Breaking the (region) lock

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Breaking the (region) lock

Post by Paragon-Yoshi on Fri Jul 26, 2013 1:24 am

I am sure you are aware of Nintendo region-locking there consoles. Including the WII U and 3DS!
By most people considered an absolutely pointless and constumer-unfriendly feature.

But since the number of people protesting against it actually seems to have gotten too high, it appears that Nintendo president Satoru Iwata was forced to speak up about this delicate subject.
So why this stupid region lock?
In an interview with IGN, he explained that he "hopes that our costumers value that Nintendo releases its games worldwide.".
Then he goes on saying that the region lock is "historical".
And after that he brings up arguments about multiple legal parameters.

Ah yes.
THEY WHY DIDN'T THE DS OR THE GAMEBOY HAVE ANY REGION LOCKS?!?

You see, Iwata's performance at defending this region lock was very weak indeed.

But still, despite that increasing uproar from the costumers, Nintendo remains obstinate and is just not willing to depart from this locking-mechanism.
All those complaints they get seem to just bounce off them.


But people should keep complaining. Many when the number of people that complain has risen to an amount large enough, Nintendo will finally realize their errors and take proper action.
This region lock makes no sense at all and only adds frustration and unreasonable limits. It has no benefits at all!

So keep complaining.
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Re: Breaking the (region) lock

Post by .Luke on Fri Jul 26, 2013 3:30 am

Back in the 1990's, game consoles had much older TV standards to adapt to across regions, and the games themselves were more primatitive too. For technical reasons, running games from different regions (Like from NTSC to PAL.) on your console, without any modifications to the system itself beforehand, could have a devastating effect on your TV setup, or not display correctly at all.

This is one reason vendors like SEGA were pushing the region lock, since PAL and NTSC were so different from each other; not just to segregate different markets. So you could play a Japanese Mega Drive title on an American Genesis, since they're both NTSC, (Unless the region lock stopped that.) but not on a European unit. Or at least playing Japanese games on an American SNES was that easy, as the only thing stopping Japanese carts from playing were tabs inside the US cartridge slot, which could easily be chopped off.

That's very different now, since games can have more drivers than before, are more complex, and even PAL60 means PAL TVs can have the same refresh rate as NTSC screens, so imagine how much less difficult that is for developers. Everyone's more relaxed about regional differences now, and with consoles like the XBOX360, or PS3, region locking is a developer's choice, instead of the hardware manufacturer's. So if they want their games to work in multiple regions for importers, they can do that, or if complex legal reasons prevent them from doing so, they're able to lock it.

However, they did not have to worry about any of that with portable systems, ever, since they don't have to be bound to TV standards like PAL or NTSC, by using their own screens. So yeah, just about every portable from the Gameboy and beyond never needed region lock.

Given how transparent hardware can be used across the world now, I imagine reasons behind region lock are mostly related to money, like regional pricing. Some people will import simply because the game is cheaper in another region, and they obviously don't want you doing that. Imagine the trouble people can get into when using third-party tools to snag cheap deals on Steam from another country, when the game is still at a Like New price in their own country. That's a breach of the Terms of Service right there. (Although Steam may bat an eye if you're buying games from another country, and it's not available in your area.)

In Nintendo's case, they have historically acknowledged that people enjoy playing games from other countries, so in the Famicom's case, they made 60-72 pin adapters available to American NES consoles for a limited time, and you could order one from them, instead of smashing yet another Gryomite Game Pak for an adapter. I think they also might have knowingly made enjoying Japanese SuperFamicom games on an American SNES, and visa-versa, very easy for this reason as well.

Nintendo very much knows that people love foreign games, but there's too much money to lose in not regulating the global market, methinks. They know people will buy another version of their console from a different region, just to play more games, without a second thought. (Not that they make as much from hardware sales, as opposed to software.) If they say the region lock is there for any other reason, it's just good PR, and will ring hollow to critics.

I think it would take an aggressive push from critics, share holders, journalists, and general outrage from the media, to force Nintendo to reconsider their stance on the matter. However, region locking is small beans compared to the DRM policies that Microsoft nearly enforced on their next system, so it's easy for me to assume that Good Guy Nintendo isn't going to get nearly as much criticism for it; their practices are the lesser of the two evils.

tl;dr, it's simply Nintendo being Nintendo. They have had very strict practices since they entered the game console market decades ago, partly for the benefit, and in some cases, detriment for everyone in the industry. They've slowly been easing up as the market changes over the years, (Such as stopping game censorship at some point during the SNES's life cycle, and allowing national rating boards to take care of content regulation instead.) but I do have to agree with some western devs that this isn't happening fast enough; the kind of openness that the WiiU's indie market has now should have happened as early on as the Wii and 3DS.

We can always hope that the more people region-locking affects, the sooner this could be reversed, and hopefully before the next generation. Considering how much better hardware is today, as opposed to the last century, there is no viable reason, to the consumer, for region lock to be an obstacle in obtaining software that they enjoy, when buying said product is already far less convenient than a drive to the store. Sony recognizes this, Microsoft (now) acknowledges this; it's lastly up to Nintendo to soften the barriers on their own hardware as well.

