Yuzu emulator creators reach $2.4 million settlement with Nintendo in record time

Tropic Haze, the popular Yuzu Nintendo Switch emulator developer, seems to have reached an agreement to settle Nintendo’s lawsuit against it. Less than a week after Nintendo filed the legal action, accusing the emulator’s creators of “piracy at a colossal scale,” a joint final judgment and permanent injunction filed Tuesday states that Tropic Haze has agreed to pay the Mario maker $2.4 million, along with a long list of concessions.

Nintendo’s lawsuit alleged that Tropic Haze violated the anti-circumvention and anti-trafficking provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The company stated in its complaint, “Without Yuzu’s decryption of Nintendo’s encryption, unauthorized copies of games could not be played on PCs or Android devices.” It characterized Yuzu as “software primarily designed to circumvent technological measures.”

Yuzu was released in 2018 as free, open-source software for Windows, Linux, and Android. It had the capability to run numerous copyrighted Switch games — including popular titles like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom, Super Mario Odyssey and Super Mario Wonder. Reddit threads comparing Switch emulators praised Yuzu’s performance compared to rivals like Ryujinx. Yuzu introduces various bugs across different titles, but it can typically handle games at higher resolutions than the Switch, often with better frame rates, provided your hardware is powerful enough.

Screenshot from the Yuzu emulator website showing a still from Zelda: Breath of the Wild with a blueprint-style sketch of the Nintendo Switch framing it. Dark gray background.Screenshot from the Yuzu emulator website showing a still from Zelda: Breath of the Wild with a blueprint-style sketch of the Nintendo Switch framing it. Dark gray background.

A screenshot from Yuzu’s website, showing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Tropic Haze / Nintendo)

As outlined in an Exhibit A attached to the proposed joint settlement, Tropic Haze has agreed to a set of provisions. In addition to the $2.4 million payment to Nintendo, it must permanently abstain from “engaging in activities related to offering, marketing, distributing, or trafficking in Yuzu emulator or any similar software that circumvents Nintendo’s technical protection measures.”

Tropic Haze is also required to delete all circumvention devices, tools, and Nintendo cryptographic keys utilized in the emulator and relinquish all circumvention devices and modified Nintendo hardware. It must even transfer ownership of the emulator’s website domain (including any variations or successors) to Nintendo. (The website is currently active, possibly awaiting final approval of the judgment.) Failure to comply with the settlement’s terms could result in Tropic Haze being held in contempt of court, leading to punitive, coercive, and financial repercussions.

Although piracy is a primary motivation for many emulator users, the software can serve as important tools for video game preservation — assisting in the preservation of games for future generations as older hardware becomes more scarce.

Nintendo’s legal team is known for vigorously protecting copyrighted material. In recent times, the company has pursued legal action against Switch piracy websites, sued ROM-sharing website RomUniverse for $2 million, and contributed to the imprisonment of hacker Gary Bowser. Nintendo indirectly impacted the blocking of the Dolphin Wii and GameCube emulator on Steam, due to Valve’s actions. It is evident that Nintendo does not share the same perspective as preservationists regarding the important historical role emulators can play.

Despite the settlement, it seems unlikely that the open-source Yuzu will completely disappear. The emulator is still accessible on GitHub, where its entire codebase is available.

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