Dolphin Emulator: All you need to know about the controversy

Dolphin Emulator logo, featuring a blue dolphin graphic art.

If you are interested in retro games or older consoles, you have probably heard about the growing controversy about the Steam release of the Dolphin Emulator. This looks like a huge impact on both Nintendo gamers and the gaming industry as a whole. Without further ado, let’s find out what is the controversy between Nintendo, Steam, and Dolphin Emulator.

What is Dolphin Emulator?

Let’s start by exploring what Dolphin emulator is. Dolphin is an open-source emulator for Nintendo GameCube and Wii, which lets you play console games on PC.

Dolphin Emulator has been growing more and more popular over many years to the extent of becoming the fan favourite emulator. Dolphin supports connecting both genuine Nintendo controllers and other controllers such as Xbox and Playstation, which contributes much to the experience.

Problems between Steam, Nintendo, and Dolphin Emulator

When Steam released Steam Deck, it got immensely popular to the point that Dolphin Emulator decided to release a special version on Steam that is compatible to run GameCube and Wii games on Steam Deck. If you want to play older games, emulating most consoles on your computer is OK.

On the other hand, if you want to emulate Wii, one has to gain a crucial cryptographic key to illegally bypass the copyright protection on Wii (not GameCube) and this is exactly what Dolphin did. Dolphin Emulator somehow acquired this licensed cryptographic key to be able to emulate games, which is a clearly illegal situation.

Following this event, Valve’s legal department notified Nintendo about the announced release of Dolphin Emulator on Steam, resulting in Nintendo’s lawyers contacting Valve about preventing Dolphin’s release on the Steam store, citing the DMCA as justification.

Valve then forwarded the statement from Nintendo’s lawyers to Dolphin, telling the two sides should come to an agreement. After serious considerations about abandoning their efforts to release, Dolphin ultimately removed their emulator from Steam indefinitely without any legal trouble caused between the sides.

Will Dolphin Emulator shut down?

This situation feels like a blow to the gut for Dolphin and even though this situation looks awful for them, it is not the worst possible scenario. Dolphin Emulator got removed from Steam, meaning it lost a very large number of potential users, but didn’t shut down completely so works as usual when downloaded from their website. The only downside affecting us is GameCube and Wii games won’t be able to be played on handheld computers such as Steam Deck.

There are also rumours going on among console enthusiasts that Nintendo Switch Pro or any newer model could support old console games, so who knows… In any case, we’ll keep an eye out for any new updates and let you know how new events will turn out.

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