from the whoopsie! dept
Buckle in, because there are essentially two ways to write this post but both of them start off the same way. Regular readers here will be familiar with Nintendo’s now years-long war on emulation. The whole thing is ultimately quite stupid, because there is no indication that emulator and ROM sites ever really had a negative impact on Nintendo’s business. Despite that, first with the release of Nintendo retro-consoles and then back catalog games on modern platforms like the Switch, Nintendo went on a legal and DMCA spree trying to end Nintendo emulation on the internet so it could, in some cases, release its own far shittier product. The point here is that, no matter the context, Nintendo hates the idea of having its games emulated.
So imagine the company’s reaction to when Valve released a video showing off how useful its Steam Deck handheld console is, while including a cameo for a Nintendo Switch emulator!
You had to be pretty eagle-eyed to spot the reference in the less than three-minute YouTube clip, but Twitter gaming insider Nibel did, and pointed it out in a tweet that immediately blew up. The Yuzu thumbnail on the home screen is only visible for a split second, but it’s absolutely there, and presumably was downloaded by whoever at Valve assisted in making the YouTube video.
Before the end of the day, Valve removed the video and swapped it with a new one in which the Yuzu thumbnail has been replaced by art for Portal 2. But the damage was done: One of the biggest gaming companies in the world had officially broached the taboo subject of video game emulation. “Streisand effect is strong with this one,” wrote one commenter. “I will definitely be emulating Switch on the Steam Deck.”
And here’s where we could choose a path on what we believe or don’t believe about how this all went down. On the one hand, Valve was very quick to remove the video and replace it with one sans the emulator appearance. It’s also entirely reasonable to think that whoever had put the video together in the first place hadn’t really paid attention to the icons that were appearing on the Deck and didn’t think anything of releasing the video. And we’ve seen many, many times that even tech companies don’t understand the Streisand Effect, or attempt to elude it.
If the above is true, then Valve accidentally notified the world of a useful feature of the Steam Deck: the ability to run emulators. This also doesn’t really represent a major threat to Nintendo, as emulating the Switch on the Deck is not really a replacement for a Switch generally. At most, you’ll have some really dedicated pirates, but far more tinkerers and hobbyists, checking out how it all works. One big happy accident that doesn’t really harm Nintendo.
Or, if you’re the tin-foil hat type of folk, Valve did all of this on purpose and only pantomimed the scramble to replace the video to take advantage of the Streisand Effect. It’s not like there isn’t a market already for emulation on the Steam Deck, after all.
The Steam Deck, meanwhile, has become a hotspot for all types of other emulation besides the Switch, including the Game Boy Advance, GameCube, and PS2. If you’ve ever heard anyone espouse the virtues of Valve’s new Switch competitor, its capable emulation abilities have likely been listed among its main perks. Normally Valve doesn’t make that explicit, however. I can only imagine how quickly founder Gabe Newell started getting phone calls from Nintendo’s lawyers, though of course we don’t currently have any evidence the latter was involved in getting the video taken down.
Personally, I don’t believe this was done purposefully. As they say, it’s always better to assume incompetence as opposed to malicious intent. But at the end of the day, emulation on a Steam Deck simply doesn’t replace the console versions of Nintendo’s products. I do expect Nintendo to freak out about this… but it shouldn’t.