The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have both done away with region locking video games in a move which supports gamers in importing and playing games wherever they want in the world. However, there is still one holdout on the whole region locking idea.
Both the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS remain locked within their respective regions, and fans have been campaigning Nintendo to give up the practice. The news is especially disheartening considering that the Game Boy and Nintendo DS were champions of region free software.
However, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata has come out saying other cultures is the reason Nintendo can’t freely allow its software to be sold.
“From some people’s perspective, it might seem like a kind of restriction. However, we hope people can appreciate the fact that we’re selling our products worldwide. There are many different regions around the world, and each region has its own cultural acceptance and legal restrictions, as well as different age ratings. There are always things that we’re required to do in each different region, which may go counter to the idea that players around the world want the freedom to play whatever they want.”
I read that as “It’s Japanese cultural acceptance to charge $70-$90 for a video game, and we can’t do that anymore if they have the option to buy it for $60 in America,” but that’s just me being cynically subjected to both cultures at this point in my life.
The argument is fair, I suppose, because most people see import gaming as a way to get games earlier or cheaper, cannibalizing the software’s home market. Makes sense since gaming is a global phenomenon these days and each country needs to support itself. Japan has retail markets it needs to succeed, just as it has partnerships in America that it needs to thrive as well.
Gamers like me use importing as a way to play games that don’t make it to friendly shores. Luckily, there isn’t that much difference in the Wii U market in the U.S. and Japan at this point. Both libraries are dry, and there is nothing worth going out of your way to import.
Once some killer game a publisher refuses to touch becomes exclusive to Japan, I’ll probably change my tune on this subject.
As for the 3DS, Nintendo has committed themselves to helping publishers bring their quirkier games to America and has made good on that promise in helping localize games like Bravely Default: Fighting Fairy and Code of Princess.
Don’t worry, gamers. Region locking sucks, but there is no real point in getting upset over it yet. The day will come when Nintendo jumps aboard and we can go back to the way it was. At least they haven’t regionally locked people out of the eShop yet like some publishers have through Steam and Origin.