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Emulation Devastation

By Kyan Wang April 4, 2024


87% of retro video games have disappeared in a few short decades. Nintendo, the world’s most iconic video game company, has decided that setting fire to its history is the best way forward by suing the developers of Yuzu and Citra, two video game emulators for the Nintendo Switch and Nintendo 3DS platforms respectively, crippling video game preservation efforts.


Video games have historically been limited by hardware, and when the said hardware disappears off shelves, an entire library of games is inaccessible without buying costly—and limited—secondhand items. To combat this, programmers have created video game emulators—often open-source—that mimic consoles, allowing otherwise unplayable video games to be played on modern hardware. However, the actual games are not included with most open source projects due to copyright concerns, necessitating the extraction of game data from genuine cartridges, which may be difficult and expensive to obtain for the masses.


Piracy emerged as a solution to the unavailability of physical copies, as the data ripped from old games is shared online to increase reach. While extracting video game data from your own game is not illegal, distributing it is, resulting in limitations on library style services sharing video games online. Nintendo owns the rights on its published games, and sued the developers of Yuzu and Citra for “facilitating piracy at a colossal scale” of its intellectual property, per lawsuit documents. Notably, Yuzu emulates a device still being sold by Nintendo, which Nintendo claims encourages piracy of its games. A settlement was reached between Tropic Haze LLC, the company behind Yuzu and Citra, and Nintendo for $2.4 million.


The future of emulation is in question as big companies can profit by releasing their own emulators with their own games, as Nintendo has with its Nintendo Switch Online subscription. However, the service provides access to only a small fraction of Nintendo’s historical library, and none past the 16-bit era. Newer platforms such as the Nintendo WiiU and even older ones like the Nintendo 64 remain Although Nintendo’s claims of piracy were based in reality, the lawsuit struck a huge blow to video game preservation because the now obsolete 3DS hardware provided millions of gamers with a way to play thousands of games without shelling out a fortune.


If companies continue to strike at emulators without providing viable solutions, older video games may never see the light of day and be recognized by the masses, especially if companies continue to crack down on existing projects hoping to make a quick buck. Emulator developers are operating at great risk, and if their work may be ruined by companies so thoroughly at a whim, the progress of existing emulators may slow and one day halt entirely.

 

About the Contributors

Kyan Wang

Science and Technology and Feature US Page Editor


Kyan Wang is a junior at Leland High School and is the page editor for Science & Tech and Feature US for The Charger Account. When not being crushed by imminent deadlines, he enjoys listening to music, wasting away on his computer, and running on the rare occasion that he is not debilitatingly injured.


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