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Editorial: Why Nintendo needs to go region free

314 bytes added, 15:31, 13 July 2013
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Historically, Nintendo have implemented region locking practices into every home console they have ever produced, meaning that consoles can only play games from the same region. This practice however, was absent from Nintendo's handheld consoles until the release of the Nintendo DSi and has continued to the Nintendo 3DS.
 
Last month, Microsoft [http://news.xbox.com/2013/06/update confirmed] that they were removing the controversial {{wp|Digital rights management|DRM}} policies that had plagued the {{wp|Xbox One}} console since its announcement, including the region locking. This, coupled with Sony previously revealing that their upcoming {{wp|PlayStation 4}} lacks any region locking, has left Nintendo as the only one of the "big three" with a region locked console. This led to a campaign being started to persuade Nintendo to drop these practices on the {{bp|Nintendo 3DS|3DS}} and {{bp|Wii U}}, which I made the official petition for. The petition has since been featured on gaming sites across the world and has attracted over 22,000 supporters (at time of writing) - which—which is equal to over half the population of Lichtenstein{{wp|Liechtenstein}}!
 
There are numerous ways in which a player can benefit from a region free console. The most commonly recognised benefit is the ability to import games that are unlikely to be localised, such as titles based on anime that don't belong to the ''{{wp|Weekly Shonen Jump (magazine)|Shonen Jump}}'' line-up. For a self proclaimed otaku like myself, that is obviously a huge plus. However, that is far from the only reason why region locking should be done away with. However, it isn’tisn't all about importing Japanese games – theregames—there are often cases of games being released in one foreign territory but not another which speaks the same language. Notable examples include ''{{wp|Xenoblade Chronicles}}'', ''{{wp|The Last Story}}'' and ''Pandora’s{{wp|Pandora's Tower}}'', which were released in Europe but not America until the now famous [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Rainfall {{wp|Operation Rainfall]}} campaign and this is still continuing, with games like ''{{wp|One Piece: Romance Dawn}}'' slated for a European release, but not an American one. This situation is also reversed with games based on the Adventure Time franchise and ''{{wp|Scribblenauts Unlimited}}'', which have seen a release in North America, but not Europe (in fact, it would be great if someone at Nintendo could specify what the Scribblenauts situation is). At least with DS games that didn’tdidn't make it to Europe, such as ''{{wp|999: 9Nine Hours, 9Nine Persons, 9Nine RoomsDoors}}'', the ''{{wp|Digimon World}}'' series and ''{{wp|Etrian Odyssey II: Heroes of Lagaard|Etrian Odyssey II}}'' and ''{{wp|Etrian Odyssey III: The Drowned City|III}}'', the DS was region free so those titles could be imported. Why should someone be prevented from playing a game in a language that is native to them when such a game is already available, just on a different rock?
 
Another reason that is often discussed is the portability of the Nintendo 3DS in particular. If someone is travelling abroad (say, due to work) or going on holiday and they decide to pick up a game either to play as they relax during the journey back to help make time fly well...they can't because the game won't work. This will be especially troublesome with families abroad, where a child may have taken their 3DS, while their parent who isn’tisn't knowledgeable about gaming buys them a game, not knowing about the region lock as the only mention of the restriction is a tiny mention on the back of a box. This could also apply to the more home-orientated Wii U if someone buys a game on holiday, completely unaware - andunaware—and there are people like that. I personally know a couple who went on holiday to America and purchased loads of DVDs, not knowing that they were Region 1 while their player at home was Region 2.
There is also the issue of it being a restrictive practice. Understandably, not every game will be released worldwide due to different things being more or less popular in different regions, which is why I don’t expect to see a localisation of ''Hatsune Miku & Future Stars: Project Mirai'' for example. However, why should I be prevented from enjoying a game just because other people in my region might not?
 
