December 9, 2023

Security software company Denuvo has announced that its protection tech is now available to Switch developers.

The company is the first security partner to be added to the Nintendo Developer Portal, which studios can use to access tools and documentation while developing Switch games.

The first of the tools Denuvo is offering to Switch developers is Nintendo Switch Emulator Protection, a “revolutionary technology to protect games launching on Nintendo Switch from piracy”.

According to Denuvo, the new tech can be applied to Switch games to block the ability to play them on PC emulators.

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

“By blocking unauthorised emulations on PC, studios are able to increase their revenue during the game launch window, which is the most important period for monetisation. The Nintendo Switch Emulator Protection will ensure that anyone wishing to play the game has to buy a legitimate copy.

“As with all other Denuvo solutions, the technology integrates seamlessly into the build toolchain with no impact on the gaming experience. It then allows for the insertion of checks into the code, which blocks gameplay on emulators.”

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Nintendo has been trying to prevent Switch emulation on PC for some time now, and in May it issued multiple DMCA takedown requests to software hosting service GitHub to remove Lockpick, a homebrew tool designed to make it possible to play Switch games on an emulator.

Lockpick is a tool which lets players dump the unique encryption key from their own Switch so it can be used to play backups of Switch games on PC emulators.

While some players claim this is legal for creating their own backups – something Nintendo nevertheless disputes in its takedown claims – one of the steps in playing pirated Nintendo Switch games involves downloading someone else’s encryption key, a number of which are available for download online.

The team working on Switch Android emulator Skyline also announced in May that it had received a DMCA takedown notice from Nintendo, due to its use of Lockpick. The Skyline team chose to cease all development on its emulator “due to the potential legal risks involved”.

Earlier this year, Switch hacker Gary Bowser was released from prison early for his part as a member of a hacking group called Team-Xecuter, which in 2013 began creating and selling circumvention devices enabling users to play illegal ROMs on consoles, including Switch and 3DS.

However, Bowser now has to fulfil the other part of his sentence, in which he has been ordered to pay $14.5 million in damages, of which a $10 million payment to Nintendo is considered the priority.