Digital content may remain locked up tight on most platforms, but physical retail copies should work on your console, no matter which one you insert your disc into.
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Re: Breaking the (region) lock

Post by Paragon-Yoshi on Fri Jul 26, 2013 9:34 am

Well that was far longer than necessary, if you ask me.
But I can see what you are saying.


But still, I've got to criticise Mr. Iwata here for obviously stating nonsense.
Especially the "legal parameters" argument.
Once again, if that is the case, then why weren't the DS or the GameBoy region-locked?

And if they must region lock their consoles by law, why are the XBOX and PS3 both region free?


No, the real reasons are these:
I imagine reasons behind region lock are mostly related to money, like regional pricing. Some people will import simply because the game is cheaper in another region, and they obviously don't want you doing that.
...

They know people will buy another version of their console from a different region, just to play more games, without a second thought.
And that is IMO a very obnoxious business model, that I gotta criticise here.


Player's shouldn't be forced to pay for a second exemplary of the same console, just to play the games they enjoy!
It's not so bad with games that are released world-wide.
But for games that do not get released in certain regions, this is all the more limiting and constumer-unfriendly.

Since it's either "Pay for the console twice" or "Can never play the game, sucker!".
That is just wrong and should be common sense.

But some games that are released world-wide, only have languages of the same country.
Which is another deciding factor...
So games like Kingdom Hearts have both german texts and voices in germany, but you have no way of changing that, since the games only contain the language files of the same language.
And personally, I prefer playing in english and german voice actors generally are pieces of crap, compared to VA's from other countries.
There are some exceptions, but generally german VA's in video games are just bad.
So I would have to import an english version in order to play the game in english.

There are so many reasons why people import games and it's definitely not the reduced price.
And I stick by it: There are legitimate reasons for importing.
When you want to play a game in another language, but the game only has your language in your area...
Or when a game you really want to play is not available in your country.

Either way, punishing those people by forcing them to either pay for the same console again or give up on the game, is just not right.


And I cannot understand how some people can actually defend this long redundant feature.
How can you not have a critical eye at this?

I swear if you don't develop one, companies can do whatever they want.
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Re: Breaking the (region) lock

Post by .Luke on Fri Jul 26, 2013 8:50 pm

Region lock's history, and how it was, in some ways, necessary, in the past, is relevant. I needed to emphasize how it came into existence, and why it's no longer necessary, given how much television standards, and censorship, has changed since then across the globe.

There are sticky legal situations where a developer is forced to region lock, or does so by choice, but generally, the world is far less segregated than it was, thanks in part to the Internet; the cases where region locking is necessary is far more rare than ever. The consoles themselves don't need to act as the end-all watershed anymore, and this much is obvious in Sony and Microsoft's policies on region lock, for retail copies at least, with their 7th gen systems.

So I have nothing better than assume that companies like Nintendo want to regulate regional pricing, at the cost of damaging accessibility of software across different regions; i.e, it's all about the money. I might on the outside looking in, but they still charging a Like New price on Pokemon games at retail, just because they can, five years after release, is highly indicative of a desire to maximize their profits. Even the Wii's price stayed rather high for the longest, much to every frugal shopper's annoyance; the 3DS price drop was very exceptional, and it ultimately helped save the system.

Nintendo has consistently kept prices high when their software, or hardware, are peaking in sales numbers and demand, instead of lowering the price to encourage sales. A specific game practically has to be under the radar, or a third-party title, before it will drop in price.

tl;dr, after practically repeating my entire stance on the matter, profits are obviously at the heart of this issue. I'm surprised Nintendo doesn't capitalize on the situation and offer boot discs to order on their site, for the few who import, because it's obviously something that not everyone does. They don't want anything to "damage" the quality of their brand, I guess.
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Re: Breaking the (region) lock

Post by Paragon-Yoshi on Fri Jul 26, 2013 11:08 pm

Profits are nothing bad, as long as the model is kept reasonable.
And surely the expenses need to come back in. I am aware of how that works.

Still, like you said, region locking has become redundant in the here and now.
Which is why I am criticising this.

I could understand it back then.
But now, with everything being so much more accessible, there is just no proper reason to keep clinging on this business model so mulishly.

Profits are understandable, like I said. But if this really is the reason, then I say Nintendo is overexaggerating here.
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Re: Breaking the (region) lock

Post by .Luke on Sat Jul 27, 2013 2:54 am

I do not expect Nintendo to lie or over-exaggerate their policies, but getting a straight answer on these kinds of things are never easy from such a large company. I don't think even Reggie or Iwata really knew what Nintendo's overall stance on used games were, when either of them were asked to comment on it. You could probably interview one employee, and get a totally different story from another.

That's partly why I've gotten to the point that I don't care about the headlines, when journalists attempt to interview large companies about sticky matters like these. It's more about PR and easing the concerns of the masses, than sitting down and talking whole columns about the minute details of various policies of the company; i.e, very skimpy on the solid stuff. This is likely a different story for physical magazines, (The kind that people are expecting to digest entire pages of details about games, and the people that make them.) but that is usually what I see in journalism on the Internet, where most posts are practically short snippets you can skim over in half a minute.
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