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OneAnother ofbig theplus arguments againstof going region free is that it might negatively affect the sales of games that willwould be localised, or affect their chances of receiving local releases. To the first point, I point out that the number of people who do import games on region free devices is in the vast minority compared to those who buy the local editions. To the second, Iit would arguereduce that what actually happens is the opposite. An example is the ''Vocaloid'' franchisepiracy. The JapaneseNintendo VocaloidDS softwarereally andstruggled inwith particularpiracy, itsbut mascotthat wasn''Hatsunet Miku''caused managedby toit find a large fanbase on the internet due to videos posted on websites such as ''NicoNico'' and ''YouTube''. Hatsune Miku has also been the star of numerous video games (the vast majority of which for thebeing region freefree—it Sonywas consoles).caused Manyby peoplehow imported her games and spread their love ofeasy the virtualconsole idolwas to theinfiltrate, point that hologram concerts were performed in America (which were later sold on blu-ray), she came second in an official poll asking for a preferred character to be added as ''Sonichackers &have SEGAfound All-Starsout Racing Transformed'' downloadable content andwith the latest game in the series3DS, isn''Hatsunet Miku:as Projecteasy Divaas F''it isused beingto releasedbe. onIn the PlayStation 3 in North America in Europe next monthfact, despite the factmain thatreason a knowledgelot of Japanesepeople ishacked nottheir neededWii toconsoles enjoywasn't theto originalplay gameshomebrew (downloador onlyillegal in Europe though...but heygames, it’sit regionwas free!)to andremove the originalregion Vocaloid software itself has recently had an English version confirmedrestrictions. And that’s before I mention the amount of unofficial merchandise you see at anime conventions. So yeah, people importing the original games didn’t kill Hatsune Miku at all – in fact, they made her stronger.
 
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So that raisesIn the questionearly days what isof the truepetition, reasonNintendo behindof regionAmerica protection?released I’ma notstatement anciting expertthe incompany's economics and nor shall I claimdedication to beenforcing (allparental Icontrols knowas is:a Ireason don’t have enough money and need more), however,for the average wagepractice, costwhich ofhas livingsince andbeen disposalproven incomeby inother each country will differ,supporters as willbeing taxationa rates andconvenient currencylie. ThisIt meansis true that gamesNintendo costare differentdedicated amountsto intheir differentcommitment regions.to Forparental example,controls theand recentlywe releasedare ''Marionot &disputing Luigi:that Dreamthat Teamis Bros.''a retailsgood for £29thing.99 in the UKHowever, €44.99not inonly France,does $39.99the incontinent Northof America,Europe $58have invarying Australiagame andrating ¥4,800.organisations Convertingacross all of those values intothe USvarious Dollarscountries, theybut becomeplayers $45.31,across $58.79,the $39.99,web $52.48 and $48.48 respectively. Thishave meansfound that Frenchthe gamersgame willrating be paying roughly $18.80 moreinformation for the samea game – almost 50% more! Some may see that as an incentive to import games, but when you factor in costsvarious suchdifferent asregions internationalare shipping,stored the difference will be minimal (if at all), even when importingon a U.S. game tocard. FranceA (theuser twoon extremesNeoGaf in my above example)[http://www.neogaf.com/forum/showpost.php?p=67918456&postcount=1358 Adiscovered] quickthis calculationwhen fortesting example,out showstheir thatAustralian to mail abought 3DS game from the U.S. to France with 3-5European daysgames delivery(as willboth costare $45,PAL whichand doubleswork theon priceeach ofother's the gameconsoles). IThey imaginefound businessesout willthat getwhen athey largechanged discounttheir onsystem postagesettings though,between asAustralian aand currentEuropean, U.S.their pre-order I havecopy of the first two ''Puella{{wp|Kid Magi MadokaIcarus: MagicaUprising}}'' movieswould isrespond onlyto costingeither methe $11European inor postageAustralian (funnygame butrating, relevantdepending storyon which it’sregion athe U.S.console importwas ofset ato. Japanese blu-ray, being imported by me inSo the UK,solution sofor anthis importseems ofsimple. anIf import.you Hurrayhave fora region free blu-rays!).console, Evenhave lookingit atso that price though,games that onlydo leavesnot have a differencerating ofin aroundthe $7-8same dollars.region Even Nintendo must know thatas the difference3DS isn’tconsole thatcannot muchbe andplayed withunless the streamlinedsystem waitingis timeallowed betweento regionsplay nowgames (aof Nintendothe madehighest gamerating. willThat usuallyway, beyou releasedwant inhave Europechildren 5playing daysgames afterlike America),''{{wp|Senran importingKagura: the majorityPortrait of titlesthe justGirls}}''. doesn’tMost becomeof worththe it.players Sowho notwant evento thatimport cangames reallyare beover usedeighteen asanyway—importing ais reason,an soexpensive isbusiness thereafter really even one?all.
 
