The developers behind the popular 3DS emulator Citra have now announced an emulator for the Nintendo Switch called Yuzu. This moment was inevitable, though most people probably did not expect a Switch emulator to arrive so quickly after the hybrid game console's launch just 10 months. Nevertheless, it's here, albeit the initial release is based on experimental open-source code.
"It is written in C++ with portability in mind, with builds actively maintained for Windows, Linux, and macOS," the Yuzu team states. "The emulator is currently only useful for homebrew development and researcher purposes."
Part of the reason why something like Yuzu can exist (and arrive so quickly) is because Nintendo opted to use NVIDIA's Tegra X1 hardware platform for the Switch, rather than its own proprietary hardware. Developers and hackers alike are now very much familiar with the Tegra X1.
As for what Yuzu will ultimately bring to the table, that remains to be seen. There is reason to be optimistic though, if you are into this sort of thing. The development team did a great job with Citra, and given that the Switch is based on familiar hardware, there is reason to believe that Yuzu will turn out just as good. We will have to wait and see—for now, Yuzu does not run any commercial games.
Interestingly enough, we have already seen one of the most popular Switch games, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, running on PC. That's because it was also released on the Wii U, which paved the way for running on PC via the Cemu emulator, and rendered at 4K resolution, no less.
None of this will come as good news for Nintendo. While emulator developers argue that fair use applies (provided you own the game you are emulating on another platform), Nintendo is very much against the practice. There is an entire FAQ on the subject on Nintendo's website that covers the various aspects of emulation and ROMs.
"The introduction of emulators created to play illegally copied Nintendo software represents the greatest threat to date to the intellectual property rights of video game developers. As is the case with any business or industry, when its products become available for free, the revenue stream supporting that industry is threatened. Such emulators have the potential to significantly damage a worldwide entertainment software industry which generates over $15 billion annually, and tens of thousands of jobs," Nintendo states.
As Nintendo sees it, the legality is the same whether a person owns the game or not—it is illegal to download and play a Nintendo ROM from the web, "it's that simple and not open to debate."