I suppose given the current economic situation around the world that this was inevitable, but Nintendo has finally revealed that their new three dimensional handheld console, the 3DS, will be region locked.
This will prevent Japanese early adopters from waiting the month between Japanese and American release dates to reverse import the system (and thereby taking advantage of how strong the yen is against the dollar).
Nintendo started down this path with the DSi, which region locked DSi specific downloads and software (regular DS titles remained region free); the original Game Boy, the Game Boy Advance, and the DS were all region free. A system purchased in the US could play games released in Japan, or in Europe (ditto for systems purchased elsewhere); this was convenient when travelling, or when games were only released in certain regions.
Sony, on the other hand, has been going the other direction (for the most part). The PlayStation and PS2 were both region locked; when they released the PSP, it was region free, and gamers could import games or systems to their hearts’ content, without fear that they would fail to work with each other.
The PS3 continued this trend; while the Blu-ray player is region encoded, the games are not, and importers are free to purchase any games they like. This has allowed me to import the PS3 releases of Tales of Graces F and Tales of Vesperia (neither of which is likely to get an American release), and means that even if Tales of Xillia doesn’t come out in the US, I will still be able to play it.
Microsoft has taken a more neutral position with the Xbox 360; while the original Xbox was region locked, the 360 is technically region free. However, it is up to the game publishers themselves to decide if they want their games to be locked to a specific region; while most games are locked to a specific region, some are region free. Fortunately, Play-Asia.com has put together a list (though not complete) of games they’ve tested on US and Japanese Xbox 360s, and whether or not those games are region locked or region free.
In our increasingly global economy, it only makes sense that companies would try to protect their profits by region locking them (even if they take advantage of weak currencies themselves by outsourcing labor); most consumers won’t care one way or the other, and the vocal minority that does care won’t be able to make a significant impact on sales if they choose to boycott.
That doesn’t mean I have to like it, though.