There are many reasons why people buy steam decks, Valve’s new portable gaming PC. This allows them to take their favorite Steam games with them. Others use it to get the most out of Xbox Game Pass on PC. And some people use it to run a Nintendo Switch emulator called Yuzu. Valve acknowledged this in a recent YouTube video demonstrating an HDMI dock very similar to the Switch.
You had to be very keen to spot a reference in a less than three-minute YouTube clip, but Twitter game insider Nibel did, and pointed it out on twitter which immediately exploded. The Yuzu thumbnail on the main screen is only visible for a fraction of a second, but it’s absolutely there, and was presumably uploaded by someone at Valve who helped make the YouTube video.
By the end of the day, Valve removed the video and changed to a new one in which Yuzu’s thumbnail was replaced with an image for Portal 2. But the damage has been done: one of the world’s largest game companies has officially addressed the taboo topic of video game emulation. “The Streisand effect is stronger with this,” one commenter wrote. “I will definitely imitate the Switch in the Steam Deck.”
As an emulator, Yuzu allows people to play Switch games on non-Switch devices. Traditionally this meant PC, but due to Valve and flow of others portable gaming pc entering the market, now there are other options. While some people are likely to pirate any Switch games they use an emulator for, it’s also possible to legally buy a Switch game, reset the ROM on a PC, and then use Yuzu or another emulator to run it, often in higher resolution and frame rate than is possible on a Nintendo device. (It’s more common for people who want to support the developers of a game to pay for the game and then download the ROM separately, which isn’t strictly legal, but a lot of people think it’s bullshit.)
Mario However, historically the manufacturer has taken a very hard line on any form of emulation. Once the DS and 3DS were hacked, they became notorious breeding grounds for piracy, not just for old and obsolete games, but for new ones as well. Earlier this year, anti-piracy firm Denuvo announced a new set of products is designed specifically for developers with games on Switch, promising to protect them from trying to play them anywhere else with a new type of proprietary DRM.
steam deck, meanwhile, has become the hotspot for all types of other emulations beyond the Switch, including the Game Boy Advance, GameCube, and PS2. If you’ve ever heard anyone back the virtues of Valve’s new Switch rival, its emulation abilities were probably listed among its main strengths. However, Valve usually doesn’t make this explicit. I can only imagine how quickly founder Gabe Newell started getting phone calls from Nintendo’s lawyers, although of course we currently have no evidence that the latter was involved in the video’s removal.
Valve and Nintendo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.