Nintendo explains the decision behind blocking release of Dolphin emulator

Good morning, New Donk City.
(Image credit: Nintendo)

The planned Steam release for the emulator Dolphin was ‘indefinitely postponed’ on May 27, as announced by the creators, stating that “Nintendo issued a cease and desist citing the DMCA against Dolphin’s Steam page.” resulting in the page being removed immediately. 

With emulation being a gray area in terms of legality, Dolphin makes use of the Wii Common Key in the emulator, meaning it's actively bypassing piracy protection measures. 

In a copy of the legal notice reviewed by PC Gamer, Nintendo states that Dolphin uses “cryptographic keys without Nintendo’s authorization and decrypting the ROMs at or immediately before runtime.   

"Thus, use of the Dolphin emulator unlawfully circumvent[s] a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under the Copyright Act.” Which confirms the reasoning behind the takedown.

In addition, a Nintendo spokesperson said to Kotaku “Nintendo is committed to protecting the hard work and creativity of video game engineers and developers.

“This emulator illegally circumvents Nintendo’s protection measures and runs illegal copies of games. Using illegal emulators or illegal copies of games harms development and ultimately stifles innovation. Nintendo respects the intellectual property rights of other companies, and in turn expects others to do the same.”

Dolphin is yet to make a statement in response to Nintendo’s claim against their use of the Wii Common Key, and Dolphin will remain off Steam while the case gets hashed out, but its GitHub and website remain unaffected at the time of writing. 

TRG has reached out to Valve for comment, as stated in our original story, but we are yet to receive a reply. We will update both stories should we receive a response.  

Kara Phillips
Evergreen Writer

Kara is an Evergreen writer at TechRadar Gaming. With a degree in Journalism and a passion for the weird and wonderful, she's spent the last few years as a freelance video game journalist, with bylines at NintendoLife, Attack of the Fanboy, Prima Games, and sister publication, GamesRadar+. Outside of gaming, you'll find her re-watching Gilmore Girls or trying to cram yet another collectible onto a shelf that desperately needs some organizing.