The team behind GameCube and Wii emulator Dolphin has announced it is “abandoning” its efforts to release the product on Steam.
Valve’s requirement is for the Dolphin team “to get approval from Nintendo” for a Steam release, and this is believed to be “impossible”.
“Valve ultimately runs the store and can set any condition they wish for software to appear on it. But given Nintendo’s long-held stance on emulation, we find Valve’s requirement for us to get approval from Nintendo for a Steam release to be impossible. Unfortunately, that’s that.”
This decision follows the announcement back in May that the emulator’s Steam release had been “indefinitely postponed” after Valve’s legal department contacted Nintendo, and a lawyer on behalf of NoA requested the product was not released, citing DMCA law.
Nintendo’s letter to Valve: “We specifically request that Dolphin’s “coming soon” notice be removed and that you ensure the emulator does not release on the Steam store moving forward.”
As for the emulator making use of “proprietary cryptographic keys” and including the “Wii Common Key”, according to the Dolphin team the letter apparently “did not make any claims” the developers were violating US copyright by including this key, and the Dolphin emulator is not believed to be in “any legal danger”.
After consulting legal council, the Dolphin team believes it would have a “very strong argument” in court that Dolphin is not designed for the “purpose of circumventing protection”, as only “an incredibly tiny portion” of code is related to circumvention – additionally, “GameCube games aren’t actually encrypted” and the emulator can also play homebrew & mods.
“Considering that only a small fraction of what we do involves circumvention, we think that the claim that we are “primarily for circumvention” is a reach. We do not believe this angle would be successful in a US courtroom, if it were ever to come to that.”
Although the Steam release has now been axed, “some of the features being developed” for this version will still be released in the regular Dolphin build, such as ‘Big Picture’ mode with controller support and various quality-of-life improvements.
You can get the full rundown about how everything unfolded in our previous coverage and on the Dolphin blog, but in short – the Steam release is no longer happening.