A few months ago, the developers of the Wii/GameCube emulator Dolphin announced that they were postponing the planned release on Steam indefinitely after Nintendo requested Valve, the Steam’s owner, to remove the emulator’s page “soon.” This week, after consulting with a lawyer, the Dolphin team informs that they have decided to completely abandon their plans of distributing Dolphin on Steam.

In the end, Valve controls the store and can set any conditions for software to appear in it,” – the team wrote in their blog on Thursday. “Ultimately, Valve is the one who manages the Steam storefront, and they have the right to allow or prohibit anything they want in this storefront for any reason.”

The Dolphin team also emphasizes that this decision was not the result of an official DMCA notice sent by Nintendo. Instead, Valve reached out to Nintendo to inquire about the planned release of Dolphin, and then Nintendo’s lawyer referred to the DMCA, asking Valve to remove the page.

At that time, according to the Dolphin team, Valve: “told us that we should reach an agreement with Nintendo to release on Steam… However, considering Nintendo’s long-standing stance on emulation, we believe that Valve’s demand to get permission from Nintendo for a Steam release is impossible. Unfortunately, that’s it.

As for Nintendo, this incident only continues their existing position on emulation,” the post states. “We don’t think this incident should change anyone’s view on any company.


Despite the disappointing outcome regarding the Steam release, the Dolphin team firmly states that “we don’t believe Dolphin is in any legal danger.” This is despite the fact that the emulator contains the Wii common key, which could potentially conflict with the provisions of the DMCA regarding circumvention (as discussed with some lawyers when the issue first arose).

The Dolphin team points out that the Wii common key has been freely available on the internet since its initial discovery and publication in 2008. And although this key has been in the Dolphin codebase since 2009, the team writes that “nobody cares.

Dolphin Emulator Steam Emutori

However, the Dolphin team claims that “only an incredibly tiny portion of our code is actually related to circumvention.” For example, GameCube emulation by Dolphin works with fully unencrypted games, while Wii emulation can be used for homebrew development and whole game mods (some of which have “Dolphin modes” to utilize expanded PC memory and features).

The Dolphin team acknowledges that “the law can easily be interpreted such that any form of disc encryption circumvention is a violation.” Nevertheless, the team writes that including the Wii common key in the source code should not affect the legal analysis. “In fact, we believe that transferring decryption tasks to a potential third-party program would worsen the situation for everyone. Thus, we consider leaving the keys as they are the best course of action.

The team writes that, in their opinion, there is a solid legal basis, and the development of Dolphin will continue outside of Steam, but it will include a range of user interface and quality of life features initially developed for the Steam release. Meanwhile, other emulators like RetroArch and the innovative 3dSen continue to be available on Steam without any signs of further repercussions from Valve or Nintendo.