Dolphin says Nintendo has blocked a Steam release of its Wii and GameCube emulator

The Steam launch of Dolphin, an open-source emulator for the Wii and the GameCube, has been postponed indefinitely (via PC gamer). A blog post from the developers says this is due to a Nintendo “ceasing citing the DMCA” (a earlier version of the blog post just said “issued a DMCA” but it has since been updated) after they did announced plans for a Steam launch in March.

It is with great disappointment that we have to announce that the release of Dolphin on Steam has been postponed indefinitely. We have been notified by Valve that Nintendo has issued a ceasefire citing the DMCA against Dolphin’s Steam page, and have removed Dolphin from Steam until the matter is resolved. We are currently exploring our options and will have a more in-depth response in the near future.

We appreciate your patience in the meantime.

Pierre Bourdon, who says he was involved with Dolphin in various capacities for over 10 years and is mentioned in Valve’s email, writes in a series of Mastodon posts that the notice was the result of a back-and-forth with Nintendo initiated by Steam and did not constitute a DMCA notice, calling the action “just standard legal takedowns/C&D between two companies”.

One element Nintendo uses to justify its request to block Dolphin lies in the distribution of the Wii AES-128 disk encryption, according to Bourdon. Instead of asking users to provide the key themselves, for years the software ships with the Wii’s “common key” embedded in the source code.

Bourdon wrote on Mastodon that, unlike a simple DMCA takedown, Dolphin’s makers have no legal means of pushing back in this case. This leaves the group at the whim of Valve, who it believes Nintendo could have ignored at this stage without any repercussions.

We’ve reached out to Valve, Nintendo, and The Dolphin Emulator Project for further comment.

At least one other emulator, , exists on the Steam platform, although that software doesn’t work quite the same way as Dolphin. Where Dolphin directly emulates the GameCube and Wii consoles, RetroArch serves as a frontend into which emulator “cores” can be loaded, giving users one central place to configure software settings for their emulators.