You don’t have a right to region-free games

by wfgodbold

I’m big on free speech; people can generally say whatever they hell they want, and it might piss me off, but since most stuff pisses me off, I’ve learned to deal.  Go extoll the virtues of living a meat-free life; I’ll be over here, enjoying delicious bacon.  Claim that 9-11 was an inside job; it’s a free country, and I’m just as free to mock your idiocy as you are to reveal to everyone else that you’re an idiot.  Make fun of me for playing video games in Japanese; I’m too busy enjoying games that you’ve never heard of to care.

That said, I find it infuriating when I’m reading something online (in comments, in the news, or even on TV for that matter) that is completed divorced from politics (for example, the recent news that Nintendo is region locking the 3DS), only to have commenters (or in rare cases, the author of the piece himself) bring politics into the matter.  I don’t care if I agree with your views or not; when I’m reading about video games, I want to read about VIDEO GAMES.  Not POLITICS (and especially not what a bunch of people who can barely comment coherently about video games think about politics).

Nintendo owes nothing to me; they are beholden to their shareholders, and their shareholders want Nintendo to maximize revenue while minimizing expenses.  Region locking is a cheap way to increase how much money they make, and I’m pretty sure any sales lost to insignificant number of import gamers are more than made up for by the money they’ll make because of the weak dollar.  The launch price in Japan is ¥25,000; the price in the US is $250; the price in the UK is £230.  That means that for every 3DS sold in Japan, they make ~$52 more than for each sold in the US; for each sold in the UK, they make $117 more.  That’s not insignificant at all, and if they had not region locked the system, Japanese and English customers would have immediately imported the US systems, saving a pretty hefty chunk of cash.

I understand this; I don’t like it, but I understand it.  Nintendo is free to price their system at whatever price the market will bear (and for glasses-free 3D portable gaming, I imagine the market will do just fine bearing $250), and I am free to decline to purchase the system.

Many commenters, though, take this as a personal affront, and go on and on about how Nintendo is just hurting themselves, and this is wrong, and dammit they have a RIGHT to play whatever games they want from whatever region they want!

If you don’t like it, don’t buy it.  No one has a gun to your head, forcing you to give these evil corporations money; if you buy a console, it’s because it is worth more to you than the $250 was.  That said, I imagine the hacking community is going to be working on breaking the region locking aspects (and I imagine they’ll succeed; they hacked the PS3, and they hack every update to the PSP firmware that Sony releases).  If it’s easy enough to implement, I may change my mind and get a 3DS; there are games I am interested in for the system (Tales of the Abyss in 3D, on a cartridge, without hellish loading times?  Yes, please!), but until I can play any legally purchased games I choose, I don’t think I’ll buy one (if it really does make people sick, I bet used stores will end up with systems to sell at a discount; if the discount is big enough, I might bite (it’s all about relative value, after all)).

That the 3DS will be hacked is inevitable; the real question, though, is if Nintendo will bring the hammer down on the hackers (I bet they will).  They really went after the sellers of the R4 cards that let people play pirated DS ROMs, and that took a special card; the 3DS has a standard SD slot, and unless Nintendo updates their firmware more religiously than Sony does, it will be cracked just as fast as the PSP has been.

The import gaming market is niche; it’s more niche than just about any other market (it certainly doesn’t hold a candle to the “Parents, you should buy your kids these games so they leave you alone” market).  Elite Beat Agents, one of the best DS games to come out in the US (even though it only sold ~180k copies), did as well as it did (though still not as good as Nintendo had hoped) because of how many people imported (and raved about) Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan! That’s probably the biggest impact any imported game has had on the American market, and it wasn’t good enough.

Mom and Pop don’t care that the PS3 can play Japanese games; they only care that it can play whatever games Junior wants, and maybe that it can watch them new fancy DVDs.  The main market for the 3DS doesn’t care that it won’t be region free like the DS and PSP are, they only care that it will get their kids to shut the hell up on the drive to Grandma’s.

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2 Responses to “You don’t have a right to region-free games”

  1. Wow, Nintendo should be happy there are people as ignorant as you. You’re a good sheep.

    “I don’t like it, but it’s okay anyway.”

    And Nintendo doesn’t owe you anything? You are a customer. Neither Nintendo nor their shareholders would make ANY money without the customers. They sure as hell owe you. And what you get for your money is that they patronize you and severely restrict your freedom. It is not okay. And telling people not to buy the system because of that is just stupid. It is not a solution. It was not the game developers’ choice to make games region locked.

    Hacking the system however is a solution. Because it allows people to buy any version of the system and still be at liberty to choose which version of the games they want to play and support developers. Do you realize that there will be games which do not get released to all regions? I am from Europe and I am not willing to buy a second system from the US just to be able to play US only games.

    Maybe Nintendo will come to realize how stupid a choice it was to make the 3DS region locked.

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