Denuvo DRM that nobody likes now available for Nintendo players, too

Mario doing some hat tricks
(Image credit: Nintendo)

Sorry, Switch fans. This is one port no one was begging for: Irdeto, the company behind anti-piracy tool Denuvo, announced on Wednesday that it's bringing "Nintendo Switch Emulator Protection" to the console, pairing a very popular gaming handheld with a very unpopular bit of DRM.

Denuvo's PC DRM implementation has been criticized for years now for harming game performance, which the company has always denied. In our own testing of Final Fantasy 15 back in 2018, we found no performance impact—but other games have shown players had good reason to be worried. A cracked version of Resident Evil Village ran better with Denuvo removed, and last year 4X strategy game Humankind dropped Denuvo before launch because the performance of its implementation "was not good enough."

Even if Denuvo only occasionally affects performance, that possibility hangs over any PC game that uses it like an ugly specter.

While the company behind Denuvo calls it an anti-piracy tool, the announcement of its new Switch DRM ignorantly lumps in completely legal emulation with piracy. Just look at how it introduces its new tool in this press release

"Even if a game is protected against piracy on its PC version, the released version on Switch can be emulated from day one and played on PC, therefore bypassing the strong protections offered on the PC version. This can happen with any of the numerous games available on Switch."

The press release goes on to say it will "block unauthorized emulations on PC." Which, again, are legal—Switch emulator Yuzu even has a walkthrough on how to dump your own games from your own Switch. "Unauthorized" is not the same thing as illegal. If you rip your own Switch game, you should be able to play it on PC.

Piracy exists, of course. But so do Switch and PC owners who want to play a new game at better than 720p and an unstable 30 frames per second, which the Switch's 5-year-old hardware can barely manage on many games today. It's definitely how I hope to experience the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Thanks to emulation, there have been some hilarious and extremely impressive Breath of the Wild mods on PC over the years.

Given Denuvo's rocky performance history on PC, I can't imagine any Switch players being happy to see it arrive on the console just to stop them from playing Switch games on another platform. Irdeto hasn't named any publishing partners that will be using the tool at this time.

In response to the announcement, Switch emulator Ryujinx tweeted "We will continue developing an emulation platform for Switch game preservation & enhancement, upon which consumers may enjoy their games both now and beyond the lifecycle of the console itself."

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).