Yes, it is perfectly fine to use an emulator on Twitch. The use of emulators is very popular, especially within the speedrunning and retro game communities. The real issue lies in the use of playing specific game ROMs. It is not only against Twitch TOS to play a cracked version of a game, but it is also illegal.
This issue primarily arises from wanting to stream from older discontinued consoles. If you were streaming on a more recent console still in production such as a Nintendo 3DS there are means to do so on Twitch without the use of an emulator. The current availability of a game in stores is irrelevant as to its copyright status. Copyrights do not enter the public domain just because they are no longer commercially exploited or widely available. This means that the copyright of a game is valid even if it is no longer stocked in physical locations and that using or copying said game is a copyright infringement.
Nintendo is notorious for targeting content that infringes on copyright regularly having youtube videos or VODS removed from platforms. If you are using an emulator it is a wise move to not stream the sound of the game as music can be known to trigger a DMCA. There are plenty of copyright-free stream music services and playlists you can use as a substitute.
What Emulators Do Streamers Use?
The specific emulator used by a Twitch streamer really depends on the game and the console. The most popular emulators used by streamers are for:
- GameBoy Advanced
- Super Nintendo
- Nintendo 64
- Nintendo DS
- PSP – Playstation Portable
- Nintendo Gamecube
- Playstation 2
- Nintendo 3DS
- Sega 1000
These can be downloaded via a quick google search, just make sure you are downloading from a reputable website that is spam-free. It is not uncommon for emulators along with other downloadable software to be infected by viruses harmful to your PC.
Emulators for Retro Games
|Gamecube + Wii||Dolphin|
|Nintendo DS||DeSmuME, melonDS, DraStic|
|Sega Genesis||Kega Fusion, Genesis Plus|
|Nintendo 64||Mupen64Plus, Project64|
|Super Nintendo||Snes9x, bsnes|
|Atari 2600||Stella, Pantheon|
Twitch’s Policy on Pirated Games
Twitch has no leniency towards playing pirated games on stream or streaming on unauthorized private servers. While this is the case Twitch is notoriously inconsistent with moderation or bans and many streamers play cracked versions. Adding to the complexity of the issue is it is often difficult for viewers to tell if a game is a fake copy as a streamer can launch it off-screen.
While you might not get caught for streaming pirated games it is highly advised you avoid this practice. If you plan to grow your twitch stream and eventually work with gaming sponsors an indiscretion found on an old VOD or recording may come back and cause damage to your career.
How Do You Respond To Viewers Accusing You of Playing Pirated Games?
While not a regular occurrence for most streamers there is the odd occasion that a viewer May accuse you of using a fake copy of a game. While it may seem tempting to dispute these claims if you were using a genuine version, stopping your stream in the middle can be very disruptive to other people in your audience. This kind of accusation to derail a small streamer is a very common habit by trolls and if there is no evidence to suggest you were using a pirated game it may be beneficial to time that viewer out or potentially even ban them.
Can You Go to Jail For Using Emulators?
While the use of emulators is a grey area it is almost certain that emulators are legal. The main issue with copyright is the use of a brand’s proprietary code which most emulators do not use. The real issue arises when people begin to play cracked versions of games on these emulators. They do not own the rights to the game itself so by playing it on an emulator they are in fact breaking the law. There may be a possible defense if you own a legitimate hard copy of the game in question although this is not a perfect solution.