Nintendo's Border Control Still Sucks

A new model of the 3DS brought renewed hope that Nintendo might reverse its backwards stance of region-locking its hardware, preventing the import of games from other parts of the planet. Turns out that was a fool's hope.


The company has confirmed with GameSpot that, like the 3DS versions before it, the new models will be region-locked.

Nintendo is the only one of the three major platform holders to still engage in this practice. My Xbox One and PS4 are both, one way or another, set to download and play games from multiple worldwide stores, and I can do this just by toggling a few settings or creating multiple accounts. The same is true of Apple's App Store.

The PlayStation Vita is, likewise, region-free. You can pop a cart in from anywhere on Earth and it'll work in any Vita system, regardless of where you bought it.

My Wii U, however, is locked to the US store. If there's a cool game released on the European or Japanese stores and it's not available in the US, I'm shit out of luck. Ditto for my 3DS, which is an Australian model, not only subjecting me to delays and the "Australia Tax" but also depriving me of games not available on my default store.


What's frustrating about this isn't so much the restrictions, but the history. Ten years ago, while other consoles like the PS2 were sitting behind artificial walls restricting the import of games, Nintendo's hardware was truly global, and playing games on a Nintendo system was fantastic as a result.


Both the Game Boy Advance and DS were region-free, as was (with the use of a legally-available Freeloader disc) the GameCube. Because of this, we got a chance to buy and enjoy games from overseas - Japan especially - that we wouldn't otherwise have been able to, or at least without having to suffer through delays or localisation disasters.

In some ways, it was a real golden age. Without delays or restrictions, fans could play any Nintendo game they wanted, whenever they wanted. And they did: so many people got their hands on quirky music game Ouendan (above) that we eventually got a localised version (Elite Beat Agents), albeit one that lost most of the original's charm.


I get why Nintendo feels they have to do it. They'll say, for whatever reason, piracy was rampant on the Nintendo DS. They also have local distributors and retailers to keep happy, who were probably none too pleased that so many people in "expensive" regions like Europe and Australia could import games from the US and Japan for massive savings.

Maybe one day, though, Nintendo will realise that the solution to these issues isn't locking out their most passionate fans, but in solving it technologically like Sony and Microsoft have.


Until then, some of the company's biggest fans are going to have to keep fighting the good fight.

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