Whelp, it’s happened. An open source Nintendo Switch emulator called Yuzu is now out in the wild causing some folks to cheer while also causing some widespread panic among many consumers as well. Before I get into the specifics, let’s explore the two (really 3) sides of folks excitement and concern for emulation. For one side that’s excited, this sort of stuff combined with homebrew allows them to dump their games to their PC and play them while creating custom modifications. This could be texture packs, 4k and 60fps upgrades, or even the ability to custom make your DLC like content. It also more readily and easily makes dumping assets easier, leading to custom animations with in game models and lots of cool stuff we have seen happen over the years.
The other side excited about this is the side that simply doesn’t want to or can’t afford to buy a Switch or games for the Switch. Thus they hope to download an illegal ROM and play it – yes, any method of obtaining a ROM you did not create yourself is in fact, illegal, and it is then illegal to play that ROM. But if you created the ROM yourself and palyed it, that falls into legal grey area and there are court cases on record that have set a precedent that doing that is allowed, as there are no direct damages done to the copyright holder, Nintendo, as said person bought the game already.
It’s this second group of excited people that creates group 3, the ones supremely worried about what this could mean, but often time these fears are slightly misplaced. What often gets cited in this worried group is the PSP, which did sell 80 million copies, but the game sales were rather meager in comparison and the system was widely hacked and many owners were just freely playing PSP games they downloaded ROMS of for free natively on the PSP through things like homebrew. What you’ll notice here however is that we’re not talking about emulation in this case, as you’re using the given hardware to play it. So when cases crop up like this that kill game sales (and it’s pretty rare), the emulation community isn’t to blame.
That being said, that group still has a right to be upset of course, because people playing games illegally on their PC or what have you may not actually impact sales as that person was never going to buy the games, but what it can do is lead Nintendo and other companies to use more DRM like measures, which hurts game pirates but also actual consumers too. It’s a slippery slope, but for the most part emulation has never actually harmed the whole of the gaming market. An emulator exists for every paltform ever made and yet new platforms continue to be made, as are new games.
That brings us to the news of today, which if you haven’t watched the video above, is that an open-source Switch emulator has now released called Yuzu. It cannot currently play Switch games, nor can it load most of them in general. Some of them will “load”, but you still can’t do anything as the GPU features are currently not implement which is what allows the display of 3D rendered visuals. So at this juncture, it’s mostly a tool to help develop applications and little side games for homebrew, but the ability to play games is priority one and will likely still be another year before we can get a single Switch game to run stabily. These things take time, as is evidenced by the fact the Yuzu emulator has been in the works since early 2017 and has only just now had any sort of public version released.
The emulator itself is based on the Citra emulator for 3DS and some of the main people who created that emulator are behind this one. There is more information and a download for it on the official website. And for those wondering, yes, this emulator is legal (as are any emulator not using original code of the system they are emulating).