Switch emulator Yuzu is dead: abruptly settles lawsuit with Nintendo for $2.4 million in an enormous blow to console emulation

Zelda crying in Breath of the Wild
(Image credit: Nintendo)

Last week Nintendo filed a lawsuit against Switch emulator Yuzu, blaming the emulator for mass piracy of 2023's The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom and declaring "there is no lawful way to use Yuzu to play Nintendo Switch games." The developers of Yuzu hired a lawyer, seemingly setting the suit up for the first legal showdown over emulation in more than 20 years. But today Yuzu and Nintendo filed a surprise joint motion to settle the suit, with the Yuzu developers agreeing to pay Nintendo "monetary relief in the sum of $2.4 million."

As a result of the settlement, development of Yuzu will be shut down and cease distribution.

It's a dramatic turn for a case that didn't seem completely certain to go in Nintendo's favor. Sony's early 2000s lawsuits against emulators from Connectix and Bleem! both went in favor of the emulator developers, but advances in technology since then leave a big question mark about how a court would rule on circumventing the Switch's encryption, something that is broadly forbidden by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Nintendo pointedly claimed that Yuzu is "primarily designed to circumvent technological measures," a very specific bit of language that indicates the emulator runs afoul of the DMCA.

It's possible a judge would rule that circumvention isn't the primary purpose of the emulator, just a necessary act of reverse-engineering to, y'know, play videogames. A judgment like that would be a huge win for the legality of emulation of modern systems, while a judgment that went Nintendo's way would threaten many other emulators. A loss could have been extremely expensive for the Yuzu developers—and even a win may have resulted in years of legal fees as the case made its way through the trial and appeal process. Apparently the emulator developers decided a quick settlement was a safer choice.

Today's joint motion states that "Defendant and its members acknowledge and agree that the award of monetary relief here bears a reasonable relationship to the range of damages and attorneys' fees and full costs that the parties could have anticipated would be awarded at and following a trial of this action." As part of the settlement, the Yuzu developers waive any right to appeal the judgment and are bound by a permanent injunction that essentially marks the death of the emulator, at least in the current form. The permanent injunction prevents the developers from:  

  • "Offering to the public, providing, marketing, advertising, promoting, selling, testing, hosting, cloning, distributing, or otherwise trafficking in Yuzu or any source code or features of Yuzu." 
  • "Effecting assignments or transfers, forming new entities or associations, or using any other device for the purpose of circumventing or otherwise avoiding the prohibitions set forth [above]"

The injunction also requires the defendants cease to use the domain Yuzu-emu.org and transfer it to Nintendo's control, and to carry out "the destruction by deletion of all circumvention devices, including all copies of Yuzu" and "all circumvention tools used for developing or using Yuzu" to the extent they can. Effectively, Yuzu is about to be wiped from the internet—at least officially.

Update: In a post on the Yuzu Discord, lead developer Bunnei announced that "yuzu and yuzu’s support of Citra are being discontinued, effective immediately."

The statement continues with language that gives off strong 'we have to say this as part of the legal settlement' energy:

"...we see now that because our projects can circumvent Nintendo’s technological protection measures and allow users to play games outside of authorized hardware, they have led to extensive piracy. In particular, we have been deeply disappointed when users have used our software to leak game content prior to its release and ruin the experience for legitimate purchasers and fans.

"We have come to the decision that we cannot continue to allow this to occur. Piracy was never our intention, and we believe that piracy of video games and on video game consoles should end. Effective today, we will be pulling our code repositories offline, discontinuing our Patreon accounts and Discord servers, and, soon, shutting down our websites. We hope our actions will be a small step toward ending piracy of all creators’ works."

Of course, any piece of software as widely used as Yuzu won't be easy to stamp out of existence completely. The source code has been removed from Github, but archives have already been made and shared among the emulation community. It's possible other developers not associated with the project will carry on Yuzu's work under a new name, but it seems likely the $2.4 million settlement will have a chilling effect on any future development that's likely to draw Nintendo's ire.

The question now is whether Nintendo's decisive win here will lead to lawsuits against other emulators, including Yuzu competitor Ryujinx. Because Nintendo and Yuzu settled before going to trial, the decision has no legal repercussions for how future court cases would rule on emulation and whether it violates the DMCA. But the settlement may set in motion a series of suits against other emulators that can't bear the cost of a drawn-out legal fight with a billion-dollar company.

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).