A Dolphin Emulator Steam Deck release has been teased by the developers of the popular emulation software for Nintendo Wii and GameCube.
Valve's Steam Deck is an upcoming handheld gaming PC that is looking more interesting by the day. First revealed in July 2021, the Steam Deck will work with a wide library of games on Steam thanks to Valve's custom implementation of Proton as the foundation of Steam OS; one of the most recent compatibility announcements was No Man's Sky.
There will be more than just games on the Steam Deck, though. A number of third-party software devs are aiming to make their programs compatible with the Steam Deck and it looks like the Dolphin Emulator is one of them. That should come as no surprise to longtime fans of the emulator -- heck, someone even managed to get it working on a Honda. As in the car.
.@Dolphin_Emu on desktop? Haha, try Dolphin on Honda Pilot 2016, how about that pic.twitter.com/2fWGq9D3g2— Burrito 🌯 (@BurritoSOFTWARE) October 12, 2020
Dolphin Emulator Steam Deck Release Highlights Handheld PC's Power
The Dolphin Emulator Steam Deck release was teased in a tweet from the emulator's official account. The tweet shows an image of the Steam Deck with F-Zero GX, the newest F-Zero game released for a core Nintendo console. (Yes, it's really been almost 20 years since Nintendo has released an F-Zero game on its main console line.)
The Steam Deck's capability to run Windows or non-game software is one of its key points of appeal and something that has not gone unnoticed by the community. Although popular titles such as Fortnite will not officially support the Steam Deck, Valve's platform is open enough that someone may figure out a way to get it working anyway. Somewhat unsurprisingly, other video game journalists had already been exploring Dolphin Emulator Steam Deck functionality.
Our statement on the closure of Nintendo's legacy digital shops. pic.twitter.com/mG5GzuGH4G— Video Game History Foundation (@GameHistoryOrg) February 17, 2022
Importance of Game Preservation Highlighted by Video Game History Foundation
News of a potential Dolphin Emulator Steam Deck release comes at a critical time for game preservation -- Nintendo had recently announced the closure of the WiiU and Nintendo 3DS eShops.
"As of late March 2023, it will no longer be possible to make purchases in Nintendo eShop for the Wii U system and the Nintendo 3DS family of systems," read a support article on Nintendo's website. "It will also no longer be possible to download free content, including game demos."
As Kotaku reports, the first version of that page noted that Nintendo has "no plans to offer classic content in other ways." That section of the F.A.Q. on the support page has since been removed as of the time of writing.
Understandably, this move by Nintendo caused the Video Game History Foundation to come out against the shutdown of the Wii U and 3DS eShops. The game preservation organization categorized the move as "actively destructive to video game history."
"While it is unfortunate that people won't be able to purchase digital 3DS or Wii U games anymore, we understand the business reality that went into this decision. What we don't understand is what path Nintendo expects its fans to take, should they wish to play these games in the future. As a paying member of the Entertainment Software Association, Nintendo actively funds lobbying that prevents even libraries from being able to provide legal access to these games. Not providing commercial access is understandable, but preventing institutional work to preserve these titles on top of that is actively destructive to video game history. We encourage ESA members like Nintendo to rethink their position on this issue and work with existing institutions to find a solution."
The VGHF's stance was expanded in a series of follow-up replies in conversation with The Deep End Games' Creative Director Bill Gardner whose work includes 11 years at Irrational Games and, more recently, development of the upcoming game Romancelvania.
"When libraries ask for an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to allow users to access digit games that are out of print, the ESA and its clients should at least entertain the idea instead of what they're currently doing, which is actively fighting it," the Video Game History Foundation said in a Twitter thread.
"This exemption CURRENTLY EXISTS for other media, including software, as long as the software is not considered a 'game.' Our stance is that this makes no logical sense."
While Nintendo's decision is certainly disappointing, the Dolphin Emulator Steam Deck release shows that emulator developers are continually working to keep their software running on modern devices. Efforts to get the Cemu Wii U Emulator and Citra 3DS emulator (among others) to work on the Steam Deck are surely underway, too -- and that might make the Steam Deck one of the best handheld gaming devices on the market.
What do you think of the Dolphin Emulator Steam Deck teaser? What's your favorite way to play emulated games? Let us know in the comments below!