Overall,So that raises the question—what is the true reason behind region protection? I'm amnot veryan gratefulexpert forin economics and nor shall I claim to be (all I know is: I don't have enough money and need more), however, the effortaverage thatwage, Nintendocost hasof recentlyliving shownand disposal income in localisingeach gamescountry will differ, as will taxation rates and currency. TwoThis examplesmeans that aregames verycost closedifferent toamounts mein different regions. For example, the recently arereleased ''Bravely{{wp|Mario Default& Luigi: FlyingDream FairyTeam Bros.}}'' retails for £29.99 in the UK, which€44.99 Iin actuallyFrance, campaigned$39.99 forin underNorth ''OperationAmerica, Brave''$58 in Australia and ¥4,800. SquareConverting Enixall madeof thethose gamevalues into US Dollars, they become $45.31, $58.79, $39.99, $52.48 and published$48.48 itrespectively. inThis Japanmeans that French gamers will be paying roughly $18.80 more for the same game—almost 50% more! Some may see that as an incentive to import games, but Nintendowhen areyou handlingfactor in costs such as international shipping, the distributiondifference overseaswill be minimal (if at all), witheven when importing a EuropeanU.S. releasegame slatedto France (the two extremes in my above example). A quick calculation for laterexample, thisshows yearthat andto mail a North3DS Americangame onefrom the U.S. to followFrance inwith 20143-5 days delivery will cost $45, which doubles the price of the game. TheI secondimagine onebusinesses iswill get a large discount on postage though, as youa probablycurrent predicted,U.S. pre-order I have of the first two ''{{bpwp|PokémonPuella XMagi andMadoka YMagica}},'' whichmovies areis seeingonly acosting worldwideme simultaneous$11 releasein onpostage 12th(funny Octoberbut relevant story—it's a U.S. Nothingimport hasof a Japanese blu-ray, being imported by me morein excitedthe thanUK, beingso ablean toimport playof andan discoverimport. Hurray for region free blu-rays!). Even looking at that price though, that only leaves a branddifference newof worldaround along$7-8 withdollars. everyoneEven acrossNintendo themust entireknow globethat the maybedifference I’llisn't findthat somethingmuch beforeand with the bigstreamlined siteswaiting do?time Maybebetween youregions now (a Nintendo made game will? Whousually knowsbe released in Europe 5 days after America), importing the majority of titles just doesn’t become worth it. So not even that can really be used as a reason, so is there really even one?
 
StillOverall, thingsI aren’tam perfectvery andgrateful therefor willthe alwayseffort bethat aNintendo smallhas numberrecently ofshown in localising games. Two examples that won’tare bevery releasedclose into otherme territoriesare that''{{wp|Bravely Default: Flying Fairy}}'', which I wouldactually verycampaigned muchfor likeunder ''[http://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/operation-brave-square-enix-bring-bravely-default-flying-fairy-to-the-west playOperation andBrave]''. thereSquare mayEnix comemade athe timegame whereand I’mpublished it in Japan, but Nintendo are handling the distribution overseas, with a differentEuropean countryrelease slated (for whateverlater reason)this year and won’ta beNorth ableAmerican one to playfollow gamesin there2014. withoutThe buyingsecond one is, as you probably predicted, {{bp|Pokémon X and Y}}, which are seeing a newworldwide unitsimultaneous ofrelease on 12th October. Nothing has me more excited than being able to play and discover a systembrand new world along with everyone across the entire globe—maybe I'll alreadyfind own.something before the big sites do? Maybe you will? Who knows?
 
Still, things aren't perfect and there will always be a small number of games that won't be released in other territories that I would very much like to play and there may come a time where I'm in a different country (for whatever reason) and won't be able to play games there without buying a new unit of a system I already own.
 
If you would like to support over 22,000 gamers worldwide in supporting a region free future, feel free to hop over to [http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/nintendo-stop-region-blocking-make-the-3ds-and-wii-u-region-free change.org] and sign the petition!