Scammers Are Peddling a Fake Nintendo Switch Emulator

Don't fall for it.

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Mar 14 2017, 3:10pm

Nintendo isn't the only company making it rain as a result of the glowing critical reception to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Online scammers are now advertising phony Nintendo Switch emulators on places like YouTube and GitHub, the popular open source software repository. Said to be under "heavy development," the phony emulator, which is called the "Switch Emulator," purports to play Switch games, including BOTW, on your Windows PC. Don't download it! When you attempt to download it you're whisked away to your choice of ad-laden webpages, thereby generating mountains of rupees for the scammers.

This pops up when you click "download." Image: Nicholas Deleon/Motherboard

"To date, there is no Switch emulator, and the only legit Wii U emulators I know of are Cemu and Decaf," tomkatt, a moderator of Reddit's popular /r/emulation subreddit, told me. Cemu, whose developers Motherboard interviewed last week, works for Windows PCs, and can actually run BOTW in significantly higher resolutions, including 4K, than the Switch. Decaf cannot currently play BOTW but, unlike Cemu, is open source, meaning any developer can inspect its underlying source and offer suggestions on how to improve it.

While the behavior of the people behind "Switch Emulator" may seem particularly craven, in truth they are just the latest in a long line of scammers who latch onto current events in order to take advantage of unsuspecting people.

"It's not uncommon for cybercriminals to use the allure of the latest game or app as a trap to take advantage of everyday consumers," Gary Davis, Chief Consumer Security Evangelist, Intel Security, told me. "It's important to do your homework by checking out app reviews and researching the legitimacy of websites before downloading anything to your devices."

"Switch Emulator" on the left with Dolphin on the right. Image: Nicholas Deleon/Motherboard

In the case of "Switch Emulator" that may be easier said than done, particularly for gamers so desperate to play Nintendo's latest masterpiece that they ignore obvious warning signs. A YouTube video purporting to show the emulator in action has been viewed by a healthy number of people (more than 38,000 at time of writing), with comment after comment saying, effectively, "This works! Awesome!" The homepage for the emulator also looks above board, with copious "screenshots" of BOTW in action and links to open source-sounding items like "issue trackers" readily visible. Heck, the user interface of the emulator even looks real—that is, until you realize it's merely a palette swap of Dolphin, the excellent GameCube and Wii emulator (seen above).

"Breathe" of the Wild. Image: Nicholas Deleon/Motherboard

It's a shame, then, that the people behind "Switch Emulator," who did not respond to a YouTube message seeking comment, couldn't be bothered to spell check their work: the homepage advertises the ability to play The Legend of Zelda: Breathe of the Wild. Sad!

"Large events like product launches, whether it be just rumors or official announcements, have always been a popular vehicle for scammers over the years," Satnam Narang, Senior Security Response Manager, Norton by Symantec, told me. "If you want to play games on the Nintendo Switch without getting scammed, your best option is to buy a Nintendo Switch."