As a primarily PC gamer, The concept of Region locking has always been a confusing one to me. Why exactly would any company lock down their games to a region of the world? The obvious answer is money. But is it the right one? Surly a game developer would get the same amount of money no matter where in the world the game is sold. While that is the case now, in yesteryear that was not always the case. Now i could go into detail about exchange rates, distributors and the black market, But really do you want to know about any of that? nah I didn’t think so. What us as gamer want to know about is how to get around region locking as all it seems to do is impair us getting the games we want to play.
It all started with the NES. The Japanese market got far more games that the English speaking world. but if a game did exceptionally well then it was translated and shipped over to the US. If it then continued to succeed, it was shipped world wide. Just imagine being a resident of the UK or Austria in that scenario. You tend to get the games upwards or 2 years later than their actual release. This is what started the import trade in games. To combat this, Nintendo made each regions NES support different shaped cartridges. This trend carried on through the SNES and even the N64. But all that was required to get around it was a cartridge adapter.
Don’t think I’m picking on Nintendo, Sony did the same thing with the PS1 and PS2. In fact, Sony Invented the DVD region locking technology to prevent the importing of both games and DVDs, resulting in the now familiar Region number. But this too had a work around. As with everything made by man, it will one day be broken by man (My watch for example ARRRGHHH). The work around for Sony was a bit more drastic though. People had to open up their machine and add extra chips to be able to bypass said region locking. A big task with many risks. But gamers were still willing to do it to get there hands on the games the publishers were not willing to give them yet.
When it comes to other companies the attitude it a little different. Although the original Xbox had the same standard region locking as the PlayStation, The Xbox 360 has no built in region built into the machine. It was and still is done on a case by case basis. As the game designer, you choose if you wish for your game to be locked to a single region or region free. It works out around just over 50% of games not released in the US will be playable on US systems. Sega’s last console, The Dreamcast, had an odd attitude towards region locking. Although you couldn’t natively play another regions game in the console, By copying the game and running a copy, it would work perfectly. This has for a long time been speculated as a “secretly intentional” move by sega as a way to get people to buy more games directly from sega even if they were locked to a different region.
Modern systems are very different. If a system wants to remain locked to a region, it can do so quite happily with out people breaking it. How ever the industry seems to remain split as to if region locking even required. The PS3 simply has no region locking at all. Nintendo on the other hand insist that region locking is required and continue to add it to the Wii and presumably the WiiU when it arrives. But more importantly is the addition of region locking on the 3DS. Traditionally Handheld consoles have been region free. In fact the DS is host to the offically more imported game series of all time. The pokemon games. This move with the 3DS has upset a large number of people, leaving us to question why region locking is even required to begin with.
Well, really, its to do with that first paragraph that i didn’t write. Profit margins and international shipping laws really force the industry into a situation where they feel they need to lock the regions on their games. But I would like to make a quick surgestion. Why not have all games on all console region free. If there is a game that normally would be imported, then sell it directly from the publishers website with a cheaper P&P than the people who import the games. If you think it is a problem, then beat the at their game, rather than trying to change the rules of the game.
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