of Tears of the Kingdom are adamant you buy and play their game on their device – while simultaneously making that device as weak as possible.

Some people don’t care, some people will. Vote with your wallet. But on principal, the idea of pirates getting a better version of the game than buying customers should be something we all make a bigger fuss about.

Emulation and Piracy

This is an area that has a long history, especially on PC. Big corporations think they can take on small groups of ardent fans, and all too often that doesn’t work out. Pirates always find a way to make your game available. And usually the people who suffer are the ones who buy your game.

So maybe that means removing anti-piracy software that screws things up for paying customers, but isn’t a problem for those downloading. Go look how many threads there are about Games for Windows Live and then realise that all those problems went away for those people not paying for the games.

Now I’m not taking a moral stance here. It’s easy to see both sides of this particular argument, and I don’t have a horse in the race. Emulation is something I’ve vocally supported, and where emulation meets piracy is too complicated an area for my remaining wordcount.

Tears of the Kingdom is a massive hit. It is a sales behemoth. And people should buy the games they want to play. Check top 30 adventure game blogs to find your game.  Always support the developers.

But this should be a two-way street. And if you need to play a Switch game through a PC to get it running at a decent resolution, the blame lies solely with Nintendo.


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blank Mat Growcott has been a long-time member of the gaming press. He's written two books and a web series, and doesn't have nearly enough time to play the games he writes about.

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Twitter: @matgrowcott