Close
Are you sure? Are you sure you want to report this comment? I understand, report it. Cancel

Nintendo confirms that Wii U will be region-locked

Nintendo confirms that Wii U will be region-locked

Mon 24 Sep 2012 10:22am GMT / 6:22am EDT / 3:22am PDT
HardwarePublishing

Publisher continues policy of controlling imports

The Nintendo Wii U will be region-locked, preventing the playing of games imported from other regions, Nintendo has confirmed.

The publisher made its position clear to Japanese magazine Famitsu, where the comment was translated and posted to NeoGaf. Nintendo has since confirmed the move to various global news outlets.

"What can be played on the Wii U is restricted by a region-lock feature;" the comment reads. "Software not sold in the same region cannot be played."

With release and translation schedules often varying wildly between regions and continents, some games never achieve commercial release outside their home territories or experience long delays.

Although these titles are not deemed popular enough to make it commercially viable to bring them to new regions, fans waiting for certain titles will import games in order to play them. A region-locked machine makes that impossible.

Many titles have seen great success grow from the somewhat fanatical evangelism of importers. Final Fantasy, for example, was really pushed into the collective consciousness in the UK by the efforts of magazines such as Super Play, which exhorted readers to import the US version of Final Fantasy III until Nintendo recognised the demand.

23 Comments

I have always looked at 'Regional Lock-Out' as the manufacturer/publishers two fingers to the players - "...either you buy our selected titles or its the highway sucker!" Having seen a number of development directors in the publishing game miss some golden opportunities - actively blocking import business only to drop the ball and squander customer good will.

There are a hoard of Japanese titles that have a incredibly strong Western following, that if blocked could prove disastrous for business in a depressed market. Is this the last fit of pique by the manufacturers to try and control the market - before DLC turns the sector into a independent game market - removing the reins of power, control (and ego) from a select few executives?

Though I did not hold any truth to the claim that more game executives need to play games - I do feel that we need some new direction from the top table in the consumer games industry (some business knowledge would not go amiss).

Posted:A year ago

#1

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,508 1,282 0.9
Final Fantasy, for example, was really pushed into the collective consciousness in the UK by the efforts of magazines such as Super Play, which exhorted readers to import the US version of Final Fantasy III until Nintendo recognised the demand.
W00t for mentioning SPlay, but this paragraph can be read as implying that FF3 was released on the SNES in the UK. It wasn't.

As for the news itself, it's not surprising. Region locking of all media is partially to prevent grey-importing, but mostly it's there so that consumers can't just order products off Amazon US and have them both sooner and cheaper than the "official" UK/European release. Which is a shame, since as the article points out, there's a fair number of otaku-types who would gladly purchase niche products legitimately.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 24th September 2012 3:02pm

Posted:A year ago

#2

David Spender
Lead Programmer

129 54 0.4
Region locking is so last century. Just leave it open and move on. I see region-locking as a desperate attempt to hold on to antiquated business models. Haven't these companies learned by now??

Posted:A year ago

#3

Dan Howdle
Head of Content

280 809 2.9
Move along. There is nothing to see here.

Posted:A year ago

#4

Chris Nash
QA Engineer

47 23 0.5
At the very least, Nintendo should have made the region-lock an "opt in" feature, as it is on the 360 and PS3, where publishers can choose whether or not to region-lock their releases. Clinging stubbornly to an outdated, draconian method of distribution control in this day and age (and even reintroducing it on 3DS!) is just another reason why Nintendo remains out of touch with the modern gaming industry.

Posted:A year ago

#5

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,148 1,061 0.5
I kind of have the feeling that despite the region locking (which didn't exist on many portable Nintendo console titles) Nintendo has learned its lesson in regards to giving fans what they want. We got Xenoblade Chronicles (from Nintendo)and The Last Story (through Xseed) here in the US after a lot of clamoring, but there were still a few other key Wii imoprts that got ignored for whatever reasons. I'd say that smart third parties who can afford to localize whatever Wii U games that might do well here will be looking to snap up rights to anything Nintendo of America won't touch. Anything else will be a goofball dating sim, a Gundam game (or other anime license) or some other super-niche import maybe a low few thousand people or so would buy if they ever got an English translation

Hopefully.

