Nintendo has issued DMCA takedowns for emulators that allow users to extract games from their Switch.
The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom leaked early last week, with images of physical copies of the game being shared, followed by pirated versions of the game appearing on torrent sites. Naturally, Nintendo moved swiftly to clamp down on all this, seeking to prevent the game being shared, as well as thwacking content streamers with the naughty stick if they dared to show portions of the game.
Now, Nintendo has gone a step further by blocking the software used to extract game files from a Switch console. Over the weekend, it issued a DMCA takedown notice to the code repository Github, asking for the removal of software called Lockpick, which is used to pull game files from the Switch so they can be used on a PC. Some in the emulation community were aghast, pointing out that they should be able to do as they please with files from their own Switch. But Nintendo’s DMCA notice points out that Lockpick bypasses the console’s protection measures, permitting “unauthorized access to, extraction of, and decryption of all the cryptographic keys, including product keys, contained in the Nintendo Switch”. And of course, once extracted, the files can be illegally shared.
The takedown of Lockpick has already led to the cancellation of one project: Skyline Emulator, which was aiming to make Nintendo Switch games playable on Android phones. Other emulation projects will no doubt be similarly affected.
The clamp down on Lockpick is yet another skirmish in the ongoing war between big gaming companies and emulators. On the one hand, it’s easy to understand that Nintendo is rather miffed at seeing its biggest game of the year being pirated willy-nilly, and there’s an obvious case to be made for Nintendo protecting its interests.
On the other hand, there’s a strong argument that emulation is the only way to preserve video games for posterity: indeed, when Nintendo took down the Wii U and 3DS eShop earlier this year, it cut off access to many games that cannot be played anywhere else.