A while back, Sony announced that their new video game console, the Playstation 4, will be region free. Shortly after, Microsoft announced that they were removing their DRM policies for their own upcoming console, the Xbox One, making it effectively region free. With all of this, Nintendo is now the only major video game company that locks their systems (currently the Wii U and the 3DS) by region.
What does this mean, exactly? Well, for those that aren’t familiar with the terms, it means that you can’t play games from one region in a console from a different region. Nintendo uses three major regions for its systems, which are America, Japan, and Europe (the latter also covers Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa), so if for example someone gifts you a 3DS game from Europe but you own an American 3DS, your system won’t recognize it.
Given the recent success of fans campaigning against Microsoft’s DRM policies for their upcoming system, it is now time for fans to gather and tell Nintendo how they feel about their region-locking policies. Everything started with a thread at the NeoGAF forums a few weeks ago, and since then, the campaign has virally spread through the Internet, with articles on various sites, Facebook likes, and several Tweets from fans all over the world, with the more popular hashtags being #EndRegionLocking and #NintendoRegionFree.
One huge part of the campaign has been people posting on Miiverse through text messages and drawings, some of which are wonderful works of art. It’s accessible through a web browser, but currently you can only create an account through a Wii U system (and through a 3DS in the future). These messages hold the most power towards Nintendo since they come from owners of Nintendo systems, and Nintendo definitely takes these comments into account. Months ago, they announced they were going to release Earthbound on the Virtual Console per requests of Miiverse users. They also started releasing proper 60Hz version of Virtual Console games in Europe after several people complained on Miiverse. One interesting thing about Miiverse is that users can browse, and even post, on communities outside of their region. For example, Dragon Quest X is a Wii U released only in Japan, but American and European users can post in it without any issues. It almost feels like a tease, but it can be used as a great argument in removing region locking.
Now, you may be wondering “This doesn’t affect me, as I never travel, why should I care?”, and you may be right. A lot of people aren’t affected by this and they likely won’t notice a change if it happens. But try to look at it this way: region locking is an outdated practice that benefits no one. Sometimes people have to travel because of a forced job transfer, and if they bring their 3DS with them to another continent, they can’t buy any new games anymore because the system they own won’t run them. Region locking beats one of the most useful features of a portable, and what even makes it worse is that up to the Nintendo DS, all Nintendo portables were region free, making the step towards the next generation of portables feel like a regression. Even the Wii U is a highly portable system, as it doesn’t require a TV to use a lot of its features. It’s a great traveling companion, but region locking limits heavily what you can do with it.
So if you’ve decided to support this, make sure you spread the word. Tell your friends, share some articles, make some tweets. Make sure you check the NeoGAF thread where every way you can contribute is explained in detail. Lots of people would like a world with a region free Nintendo, and together we can make a difference and have our voices be heard.