An Open Letter: Nintendo And 3DS Region Coding

An Open Letter is a regular-ish feature where we communicate directly, mano e mano, straight to the heart of someone/something/anything in gaming. This week? We're taking it to the news that the upcoming 3DS will be region coded. Why Nintendo WHY!

Dear Nintendo,

You know when you love someone - when you love them with that deep, unconditional love? When they've been part of your life for so long that losing them would be like losing an arm or a leg? That's the way we love you Nintendo.

Nintendo, if you were a dog, we'd feed you Pedigree Chum. We'd groom you. We'd take you to the Vet when something went wrong. We'd pet you constantly. We'd let you lick us on the face. We'd feed you bacon under the table. We'd walk you every day.

But despite that love - that unconditional love - that doesn't mean you can pee on the carpet - and Nintendo... putting region codes on the 3DS feels a lot like you just took a whizz on the living room carpet.

The 3DS looks incredible - I'm already in love, don't get me wrong - but the hits have been coming as of late. The battery issue we can take. The 3DS is a powerful machine, and we understand that rendering games in proper 3D takes its toll on battery life - we're prepared to take that bullet. We're even prepared to suck it up when you release a new version of the 3DS a year down the track with better battery life. Some of us will even buy it a second time - just as we did with the DS Lite, the DSi, and the DSi XL.

We can even take the slight delay - it's cool! The 3DS will be released in February in Japan, then a month later in Australia - we're okay with that. We're even fine with the fact that we'll probably have to pay that little bit more than, say, the US for the privilege (well, some of us are fine with that). We'll complain when it inevitably takes you a little longer to release games here, but eventually we'll forgive you, even though most publishers have moved on to simultaneous worldwide releases.

But Nintendo. Region coding? Again? Really?

Honestly, who is this serving? We understand the piracy issue. Piracy struck the DS market stone dead, especially in Europe. But let's get things straight here - if anything region coding will only encourage piracy. You're giving Homebrewers the excuse they need to start tinkering with the innard of your latest baby. It won't be long before the 3DS is hacked and then what? It'll be too late by then won't it.

Yes, importing is a problem for retailers - we also understand that issue. But the reason most are against region coding is because they want to buy games that won't be made available in Australia. And, again, we understand that some gamers will buy games overseas, but at least they're buying games in the first place!

Nintendo, I think that if you show your consumers a little respect in this regard, they may just give you some leeway. Look at Sony and the PS3 - at first they made their system so open that no-one even bothered to try and hack it properly. It was only when Sony removed options - such as the ability to install other Operating Systems - that hackers really got to work. Before then it was all hunky dory.

Region codes will only hurt you in the long term, and it makes things more difficult for the core consumers who have always supported you, even during your dalliances with the mainstream.

Nintendo we love you - that's unconditional - but please don't pee on the carpet.


Comments

    It doesn't matter what we do, it doesn't matter what we say we are screwed. I like many others will be now forced to import... This will also give the hackers a new reason to hack the shit out of the 3ds its a shame...

    You know, I'm less frustrated by this than I am by the 360's lock. I'm more angry about this, but at least it's consistent and we can work with it. Microsoft's version might stop you... And it might not. Who knows?!

      I've imported something in the region of 20 games, most of them high profile ones and have never hit a region block, are you sure its not just a myth?

        You can check compatibility between regions for individual games here:

        http://www.play-asia.com/paOS-00-3-xbox360_compatibility_guide-49-en.html

        Definitely not a myth. Microsoft made it optional. Generally speaking it varies publisher to publisher.

        From my experience so far, Microsoft themselves do not region lock. Ubisoft don't. Activision usually don't. I don't think EA do, but I think all my EA games on 360 are local releases. Bandai Namco lock down everything. Capcom sometimes do, sometimes don't. THQ do for most stuff.

        Personally I own two 360s. One is an Australian model, one is a Japanese model. I picked up the JP system because I'm a huge fan of Namco's Tales JRPGs, and Tales of Vesperia released in Asia, Japan and the USA, then Namco wouldn't commit to a PAL release until nearly a year later. The Japanese system enables me to guarantee that if I import a cheaper Asian english release, it will run on one of my systems. In about 60% of cases, it will run both. My collection is about 70% AU releases, 30% Asia/JP releases.

        Additionally if the game is a Japanese game for the Japanese market it is almost guaranteed to be region locked to Japan only. The only exception I've seen being some of Cave's Shmups. So if you're eyeing off some dodgy dating sims or Idol dancing sims or something, it's going to need a JP system to play it.

        For the 360 it's up to the developers whether to region-lock the game or not (case in point - Virtual On Force, which I am seriously tempted to get, is a Japan-exclusive and not region-locked).