A

Posted:A year ago

#6
"At the very least, Nintendo should have made the region-lock an "opt in" feature, as it is on the 360 and PS3, where publishers can choose whether or not to region-lock their releases. "

Region-lock isn't opt-in on 360. Publishers have to negotiate to opt out.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tristram Defries on 24th September 2012 5:27pm

Posted:A year ago

#7

Chris Nash
QA Engineer

47 23 0.5
Fair enough, I stand corrected. :)

Posted:A year ago

#8

Rick Lopez
Illustrator, Graphic Designer

1,269 941 0.7
to me its not a big deal. Im not a fan of playing games in a language i dont understand anyway. Second alot of games that didnt make it here, are not that good. Pandoras Tower isnt a big deal of a game. Im just glad we got The Last Story and Xenoblade here in the United States. Nintendo, closed its Wii legacy well with both games. I have enjoyed few games on other consoles as I have these two. Im really hoping WiiU will bring us sequels.

Posted:A year ago

#9

David Radd
Senior Editor

358 78 0.2
I suppose the DS gave everyone false hope that Nintendo might stop region locking its consoles as a policy. Not to be, I guess.

Posted:A year ago

#10
Given that more software can now be released digitally for the service, this should remove some of the issues (i.e. titles never making it to certain countries).

Hmmm, I wonder.

Given that WiiWare titles have publisher thresholds... and given that commercial "disc" games have thresholds (in the form of minimum blocks of stock that can be made/ordered) - I wonder how digital "disc" (full priced) releases work? If Nintendo applies neither to them (and maybe just takes their cut, even if its 30%) - this might turn out to be the most efficient way for small publishers to release titles on the system.

Posted:A year ago

#11
I have read the pros and cons across the next for the 'Regional-Lock' issue:

pro - Nintendo spend a lot on regional translation for Europe and wants the benefits
pro - Nintendo wants to actively fight grey-imports

vs.

cons - Excluding releases that Nintendo can not control
cons - Locks in players to the online model Nintendo sees most profitable

Either way, this may be the last time that Nintendo will be able to control the international release scene, and we may be about to see a 'last-chance-saloon' approach to the Western gamers by the company!

Posted:A year ago

#12

Jason Sartor
Copy editor/Videographer

104 33 0.3
It is my understanding that region locking is also because of the varying laws and ratings unique to each country. As an example, Publishers would want to prevent Dead Rising and Dead Rising 2 (both of which are banned in Germany) from being purchased from Amazon.com and shipped to a 15-year-old in Germany.
And as Sony and Nintendo have learned with the value of the Yen to the U.S. dollar, Atlus also learned that sometimes region locking is necessary.
http://www.joystiq.com/2012/07/06/atlus-explains-persona-4-arenas-region-lock-expresses-surprise/

Posted:A year ago

#13

Paul Jace
Merchandiser

887 1,311 1.5
And this news surprises absolutely nobody. I think it would be nice if all systems going forward were region free game and dvd/movie wise. But I understand why there are reasons that those two things may never become the norm.

Posted:A year ago

#14

Jim Webb
Executive Editor/Community Director

2,239 2,206 1.0
Jason has hit the nail on the head for why they continue to use lock outs. It's the game ratings systems for various countries.

Nintendo get sued by parents more than all other video game companies combined (OK, facetious exaggeration on my part) and if they can save a few million in court cases via regional lock outs, it's a smart business move on the whole.

Granted, they do need to do a better job at localization which would render the regional lock out issue largely moot.

Posted:A year ago

#15

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,508 1,282 0.9
@ Jason

Valve/Steam side-steps the issue you mention by giving an error that read (roughly) "This title is unavailable in your region", when you try and register a Steam key for a game that's legally unavailable. It shouldn't be too hard to add a region-check for console games along the same lines, surely? That would prevent foreign releases of games that by law shouldn't be available in a country being registered in that country.

Posted:A year ago

#16

Jim Webb
Executive Editor/Community Director

2,239 2,206 1.0
Morville, that works because that is a purely digital distribution system with no physical media on a platform they don't make (PC).

