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Steam, Dolphin and Nintendo – More Nonsense

Some of you may have heard about the issues with Steam, Nintendo and Gamecube/Wii emulator Dolphin in the last couple of weeks. It boils down to this: it ain’t happening.


Dolphin was trying to get onto Steam, but Valve contacted Nintendo to check on the legality of that. Nintendo shut it down. Regardless of if they’re right or wrong, anybody who follows this stuff won’t be surprised by that move.

Emulation exists in a grey area. You’re allowed to play your games through an emulator, so long as they’re your games and so long as you don’t pirate any Bios code off the internet. I can imagine the amount of people who download emulators and also rip their own bios and also rip their own games are not even nearly the majority.

And for the most part it doesn’t matter. Unless you’re one of those people who get very defensive about a company’s right not to sell you a game from thirty years ago, there are very few victims in all this.

Stopping the emulator making it to Steam does nothing except slightly inconvenience people who would rather have it right there and then. Nothing else is impacted. Dolphin is still out there – rightly so. There’s still this morally grey area where you cannot stop an emulator from existing. It’s an impotent show of force that may well publicise the emulator more than hurt it.

They could call that the Nintendo method.

Ultimately, it seems Dolphin have kind of brought this on themselves. There’s is supposedly some Wii code in the emulator that shouldn’t be there.

But if this is where Nintendo get their win over emulators, that would be very disappointing.

Dolphin and Other Emulators

Dolphin is probably the most famous emulator going. It’s only fault is that it doesn’t yet support RetroAchievements.

It’s a great little piece of software, allowing you to play Gamecube and Wii games through your PC. Bringing it to Steam would have made that slightly more convenient.

And I’m not going to go too far down the slippery slope and say that this not happening is a problem waiting to happen. But emulation has always been a target in the industry. Companies have a legal duty to protect their work. But the result – like with mods – is usually companies protecting their work from… harmless fans. Oh, and protecting their own bottom line in case customers don’t buy their shitty work.

If this sudden sticking point between Nintendo and Dolphin starts up the legal discussion of emulators again, I’m not sure how it would go. It certainly wouldn’t be as cut and dry as I would hope. Bleem was a long time ago, unfortunately. And while some jurisdictions are fairly defensive of consumer rights, others are happy to throw you under the bus if it keeps the big companies happy.

Nintendo isn’t one of those companies. But I’m still not sure which way it would go if the emulation discussion were to be had today. And hopefully it’ll never come to it being challenged.


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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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