        As for region-locking, as a UK-er I'm going to be annoyed at this (if I ever get a 3DS). Probably about a third of my DS games are American because it either cost less whilst I was over there ($30 US vs £30 is a no-brainer) or the game came out way ahead of the UK release (and still cost the same, or less, when a shop that used to import near me got them in - Yoshi Touch n Go for £30 US import - why bother waiting for a UK release?).

        Definitely not a myth - they sent me the US version of Rock Band 2 when I imported it and it didn't work. Had to wait another month for them to get my return and send me the UK version!

    I was only going to get a US version anyway so I'd have access to the superior US online store so same old story I guess.

      yup going with the US version to

      though i do wonder if the store is the reason for the region lock, because by law there not meant to sell unrated games in australia

      so i have to import my other games oh well, plenty of sites do it much cheaper and it means i can get stuff when it releases :P

    Baaah!

    Well at least we can still get 3DS consoles and games from UK for cheap. But seriously, this is poor form Nintendo. I only wish they could get some sort of backhanding for this.

    You should probably tell Nintendo that the Australian Copyright Act 2006 (Cth) does not consider region coding a sufficient form of protection against piracy. Hence, circumvention of the region encoding "protections" will not infringe any copyright provisions that subsist within Australia.

    I can't help but wonder how many games we've been screwed out of due to a combination of region locking and lazy distros

    Will this also affect DS games? The system's backward compatible (I think? Honestly haven't paid much attention) but the old DS games had no region on them so there shouldn't be any practical way for them to screw us out of the back catalog at least, right?

      Probably not, but keep in mind that Pokemon B/W are region locked in DSis, but not DS Lites or Phats. If more DS games come out with this sort of thing, it might get a bit iffy.

    The whole point of a handheld is its ability to take it anywhere.It's ike a travel companion.

    When I first bought my DS Lite in Akihabara and continued on with my travels abroad, I continued to splurge on a ton of games.

    Coupled with the fact the massive warning labels the thing will come with due to potential damage to kids's visions to those under 6 and you cant help but think, that NintenDOG has done an insanely massive dump on two big important core markets.

    Time to start putting arsenic into this pup I say.

    You fools shouldn't be running homebrew on any system anyway. There is absolutely no good reason for hacking a console, none whatsoever. "Oh they won't let us play shitty games people made, guess we'll have to write an angry letter." Nintendo don't care. No one else should either, barely anyone imports it's probably no big deal to them.

      Sorry but I think you're completely wrong there. MANY people import, haven't you heard anything about importing lately? Secondly, calling us all "fools" is a bit much, and thirdly, homebrew opens up many extra features to consoles. Only one of those many features is illegal.

      Anyway, I'll be importing. Australian DS games have a different region code than UK games. Does that mean we won't even be able to play UK games? Stuff paying $80 or so for them here.

      Personal attacks aside, why is it a poor idea to run homebrew software? I mean, it voids one's warranty and there are all sorts of risks, but if someone is clever enough to crack their device open, then they should be clever enough to know what they're in for.

      If Nintendo don't care about a feature enough to enable it, then they can't very well complain when someone else enables it, can they?

      Xbox media centre

      Nuff said. Seriously. Last gen console that could store games to hard drive. Play avi fies along with download show images and descriptions Display pictures install larger harddrives and generally become the hub for media in your house which I would argue lead to all the awesome features in this gens systems. It showed where the demand was and both current gen systems are only catching up.

      Seriously. Get a 40 dollar xbox and a 10 buck chip. Install it along with xbmc. Network it with a larger hdd. Browse your files via FTP and snuggle up to all your games without ever changing a disc. And then

      Come back here and talk to me about homemade and modding. In fact show me a current gen console with all that then we can talk.

      I used to be a freelance games developer and using an old GBA loader cartridge with pass-through was great for quick development and testing of GBA and DS games (DS emulators were very shoddy at the time). I guess I'm one of the small minority who didn't use their stuff for piracy, but there are plenty others.

      Howsabout the fact that online games like Brawl have their save data locked to the console, and can't be copied/transferred off to an SD card? That reason alone was enough for me to want to get my Wii homebrew-enabled, just so that I had the option to back up all my data in case something happened to the Wii. Please explain to me how that is not a good reason.

    My DS Lite legally plays bought games from everywhere. GBA or DS.
    (Got a US cart of Mario Advance with Mario World.)

    What gives with the downgrade Nintendo?

    Nintendo is once again intent on squeezing every cent out of us they can.

    That this doesn't surprise me one bit is saddening.

    So what does this mean for the online store. If we import a 3DS will we still be able to use it?

    It's stupid in theory I guess but I haven't bothered going overseas for any DS games so far so chances are that I won't have the need for the 3DS either. Still it sucks for regular importers!

