No Chill Nintendo Gets YouTube Videos Yanked That Show Switch Game Emulation On Steam Deck
The international gaming giant, Nintendo, is not known for being friendly towards emulators in general, especially when it comes to zealously protecting its IP. In addition, recent activity from the company indicates that attitude does not look to be changing any time soon. Thanks to the PC-esque nature of Valve's Steam Deck, several people have been able to successfully run emulators on the device. Some of those people have also taken the time to record and publish YouTube videos of how to install the emulators, and Nintendo has been pushing to get those videos taken down.
Emulation, if you weren't aware, is a method of providing the ability to run an app via a piece of additional shim software of sorts, that emulates the original hardware that the app was built for. For example, if you needed to Excel 2.0 for some reason, which was a DOS application, you could not run it on a moderns Windows PC today, you would need to emulate DOS and the capabilities of the hardware of the era. Though Excel is not as great an example of something like a video game needing era-specific hardware, basically a modern processor operates at clock speeds millions of times faster than a processor of the early 90s or late 80s vintage. If you were to try to run Lemmings, for example, from the original release, it would operate all functionality so quickly that it becomes impossible to play. The same kind of rules apply for console emulation, additionally, a good portion of code for classic games from consoles just does not execute by default on a modern PC processor.
While Nintendo has tried to claim repeatedly that emulation is illegal, in the United States it's not, so long as the firmware of the original hardware platform is not utilized in the process. Even then, that is stealing code, and not related to emulation itself. The next thing that Nintendo tried to do is claim that ROMs are illegal. ROMs are the data type in which classic games are typically stored on cartridges, but having ROMs themselves as backups of games you already own is completely legal under US law. This is also why ripping CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Rays to your PC is completely legal, though redistributing them is not.
So why is Nintendo up in arms about people using the Steam Deck to emulate and run its original game titles if emulation is legal? Unfortunately, emulation is often paired with piracy of game software, as while it does allow you to play your own backups, it can also enable gamers to play the backups of others or copies they haven't ever purchased. This falls under the redistribution of copywritten materials, which is of course illegal. Though even that aspect does not seem to be Nintendo's biggest concern right now.
The issue at hand seems to be that people are essentially emulating the Nintendo Switch, the best-selling console Nintendo has ever had. Because this is Nintendo's current console, this means people have been able to play current games on the Steam Deck, potentially without purchasing a Nintendo Switch, and that equates to taking revenue right out of Nintendo's pocket, which any major corporation would not tolerate. Of course, Nintendo isn't earning itself any goodwill either, with its recent statement where the ability to play classic games on the Wii U and 3DS may just go away in the future, before changing its tune and quietly removing it. Who knows if Twitter users, who have taken to posting how Nintendo has been abusing the DMCA, will have any affect on legislation related to this matter in the future.