This isn’t my first rant about Nintendo region locking its consoles. It probably won’t be the last, unless Nintendo does what its fans want and get’s rid of them. My first rant was less about the region locks, but more about Nintendo’s indifference to its fans who want to play games released in regions other than their own. My second was in direct response to the news that the Wii U would be region locked. Finally, I wrote up my thoughts about this whole fiasco after the news was released that Sony and Microsoft would not region lock their new consoles. There is a disturbing trend in all this.
After the success of getting Sony and Microsoft to back down from DRM on used games, game fans have turned their sites on Nintendo and the last major anti-consumer issue facing them at this time, region locks on the Wii U and 3DS. The image above comes from this effort found on a Neogaf thread calling for fan action in demanding a region free update.
The campaign continues!
PS4 and Xbox One are now BOTH totally region-free. We can do it!
I’m asking for YOUR support to help end region-locking once and for all. Contact Nintendo by any means possible and DEMAND an end to region-locking NOW!
I am hopeful that this campaign works. Region locking is an ancient concept that has no meaning in a now globally connected world. The assumption that Nintendo provides that region locking is needed “to include parental controls and ensure compliance with regional standards and rating systems” is absolute bunk. Sony and Microsoft prove this point. Parental controls can be designed in such a way to take into account all major ratings systems. But that is not really what region locking is about.
Region locking is primarily defended based on the idea of price control. If you are able to lock down the regions a game is released in, you can theoretically maximize profits by raising and lowering the prices of your games in specific regions. By doing so, the profit made by gouging Australian gamers can be used to offset the lower profits made in Japan. But gamers are not happy about being fleeced so that a company can make more money. No one does. The fact that Nintendo openly does it just makes matters worse.
Going back to the “regional standards” argument above, Nintendo has had a long history of giving in to them. For instance, during the SNES days, US gamers were given the two games Soul Blazer and Illusion of Gaia but would not privy to the spiritual sequel Terranigma because of imagery that Nintendo felt might offend US gamers. Another series that spurred even more vocal outrage was that over Earthbound and its sequel Mother 3. While Earthbound, or Mother 2 in Japan, was released in the US, Mother 3 was never released. Similar controversies have plagued other games and series in every generation of Nintendo home consoles. This culminated in 2011 with the Operation Rainfall effort to bring three RPG games to the US, that even had English translations for the UK releases.
Twenty years ago, it was much harder for gamers to know what they didn’t have. Everything was regional. The internet was not even a thing. Information about a game in Europe or Japan rarely made it to the US unless a US based magazine talked about it. But today when hearing about the latest Japanese, European, American or Australian game development news is a click away, it is impossible to hide that one region is not getting a game that every other region is. That is what made Operation Rainfall so successful.
It is also harder to keep those regions from importing those games. Even with region locks, people can still play games from other regions. Today, all region locks are software based. In the pre-internet days when hardware was set in stone, it was a lot harder to get a Japanese or European SNES game to play on an American SNES. But today, that ability is a soft-mod away. Which again, we can see with Operation Rainfall. Before those games were officially released in the US, instructions for soft-modding the region restrictions from the Wii were wide spread. People were still able to import and play the games. Just not officially.
This ability to soft-mod region restriction out of a console really leaves Nintendo in a sticky situation. If it is that easy for Wii U and 3DS owners to remove the restriction themselves, why is Nintendo holding out on an official update? Why aren’t they giving their fans what they want? The answer is simple. Control. They just can’t let go of that last little bit of control they have. It is that kind of control that makes people upset and can force them to leave Nintendo behind.
Until those fans give up, they will be fighting to rid Nintendo of region locks. They are taking to Twitter, Miiverse, Facebook and more to demand a region free update to their favorite console. I recommend that you do the same.