Why Does Nintendo Keep Region Locking on Their Systems?

One of the most annoying parts of collecting and playing videogames, especially years ago, was that if you wanted to pick up an exclusive game from Japan, you had to go ahead and purchase an entirely new system in order to play said game. Being a huge Dragon Quest fan, and also a fan of Shmups, importing was a must. If you owned a Sega Saturn for example, importing was pretty much the only way to have any fun with the system. Ok that’s a bit of a stretch, but there were so many more great Saturn games released in Japan compared to North America. Back then if you wanted to get into the import scene, you had no choice but to purchase a console from the region you were looking to import from. Sure you could modify your console, but that only really picked up during the PS1/2 era. Thankfully for Saturn fans we had an alternative in the form of a memory cart that removed the region lock.

This cart was a lifesaver back in the day.
This cart was a lifesaver back in the day.

As someone who has heavily imported in the past, the news that both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox One will have no region locks whatsoever has been tremendous. Will it mean I’ll race out and start buying thousands of Japanese games, not likely because the market just isn’t what it used to be. That said, the option is there if I decide I eventually want to import something.

When looking at Nintendo, I’m not surprised in the least that their home consoles are region locked, because they’ve always been. With carts we used to be able to pick up converters and whatnot to bypass the lock, but once they went to discs it became a little more complex. My launch model GameCube is actually modded to play import games because during those days Japan would get so many classic Nintendo games before North America, so it was completely worth it. With the Wii I never bothered to import anything as I wasn’t the biggest fan of the system, so no loss there. As of right now there’s not too much I’d import for the Wii U either. The only game I’m interested in for the Wii U is Dragon Quest X, but that would have only been for the site, not for personal pleasure as it’s an MMO and requires a subscription.

So while it’s not the end of the world the Wii U is region locked, I can’t figure out why their portables are. The fact the the 3DS is completely region locked makes no sense to me. It’s a portable, and portables should never have region locks on them. The whole point of these systems is that you take them with you. If I’m in Japan, why should I be forced to buy an entirely new system instead of a game or two I’m interested in? The funny thing is all previous Nintendo portables were region free. The DS started region locks for downloadable software, which locked software based on your IP if I remember correctly. I was still able to import Dragon Quest IX and was easily able to finish the whole game, and even write an import play test without importing a brand new DS.

So why is it that the 3DS is region locked? If someone can explain it to me I’d greatly appreciate it, because I’d really love to import the Dragon Quest VII remake. There’s been no mention at all about the game coming to North America, and it looks awesome. Check out these two commercials for the game.

This is why I love importing. The game has sold 1.22 million copies since launching early February, and if we ever get it, it’ll arrive in 2014 or later. That sucks! I don’t want to have to buy a brand new 3DS just to experience one game though, so I’m sitting it out. That’s a sale Square-Enix is losing, and all for what? It doesn’t make any sense why Nintendo doesn’t update their systems to remove the region locks, or at least on the 3DS. So who’s with me on this one?

5 thoughts on “Why Does Nintendo Keep Region Locking on Their Systems?”

  1. But yeah, as you know I’m totally with you on this one. I never imported as many games as you did, but I always enjoyed it. I must have about 6 or 7 imports for my Nintendo DS, which is not that many but still games I wanted to play back in the day. I didn’t even know there was a DQ VII remake on the 3ds! That is so sick! I want that game badly now. I know they also remade most of the series for the Wii also and those we’ll never get as well. I guess there is some hope for the 3DS remake since we got all the DS ones eventually.

    1. Yeah DQ VII was released in February. There’s even a new Rocket Slime that got released last year, and it’s already a budget release over in Japan. The problem is the 3DS costs $260, which is way too much money for the limited use I’d get out of it. This is why I really hope Nintendo can reverse their stance on region locks. Wii U is one thing, but the 3DS is something else entirely, and doesn’t make any sense at all. I purposely didn’t check out any information on DQ VII because I didn’t want to convince myself to spend the money. That changed after E3 though when it was revealed Nintendo’s publishing partnership with Square-Enix has officially ended. That means the odds of us getting any of these games are extremely low to begin with. DQ games always take a lot of work thanks to the heavy translation. I was really hoping Nintendo would announce they were bringing over DQ VII to North America, but now that doesn’t seem likely. There’s also new management at Square-Enix, so who knows what will happen.

      I did check some info out on what was changed in the remake, and the list is fairly intense. Here’s what the wiki says:

      – A radar has been added to make finding the stone shards easier than ever. A new character has also been added that gives players hints to finding them as well.

      – Streetpass stones, a place in the immigrant town to go online to trade them with other players. Bringing Streetpass stones to the immigrant town unlocks new dungeons, and special story scenes. You can also get Streetpass Stones by making a party of monsters from your monster park and sending them into a special randomly generated dungeon.

      – Your party’s sprite appearance change immediately after switching job classes.

      – Your party’s sprite appearance also changes immediately for monster classes, not just upon mastery like in the PS1 version.

      – Job levels go up faster.

      – Spells/skills for upper division jobs are only usable when in that class, giving the last part of the main game more balance.

      – Overall simplification and re-balancing of which classes get which skills, including elimination of job history/hybrid skill system (i.e. You won’t have to/be able to get skills like Sword Dance by switching from Soldier–>Dancer.)

      – Rebalanced opening hours of the game to help streamline players into the main adventure.

      That’s what I call a remake! From everything I’ve read it sounds amazing, and honestly I’ll be very surprised if we hear about a localized version before 2015, if at all. The last Dragon Quest released in North America was Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 DS, and that was released on September 11th, 2011. We got Dragon Quest Swords on the Wii, but missed out on Dragon Quest Monsters: Battle Road Victory, Dragon Quest X, and Dragon Quest Anniversary I.II.III. Honestly wtf. What’s the point of trying to maximize the potential of the series outside of Japan, when they don’t even bother bringing these games to North America.

  2. I dont honestly get why they dont release the portable games at least. I mean the DS one sold ok… not million sellers but still turned out a profit. How much money would it cost to release these games here, especially when they already have translations?

    1. Yeah exactly Steven. I mean yes it will cost some money to get someone to go back into the code and make adjustments, but come on, they have the translations already complete from the PS1 release, so there’s no excuse here at all.

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