Nintendo Switch developers can now use Denuvo to curb piracy

This is the first security partner to be added to the dev portal.

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Don’t tell anyone, but the Nintendo Switch emulation scene has been thriving pretty much since day one, due to an early hardware vulnerability. It’s relatively simple to pirate Switch titles and play them on PCs, portable consoles like the Steam Deck and even lower-powered Android phones. This is a problem for the big N, and it’s addressing it by partnering up with cybersecurity company Irdeto and its anti-tampering software suite Denuvo.

Denuvo is one of the more popular software suites to minimize tampering and associated emulation. This is a middleware that developers pay for and integrate into the actual game code, thus making it much harder to emulate on other devices. The tools are common with PC titles but, until now, were unavailable for Switch developers.

Though Denuvo is useful beyond the prevention of emulation, that seems to be the primary intent here, with Irdeto touting a new dev portal called the Nintendo Switch Emulation Protection program. The company calls it a “revolutionary technology to protect games launching on Nintendo Switch from piracy.” It also notes that Switch piracy hurts PC sales as well, as the games pirated from Nintendo’s console are playable on PC, bypassing Steam, Epic and other official online retailers.

Now, this might be good news for Switch devs, but Denuvo has a spotty track record, despite boasting that it has protected more than 1,000 games from emulation. This is DRM software, plain and simple, so it’s known to slow down performance when installed, leading some publishers to actually remove the middleware post-launch. Additionally, there’s been some high-priority misfires with the software, with hackers cracking Middle-Earth: Shadow of War in less than a day, and that’s with Denuvo installed. It’s also known for being quite expensive, likely putting the software out of reach for smaller studios and development teams.

The Nintendo Switch is over six years old, with a successor expected in the nearish future. In other words, why did this take so long? Nobody knows. Like it or not, the developers portal goes live this week.