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Nintendo President Considers an End of Region Locking

by Ron Duwell | November 3, 2014November 3, 2014 8:30 pm PST

Iwata Wii U

Back at the helm of his company after recovering from surgery, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata has responded that the company must address one of the biggest glaring missteps of its current two consoles: region-locking.

Iwata tackled the subject at a Q&A on the company’s recent financial reports, pointing the finger at decisions made to support local retailers rather than its audience abroad.

“The game business has a history of taking a very long time with localization among other things, such as having to deal with various issues of marketing in each particular country, or games that have made use of licensed content that did not apply globally, and had all kinds of circumstances, so to say, that region-locking has existed due to circumstances on the sellers’ side rather than for the sake of the customers. In the history of game consoles, that is the current situation.

As for what should be done going forward, if unlocked for the benefit of the customers, there may also be a benefit for us. Conversely, unlocking would require various problems to be solved, so while I can’t say today whether or not we intend to unlock, we realize that it is one thing that we must consider looking to the future.”

The Wii U remains the last region-locked console on the high end market, unless you want to count Steam, but the shocker remains the Nintendo 3DS. Prior Nintendo handhelds have always been a champion of region-free gaming, allowing players to import unlocalized Japanese games and play them with no issues, but the company has been infamous recently in stonewalling this generation.

Previous attempts to get any information out of Nintendo were a polite request to adhere to “each region” and its “cultural acceptance and legal restrictions.” Like I mentioned before, that can be read as Japanese retailers want to sell video games for $70, $80, or $90+ without the fear of its audience importing cheaper American copies, cannibalizing Japanese sales figures.

The fact that Iwata has hinted Nintendo is finally reconsidering this anti-consumer misstep brings a new hope to fans of Japanese games everywhere. Hopefully, if Nintendo follows through, I’ll be able to play Dragon Quest VII and the recent Fatal Frame games without needing to mod my platforms or buy a second one for my crowded apartment shelves.

Ron Duwell

Ron has been living it up in Japan for the last decade, and he has no intention of leaving this technical wonderland any time soon. When he's not...

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