    What are you all on about?! Eventualy there will be no such thing as a game store if everyone continues to import games from different reigons, if there are no stores then there is no customer suport there are no trades or exchanges and jobs are lost! I completely understand the frustration of wanting a title thats not released in Australia, the fact of the matter is that nintendo does what they do to protect their (and the retailers that serve us) interests . In nintendo Australia makes insufficient money then it ceases to operate. On another note the ps3 games may be region free, however the psn is not - pal dlc will not work with an ntsc game (bces is pal and bcus is ntsc). The 360 approach is defiantly respectable however just like the psn, xbl dlc is region locked on most titles. As to why people think that they should be so entitled to everything rather than taking the time to understand why things are the way they are is frustrating. Please kotaku consider this

      People will stop importing when this country gets its pricing straight. Until then, people are going to flock to what is cheaper. It may be suprising to you, but most people don't want to pay double the amount of money for a game they can buy overseas for a lot less. This may sound cold, but unless the Australian games market starts competing, I couldn't care less about whether it dies or not. Yes, I'm sure we'd all miss trading our games for 1/10th of what they're actually worth so very much. Now, to be honest, I actually prefer being able to go to a shop and purchase something physically rather than buying this over the internet, and I am being quite harsh above. However, everytime I go to a game store in Australia, I'm pretty much disgusted by everything - stock, prices, service, etc. The retailers do not serve us one bit. If I want to import a game from Japan or America (as I did many times on my original DS) I don't see why I shouldn't be able to do that. And as Mark says (great letter btw) it's only an open invitation for pirates to hack the 3DS apart.

      On the topic of the PS3 and 360, yes, DLC is region locked, as are the online stores. However, there is nothing to prevent you from having both a PAL and an NTSC-U (and an NTSC-J) account. I've got DLC for PS3 games I've imported from the U.S., for example.

      Sorry mate, but yes, people do think that they are entitled to buy products that they want, no matter which country they come from. I just don't think it's fair that if there is a game in another country that people want to play, but is not released here (or for that matter is being released ages later (for no good reason - hello Kirby's Epic Yarn)), that they should be prevented from playing that because of some antiquated region lock.

      Capitalism called and asked you to STFU. There is no obligation to buy a game at EB when you can get it online from the UK for half the price. If the gaming retail sector wants to survive, it'll adapt. If not, then tough.
      On the other hand, Gerry Harvey probably likes what you have to say...

      I was on holiday in Australia (from the UK) two months back and saw Dead Rising in a shop for... $88! Seriously, how can they get away with those prices?

      Admittedly I didn't look at games much whilst in the country - that was the only game I bothered to notice as I was passing the shop.

        EB are always crap the staff just don't seem to care and they are over priced. Shop at Austrian owned stores eg. Gametraders ( or if you've got one see your local bloke) the prices there are far better because they actually care. And lets face it core gamers are losing the fight, unless its seen as profitable a game Wont be sold in Australia its a dank shame but its true. Most ds owners don't want to play obscure ( however fantastic) jrpg's, nintendo don't even seem to advertise the more accepted ones ( final fantasy, dragon quest ). I feel your pain but it is the way it is! Ps its technically prohibited to have an over seas accounts ( using a fake address)

    This is going to hurt basically Australia and countries like it the most. USA not so much since we get all games the latest and the most expensive so hence the reason we want to import to save money and time but hey nintendo likes us waiting..... :(

    I thought it was only a rumour at this point that the 3DS will eb region locked?

    Why is everybody acting so suprised about this one? It was pretty much confirmed for the 3DS when Nintendo added a region lock to the original dsi.

      Because a lot of users did not upgrade beyond DSLite. I personally still stick with DS Phat

    I can now see region lock circumvention being released shortly after the console. Great job there Nintendo, I'm sure that'll do wonders for your profits and PR. /sarcasm *facepalm*

    Oh well. This is why Nintendo is dying.

    ... people were actually planning on buying a 3DS in Australia? If you weren't already importing this, you love to burn your money.

    Region Lock on portable is just plain evil.
    My interest on 3DS is already low (due to high price), not I've totally lost interest.

    Sony, I'm waiting for PSP2... hopefully, it will still have UMD (as I have lotsa of UMD games) for backward compatibility, and remain no region lock.

    Nintendo has gone against its customers. I would be willing to forgive if you stopped being picky on the nationality on where the credit cards billing address was located and rather focused on taking the money. What idiot ever declined customers because their legitimate credit cards comes from an other country, Jeez. How clever is that. I guess I will have to get an adapter that allows me to play pirated games. At least those guys are willing to take my money. What did I do to get here - I went shopping while traveling - big sin . damned you Nintendo !!

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