Many did a double-take when Atlus confirmed Persona 4 Arena is region-locked on the PlayStation 3—that means, only Japanese consoles may play the Japanese version; North American consoles can only play a North American version. It's the first time since the PS3's release in 2006 a game has featured complete region-locking. (The Xbox 360 version also will be region-locked.)
Atlus released a statement last night, both explaining the decision and vowing that it is not going to become standard policy for the publisher.
In a nutshell, Atlus is worried that the dollar's weakness against the yen could lead to "mass importing" of Persona 4 Arena that would "cannibalize the performance of a title in one territory to the benefit of the other." At current exchange rates, the $59.99 that Persona 4 Arena will cost in the United States comes to about ¥4,778; the game is ¥7,329 in Japan. So, without figuring in shipping costs, the North American version would effectively cost 35 percent less than the Japanese.
It's likely Atlus also is concerned because the two versions release 12 days apart, with Japan's going first, on July 26. If it could be imported, that could damage Persona 4 Arena's release-week sales in Japan as cost-conscious gamers wait for a cheaper U.S. version to arrive on Aug. 7.
"The unforeseen consequence in all of this was that we had a version of our biggest game of the year releasing within a couple weeks in two territories, both identical in content, but at radically different price points," Atlus said.
"Importing, as great as it is for gamers who otherwise can't get access to a title, can also cannibalize the performance of a title in one territory to the benefit of another," the statement said. "While we're all one big Atlus family, the reality is that the dramatic difference between the Yen and the Dollar makes for a dramatic difference in price. So the decision was made, perhaps at the expense of some of our fans, clearly at the frustration of many, to region-lock Persona 4 Arena.
The statement concedes that the region-locking decision "has very clearly affected how many perceive the project, but we ask you to please not overlook the exceptional efforts of the people behind the game and to work with us through constructive dialogue."