Last week Nintendo announced release details for their new home console – the Wii U. Along with price (£259.99 for the bare bones version), launch date (November 30th for us in the UK) and what games you’ll actually be able to play on it (around 30 on launch day), they pulled another little ‘treat’ from up their sleeves: the damn thing will be region locked.
Now, I can understand the animosity building inside of you at the mere mention of this. You’ve probably already punched your monitor and swore revenge on all who dare even attempt to comfort you in this time of utter shock and disgust. Despite the levels of frenzy created, not one UK television news outlet decided to report this (perhaps to save us from ourselves?) nor was there an official response from Downing Street (perhaps because if they acknowledge its existence, then technically we will be at war with Nintendo?). Nope, not one had the guts to confront this menace. The cowards! You’ve probably heard this news from me just this very second. Well, once you’ve calmed down we can discuss what this means for you and me.
Nintendo has a history for releasing very good games in Japan only, due to them not forecast to sell particularly well in the west. This is fine; it’s called capitalism. But why on Earth prevent those who do want to import from being able to do so? Nintendo can’t lose out in that case. Publishers sell the game in Japan, not wasting money on a failed western launch and the handful of people outside of Japan who want it import it at their own expense. Its win-win. Everybody is happy.
On the Sony side of things, the Japanese giants’ latest device – the PS Vita – is completely region free. They do however allow the games themselves to be locked should the publisher wish. This nearly created its first casualty in Europe with the soon to be released ‘Persona 4: The Golden’. The games publisher stated that they would not publish in the EU due to lack of interest. Not only that, but the US release was going to be region locked. Due to a campaign by European fans the game will now not only be region free, but a specific EU release date has been confirmed. Score 1 for reason.
With Nintendo’s plan, events like this are completely impossible. If you’re into quirky Japanese games that have no chance of being released outside the land of the rising sun you’ll have to buy a Japanese Wii U. Let me say that again. You’ll have to buy a Japanese Wii U. You’ll need to own 2 versions of the same console just to have the privilege of buying the games you want to experience.
All that will happen as a result of this is a plague of piracy that will take hold of the console. Once those who want imported games have figured out how to tweak the console to run games from a different region, its only a small jump to make the console play copied or downloaded games.
So Nintendo (and Sony and Microsoft whilst we’re at it, don’t want you thinking you can get away with it in the future), please acquire some sense and stop penalising fans for having different tastes in games from that of their region’s mainstream. They are the ones who encourage creativity in games and who don’t just want to play the same thing over and over again.
And Nintendo? Change the Wii U’s name. It’s embarrassing.
By Ian Dutton