The best thing about portable gaming is the fact it can be done anywhere. Not just different parts of your home or town either but for a long old time, the portability of handheld consoles stretched across countries and seas without the restrictions of home console region locking. Until now it seems. An email was sent (via NeoGAF) from Nintendo’s Japanese support claiming that the upcoming 3DS will have region coding preventing games being played on a system that don’t belong to its territory. The humble GameBoy could play any game from any country and it was only recently that the latest DS iteration, the DSi, was locked out. And even then that was only specific DSi software.
Nintendo’s reasonings are likely to be similar to the ones used for adding a region lock to the DSi; the internet and parental control. Back in 2008, the company said because of the unique online experiences for each region, the system would have to be locked in order to provide it appropriately. And since parental controls differ from country to country, the assigning of regions was needed. But now it gets a little more complicated when you take into account the deals announced at last year’s E3 between Nintendo and various movie studios to show 3D films on the 3DS. Copyright and distribution laws change depending on territory so the only real way to control this is to sadly impose region locking.
It’s a great shame for anyone keen to import games and genres that don’t often make their way to certain areas. Take the Rune Factory and Etrian Odyssey franchises for example. Both have a relatively small fan base in the UK and the games take for ever to come out over here. The worst thing that could come out of a total locking is the desire for some to hack their way around the restrictions, opening up the world of piracy to them. And that’s a world neither platform holder or developers are keen for you to explore.