Iwata: 'There Are Some Reasons' Behind Nintendo's Region Locking

Now that Microsoft has bowed to consumer demand and removed its restrictive DRM on Xbox One, the Wii U has become the most conservatively positioned console of the next generation with regards to its region locking. Now certain groups are railing against what is seen as an archaic restriction. But according to Satoru Iwata, Nintendo has its reasons for protecting that particular status quo.

"From some people’s perspective, it might seem like a kind of restriction," said Iwata, speaking to IGN. "However, we hope people can appreciate the fact that we’re selling our products worldwide. 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."

Nintendo has typically been conservative in every aspect of its business, particularly with brand positioning. It's also well known for stubbornly pursuing its own dogged path in the face of all opposition. So I'd wager we won't see a change of heart any time soon.

I hope I'm wrong, especially with regards to the handheld space. One of the major reason I, and many others, own a handheld is for travel. I frequently take my 3DS overseas and not being able to buy games whilst I am overseas seems needlessly restrictive and bad for business.

Nintendo's President Discusses Region Locking [IGN]


Comments

    Because Nintendo hates Australia, duh.

      Because Nintendo likes to rip off your wallet. Personally I'm over trying to support PAL. It's not worth it when everything is in 1080p HD anyway, better to get the US console and the larger library of games.

    Nintendo really doesn't want our money do they

      No, they definitely do, because we give them more of it per-purchase than the people in the US do.

        If Nintendo had more reasonable pricing and released SNES games on 3DS I'd be giving them a heck of a lot more money than I do currently.

          Nintendo could sell you every SNES game on one cartridge for $200 which would be a reasonable deal, instead if they ever did release them you can bet they'd cost $15/game. So over game companies and their rip off prices.

    That's really not a valid reason. The regional restrictions only affect Nintendo if they themselves are trying to sell the games, otherwise it's all on whoever is importing the product.

    “However, we hope people can appreciate the fact that we’re selling our products worldwide. 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.”

    BS Nintendo. All you want to do is control distribution and pricing. You can charge people more for the same product based on where they live, or you can choose to not release or only release a game in a specific region. This has nothing to do "cultural acceptance" or "legal restrictions" or "age ratings". If those things mattered, then other consoles would be region locked too, but as the PS3 proves, that's not the case at all.

    Given that we actually share the same region as Europe, it's kind of silly to try to region lock in the first place. We can't run games from the US or Japan, but Europe is fair game. You might as well save yourself the effort and just remove it altogether, and everybody wins.

    In this day and age, there's no reason to region lock. At least be honest and forthcoming about the reasons behind it, instead of feeding us the same BS excuse that you (and Microsoft) have been using for years now. If you think we honestly believe that, you must think we're pretty stupid.

      Yep, that's the same line that MS were pushing while Sony were going region free without any legal or cultural problems. Now MS have given up on it (implicitly admitting that they were lying about it all along), but it seems Nintendo are just sitting there with their eyes shut and their hands over their ears shouting "NOT LISTENING LA LA LA" at the top of their voice. Everybody else is doing business in the same regions around the world as Nintendo, but don't seem to be having any legal or cultural issues.

      And the fact is that even if there WERE legal or cultural issues, as long as Nintendo aren't selling the stuff themselves in those affected regions (which they wouldn't be) then it's not their problem if somebody imports from some other region.

    That's a reason for Nintendo and publishers to be careful about what they sell in each region. They are under no obligation to prevent third parties from parallel importing the products, which is what the region lock does.

    Further more, region locks are rarely fine grained enough to cover all different legal regions. For instance, if Saints Row 4 was coming out on the Wii U, their restrictions wouldn't prevent an unedited UK edition running in Australia.

      That is not Nintendo's problem in the slightest, otherwise Sony would have been in big trouble when I was playing Mortal Kombat last year.

        +1

        Thats actually the problem of the importer/player for technically importing "illegal" material.

    If that is seriously their concern, how come I can buy games from the UK, with their different rating system? Unless they move to completely country-locked devices, they're obviously not thinking of the children.

    Though this may actually be part of their plan with the (clumsy) drive towards digital sales.

    They can still have region specific features for each country.

    Just don't lock out the software from other countries! If people want to circumvent what is "acceptable" for their region then that's their own problem.

    @Mark did you wanna mention that these comments were made during E3? Prior to Microsofts backflip? And not in relation to the recent petition and actions on neogaf?

