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Nintendo Wii and GameCube emulator Dolphin cancels Steam launch

Dolphin will no longer launch on Steam, as the team requires permission from Nintendo.
dolphin emulator steam nintendo controversy

The team behind the Dolphin game emulator has announced the cancellation of the program’s launch on Steam, following weeks of negotiation with Valve and Nintendo. Originally, the emulator, which can play GameCube and Wii games on PC, was planned for a native launch – but controversy arose when it was discovered that it included access to the proprietary Wii Common Key used to decrypt Nintendo Wii games.

While Dolphin had previously announced a delay to the program’s launch on Steam, it has now announced its outright cancellation and detailed exactly why it’s ‘impossible’ for the program to launch on Steam, despite Dolphin not technically breaking any laws.

Per the Dolphin team, when it began to process of uploading the program to Steam, the legal department of Steam owner, Valve, contacted Nintendo to enquire about the planned release, as Dolphin is capable of emulating Nintendo games, and has developed a reputation for being used in this manner.

A layer representing Nintendo reportedly told Valve to prevent Dolphin from releasing on the platform, citing copyright claims. Nintendo reportedly did not send Valve or Dolphin a specific DMCA. Rather, via correspondence with Valve, the company sent a request not to publish the program.

Read: Nintendo shuts down Steam launch of Dolphin Emulator

Valve then reportedly contacted Dolphin to inform the team that their program could only launch with the explicit permission of Nintendo – which the Dolphin team acknowledged would be impossible ‘given Nintendo‘s long-held stance on emulation’.

In the past, Nintendo has taken a hard stance against it, as a sweeping majority of emulators violate existing copyright protections for games by including proprietary software, and the capability of playing pirated games by circumventing code and other barriers.

Nintendo reportedly alleged that Dolphin had violated the law by ‘using proprietary cryptographic keys’ in a way that ‘circumvent[s] a technological measure the effectively controls access to a work protected under the Copyright Act’.

Dolphin’s consultation with lawyers reportedly revealed this was not the case, as Dolphin is not designed to circumvent protections – but regardless, Valve’s requirement for the team to get explicit permission from Nintendo has ruled a Steam future impossible.

Going forward, Dolphin will remain available as the team does ‘not believe that Dolphin is in any legal danger’. Only its Steam launch has been cancelled, and the team plans to continue operation of the program on other fronts.

Leah J. Williams is a gaming and entertainment journalist who's spent years writing about the games industry, her love for The Sims 2 on Nintendo DS and every piece of weird history she knows. You can find her tweeting @legenette most days.