Posted:A year ago

#17

Richard Westmoreland
Game Desginer

138 90 0.7
As far as ratings go, I'd just have the console register the user's date of birth. The game restricts its usage based on the rating of the country of origin. But then I'm very anti censorship and pro parenting / common sense. Region locks irritate me as a gamer, the DS was fantastic as I was able to purchase many games that weren't available in Europe, or were available with an unacceptable delay such as the Ace Attorney series. Platform holders need to make it easier for them to take my money. Users who want a game but can't purchase it may look to hack the console, which also opens the door to piracy.

The Wiiu continues to baffle me as a device. I'm sure it will sell, but to me it seems like the device Nintendo should have launched 6 years ago, rather than a device for the future or even today.

Posted:A year ago

#18

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,508 1,282 0.9
@ Jim

Keep a server-side black-list of games that aren't available in X country (Germany, say). When a player attempts to install/run a game on the WiiU, a little piece of data is sent to the server to check whether the game is legally available in the player's country. If Yes, install, if No then abort install. The only thing necessary is an internet connection, and that... shouldn't be an issue, if it's only a small amount of data. Indeed, the data could be kept in a cache, and uploaded when the user updates the firmware, or connects to the Friends network.

Annoying for the consumer, in the sense that they'd have to briefly connect to the internet to allow full installation. But it would remove the legal requirement for region-locks, since it would be a server-side company issue, not a consumer issue. Or, have the black-list encrypted in the firmware, and then the player never needs to connect to the internet to check if they can legally play a game. Firmware updates are standard now anyways, so they can update the blacklist like that.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 25th September 2012 8:32pm

Posted:A year ago

#19

Jim Webb
Executive Editor/Community Director

2,239 2,206 1.0
What's the difference between a black list and a lock out? They serve the same purpose, yes? So why would people be angry with a lock out but not a black list?

Posted:A year ago

#20

Morville O'Driscoll
Games Blogger & Journalist

1,508 1,282 0.9
One is legally binding by the law of the country (no red blood in the German version of L4D, for example), and the other is the manufacturer (in this case, Nintendo) stopping the entirely legitimate playing of games that are bought outside of the region. Fairly obvious that one annoys more than the other, no?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 25th September 2012 9:24pm

Posted:A year ago

#21

Greg Wilcox
Creator, Destroy All Fanboys!

2,148 1,061 0.5
@Jim: especially if the buyer didn't know a game was region-locked when they bought it, which happens a lot more than some would think. I've actually seen this occur on eBay when a seller here in the US sells PAL format or NTSC Japan region-locked games and doesn't list that they don't work at all in a US console.

Posted:A year ago

#22

John Bye
Senior Game Designer

480 451 0.9
Region locking is an antiquated concept. I can understand some of the reasons hardware manufacturers and game publishers want it there, but it's not realistic in the modern world where I can order something online from half way around the world and have it on my doorstep within a couple of days (or, in the case of digital products, within minutes).

It's funny how companies are happy to move our jobs to the country that gives them the cheapest offer, but when we try to buy their products from a cheaper source or try to buy something they haven't seen fit to release in our country at all, they're suddenly up in arms about it. Globalisation and free trade should work both ways.

Until such time as companies are able to release their games globally, there are always going to be niche markets of people who want products that aren't commercially available in their own region, like the example that's been mentioned of people in the US and EU who want obscure Japanese games that are unlikely ever to get an official translation or full retail release over here.

Region locking on handhelds is even more stupid, because you can reasonably expect a large percentage of your users to take their device on holiday with them, and it's bad if they can't buy more games for it when they get there.

One of the things Sony did get right on the PS3 was removing region locking (although I believe one or two region-locked games have been released, it's very rare). It's probably no coincidence that region locking is entirely optional on blu-ray movie discs too, and the fact that most movie studios (including all the majors apart from Fox) release some or all of their films without region locking suggests there's fundamentally no reason this couldn't be done on a wider scale.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by John Bye on 26th September 2012 12:54pm

Posted:A year ago

#23

Login or register to post

Take part in the GamesIndustry community

Register now