Nintendo seems to have fired back over the Tears of the Kingdom leak by DMCAing popular Switch emulation tools

Ganondorf yelling with the gem in his forehead glowing
(Image credit: Nintendo)

First reported by GBAtemp, it looks like Nintendo is aggressively responding to the Tears of the Kingdom leak by targeting key portions of the Switch emulation ecosystem, namely the Lockpick and Lockpick_RCM programs that dump Switch game decryption keys and allow emulators like Yuzu and Ryujinx to decrypt and open the game files.

The first indication of this move came from developer and security researcher Simon Aarons on Twitter, who attempted to fork the Lockpick repository on Github (i.e. make a copy of the source files to iterate and experiment on them). Aaron received a copy of the DMCA request sent to GitHub over Lockpick and Lockpick_RCM, though there may be other projects affected. At the time of writing, Lockpick remains accessible on GitHub, though GBAtemp notes that there could be a grace period before the site acts on any takedown requests.

The alleged Nintendo takedown request shared by Aaron and another Twitter user, @llIllIIIlII1, argues that "The reported repository offers and provides access to circumvention software that infringes Nintendo’s intellectual property rights," and further asserts that "The decrypted keys facilitate copyright infringement by permitting users to play pirated versions of Nintendo’s copyright-protected game software on systems without Nintendo’s Console TPMs or systems on which Nintendo’s Console TPMs have been disabled." I have reached out to Nintendo for confirmation that it issued these takedown requests, and will update the story if I hear back.

Lockpick has been around for some time, and it's hard to see the move as anything other than the publisher striking out at the Switch modding and emulation community in response to the two week-early leak of Tears of the Kingdom, the highly anticipated next installment of The Legend of Zelda series. The move seems to have already had ripple effects in the Switch emulation scene: GBAtemp reports that the developers of a Switch emulator for Android, Skyline, have ceased development and released the source code for their in-progress work online, citing greater scrutiny from Nintendo and potential action against them in the future.

Dumping your own games and emulating them is legal, it's just any subsequent distribution of those files that's legally actionable. Nintendo argues that Lockpick undermines its copyright and security measures, while Lockpick has a legitimate place as a tool for dumping one's own Switch games for emulation, often resulting in superior performance to what you get on the original hardware.

Whatever the potential legal defense you could make for Lockpick, it's unlikely the team behind it has any practical recourse in the face of this takedown request. At the same time, there are countless other untold instances of Lockpick out there in the wild already, and new solutions will inevitably spring up. Tears of the Kingdom is also already playable on PC, meaning that Switch emulators like Yuzu and Ryujinx will likely be able to field optimized versions of the game with superior performance to the Switch at or around launch.

This also isn't the first time Nintendo has aggressively thrown its legal weight around when it comes to Zelda modding and emulation recently. Last month, the company went after Breath of the wild modder and YouTuber PointCrow after he released a multiplayer hack for BotW on emulators. 

Associate Editor

Ted has been thinking about PC games and bothering anyone who would listen with his thoughts on them ever since he booted up his sister's copy of Neverwinter Nights on the family computer. He is obsessed with all things CRPG and CRPG-adjacent, but has also covered esports, modding, and rare game collecting. When he's not playing or writing about games, you can find Ted lifting weights on his back porch.