    That's bogus. The handhelds were running perfectly region-free right up until the DSi reared its ugly head and screwed everything up. There's three Japanese and five American games in my DS collection that never got released outside of those regions, and I would never have had a chance to play if it weren't for the region-free nature of the console.

    But then on top of that, the fact that they now restrict multiplayer features to be region-locked so that AU and US copies of the same game won't even acknowledge each other's existence is complete bullshit.

      That's bogus. You would still have a chance to play those games with region locking, you would just need to also purchase another console from the same region as the games. As a side note I don't support region locking because of the solution above seems unfair to a consumer who has already finacially supported the company.

    If Nintendo tried to stop and punish retailers for parallel importing in australia they would be fined $100,000.

    It's HIGHLY illegal.

    Nintendo continues to love anti-consumer practices such as region locking while simultaneously lying about their reasons for it. In other news, Hell continues to be really, REALLY warm.

    I want region free Nintendo consoles too. And I guess if this reason was valid they'd use it as a defense - perhaps a significant portion of their userbase still rock old CRT's? Maybe they expected more of an uptake for the WiiU amongst people who bought the Wii, but don't necessarily have an HD TV? Like cranky old people, for example.
    Wasn't the difference in the hertz rate the original justification for region locking?

      The PAL standard required a whole lot of different electronics inside. We run on different voltages and our power cycles at a different rate, PAL has a different resolution and different framerate and a whole host of other things.

      Additionally with the cartridge-based console games you were effectively attaching a circuit board into the main system board, so for it to function correctly, the circuitry had to be compatible.

      So during the cartridge era when Nintendo started region locking, they had strong technical reasons for doing it. There really wasn't any other way. Note that they never did it on handhelds because there is no need to do it - the screens are the same, the cartridges are the same, the internal components are the same. There is no technical reason for it on a handheld like 3DS, it is entirely greed on Nintendo's part.

      When we moved to digital media instead of carts, the specialized circuitry excuse went away, but because of the low-level nature of eg PS1 programming, developers still needed to do a lot of the video code themselves. Your game needed to target the resolutions and framerates of the TVs it was being played on and everything. This issue was mitigated on more modern PAL TVs which could handle multiple signals (PAL60 TVs) and by the PS2 era it really wasn't a thing for most households, but it was still enough of a problem that the argument that there were technical reasons to avoid it. However in a lot of cases by this point the video hardware had been moved away and abstracted in software, eg the Dreamcast's region check was just a software check and a PAL system could play US or JP games if that check was bypassed, automatically switching output to output NTSC signal. The current generation systems handle all sorts of crazy internal video resolutions and have specialized hardware for scaling to the TV they're attached to, which is why you see people whinging that Halo 4 only renders in 540p or something internally even on your 1080p HDTV, and why Sony and Microsoft were both able to patch 3D TV support in. The NTSC vs PAL issue has gone away in the HD era completely.

      So right now there is next to no valid technical reasons for region locking hardware.

        Wow. Thanks Negative, that's an excellent summation.
        I guess Nintendo ARE greedy capitalist pigs after all.

    However, we hope people can appreciate the fact that we’re selling our products worldwide. 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

    Unless I am mistaken, it is the role of the local authorities to manage these restrictions. It is not the role of Nintendo.

    If I am willing to pay the money, file the paper work and do the research to make sure the content is acceptable at my residence, I do not see why there should be region lock.

    I really wish there was a journalist on hand with the lack of sense/self-preservation to Interview these lying assholes and cough, "*bullshit*cough*bullshit*" whenever this sort of utter crap is spouted, then challenge the mouthpieces on the very salient points raised by commenters above.

    Then, challenge them on using utterly meaningless PR speak nothing-talk, which is inevitably what they'd fall back on. Get someone riled up enough to actually TELL THE FUCKING TRUTH FOR ONCE.

    (In the words of Spider Jerusalem: "No... no more hitting." *BEATDOWN* "It's not nice when people lie to you, is it? IS IT?")

    Last edited 04/07/13 1:50 pm

    As much as I respect/like Iwata...

    Sorry but thats corporate BS through and through... there was never an issue from Gameboy upwards until we got slapped w/ 3DS.

    There are many Japanese companies that, for whatever reason, don't want to sell or promote their products outside Japan. For example, if you watch SBS PopAsia, you'll see a ton of Korean videos, and very few from Japan, because they can't get licencing from most Japanese music companies. You'd think anyone would welcome the opportunity to do business overseas, but you'd be wrong.
    I guess it has something to do with Japan's history of isolationism.
    Anyhow, I suspect that there are Japanese developers that might have pressured Nintendo to do this.

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