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Makers of Switch emulator Yuzu quickly settle with Nintendo for $2.4 million

Tropic Haze, the popular Yuzu Nintendo Switch emulator developer, appears to have agreed to settle Nintendo’s lawsuit against it. Less than a week after Nintendo filed the legal action, accusing the emulator’s creators of “piracy at a colossal scale,” a joint final judgment and permanent injunction filed Tuesday says Tropic Haze has agreed to pay the Mario maker $2.4 million, along with a long list of concessions.

Nintendo’s lawsuit claimed Tropic Haze violated the anti-circumvention and anti-trafficking provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). “Without Yuzu’s decryption of Nintendo’s encryption, unauthorized copies of games could not be played on PCs or Android devices,” the company wrote in its complaint. It described Yuzu as “software primarily designed to circumvent technological measures.”

Yuzu launched in 2018 as free, open-source software for Windows, Linux and Android. It could run countless copyrighted Switch games — including console sellers like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom, Super Mario Odyssey and Super Mario Wonder. Reddit threads comparing Switch emulators praised Yuzu’s performance compared to rivals like Ryujinx. Yuzu introduces various bugs across different titles, but it can typically handle games at higher resolutions than the Switch, often with better frame rates, so long as your hardware is powerful enough.

A screenshot from Yuzu’s website, showing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Tropic Haze / Nintendo)

As part of an Exhibit A attached to the proposed joint settlement, Tropic Haze agreed to a series of accommodations. In addition to paying Nintendo $2.4 million, it must permanently refrain from “engaging in activities related to offering, marketing, distributing, or trafficking in Yuzu emulator or any similar software that circumvents Nintendo’s technical protection measures.”

Tropic Haze must also delete all circumvention devices, tools and Nintendo cryptographic keys used in the emulator and turn over all circumvention devices and modified Nintendo hardware. It even has to surrender the emulator’s web domain (including any variants or successors) to Nintendo. (The website is still live now, perhaps waiting for the judgment’s final a-okay.) Not abiding by the settlement’s agreements could land Tropic Haze in contempt of court, including punitive, coercive and monetary actions.

Although piracy is the top motive for many emulator users, the software can double as crucial tools for video game preservation — making rapid legal surrenders like Tropic Haze’s potentially problematic. Without emulators, Nintendo and other copyright holders could make games obsolete for future generations as older hardware eventually becomes more difficult to find.

Nintendo’s legal team is, of course, no stranger to aggressively enforcing copyrighted material. In recent years, the company went after Switch piracy websites, sued ROM-sharing website RomUniverse for $2 million and helped send hacker Gary Bowser to prison. Although it was Valve’s doing, Nintendo’s reputation indirectly got the Dolphin Wii and GameCube emulator blocked from Steam. It’s safe to say the Mario maker doesn’t share preservationists’ views on the crucial historical role emulators can play.

Despite the settlement, it appears unlikely the open-source Yuzu will disappear entirely. The emulator is still available on GitHub, where its entire codebase can be found.

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