Now that Sony and Microsoft are both punting their region-free systems, Nintendo is looking like the rigid old man at the party. During E3 (which seems like ages ago, now), Nintendo president, Satoru Iwata, explained that there are methods in the madness.
In an interview with IGN, Satoru explains
“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. “
He went on to say that it’s something the entire industry needs to grapple with – that companies aren’t doing this for the money but because of regional approaches to content. Of course, he made these statements before Microsoft’s 180, so who knows if Nintendo will start singing a different tune in the future.
Look, I remember (because I’m old) that VHS tapes used to all have different regions. PAL vs NTSC – all different sorts of issues because of frequencies and electricity and whatnot. Most of the old school consoles were region locked, and no one really knew any differently – plus importing stuff was ridiculously expensive. Now, we live in a more international society. I might live in South Africa now, but who knows when I choose to pick up and move to Japan, or the US of A. Companies are facing increasing pressure to adapt to a globalizing world. Online shopping means that we can get products from anywhere in the world, and get rather upset if they don’t work when we get them. In particular, it seems stupid for handheld devices to be region locked. Isn’t the whole idea that I travel with a 3DS all around the world?
Of course there are regional differences – Australia doesn’t get any cool games because they’re wussies. I get that there are rating differences and restrictions. However, that is surmounted with different labeling from one region to the next – it doesn’t need to be in the hardware. Besides, Sony and Microsoft found a way around this issue, why can’t Nintendo? Oh, and if this region-locking is getting your panties in a twist, don’t be shy; there’s a petition to sign!