Iwata updates position on region-locking at Nintendo investor Q&A

Cheesemeister

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New thread for news. Major props to @gibbogame for his help and persistence!

Japanese: http://www.nintendo.co.jp/ir/library/events/150508qa/03.html
English: http://www.nintendo.co.jp/ir/en/library/events/150508qa/03.html

Official translation:
Q7: When you were asked if you would lift the region locks at the Financial Results Briefing six months ago, you answered that you would take it into consideration. Please explain the current situation.

A7: Iwata: My understanding is that it is not realistic on the existing video game systems because unlocking them after they are already on the market poses a number of hurdles. On the other hand, regarding NX, we understand that many consumers hold such opinions and such suggestions exist in the market, and although we have nothing concrete at the moment, we are internally analyzing what hurdles exist to lifting region locks. That is the situation right now. We acknowledge your request, and I personally want to give it positive consideration.
My unofficial translation...
Q7: At the financial results briefing 6 months ago, you said that you would consider removing region-locking in response to a question asking about it. Could you please provide an update on the progress of that deliberation?

A7: Iwata: Removing region-locking from current game machines presents various issues, so we don't consider that to be very realistic. However, regarding NX, given the customer feedback and proposals from the market, while nothing has been decided yet, we're currently investigating internally what problems there would be in realizing it. You can think of that as the current situation. I understand your desire, so I'd like to look at it optimistically going forward.
For what it's worth, the exact same word for looking forward optimistically (前向き) was used in A3, where Iwata was telling Miyamoto his reactions from the meeting with NBC Universal in regards to a theme park deal.

So, yeah.

Previously:
Iwata addresses region-locking at Nintendo investor Q&A
#NintendoRegionFree 2014 STARTS NOW!
Let's convince Nintendo to go region-free!

Petition: https://www.change.org/p/nintendo-stop-region-blocking-make-the-3ds-and-wii-u-region-free
Twitter: Follow @EndRegionLock, tweet to Nintendo under #EndRegionLocking and #NintendoRegionFree.
 

CO_Andy

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Getting access to Japan's VC library would be monumental. They get 20x more titles than what we get on our front.
 

SatoAilDarko

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This is by far the closest Nintendo has gotten. As Iwata directly addresses feedback and says they are looking at it optimistically.
 

Regulus Tera

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I remember back in the Game Boy days something about Yamauchi saying that their portables were region free because they wanted to encourage people traveling abroad to buy games before their flights without having to worry about compatibility.

Bring back Yamauchi, in zombie form if necessary!
 

Cheesemeister

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What problems would there be if Nintendo decided to make it region free?
Exactly. They'd have to notify publishers and retailers of the policy change, ask publishers if they wanted any past titles to be exempt from going region-free, and update the firmware to skip a single if statement. It shouldn't be very hard at all.
 

yami4ct

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What problems would there be if Nintendo decided to make it region free?
I believe speculation (not sure if it was confirmed, honestly) was that this was originally done to prevent reveres importation. The yen was as such that buying games outside of japan was way cheaper, so Nintendo wanted to prevent that.

As for taking it out, I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and believe the region locks are on a part of the system that would be very difficult to get rid of with new firmware and that modders having different levels of access is what makes it possible for them. Either that or weird business deals stop it. Either way, if they don't do it going forward with new systems than it's fine.
 

Zombie James

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...we're currently investigating internally what problems there would be in realizing it.
Just don't include region checking. Done. I don't understand why this is so difficult for them.
 

Maximo

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What problems there might be? Guess he means not being able to price gouge the fuck out of certain countries.
 

Cheesemeister

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I'd assume digital purchases from the eShop would have to remain locked though right?
Ideally, we'd be able to choose which region's eShop to visit and have our currency converted for foreign purchases. It sucks not having access to region-specific download-only titles like Shovel Knight, Virtual Console, etc.
 

BlackJace

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Honestly, this sounds like a "Eh wait till our next thing".

Not entirely satisfied, but it's better than nothing I guess.
 

yami4ct

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Well that's even less of a good excuse considering the other two big console manufacturers have no region locked games.
It's possible there are weird publishing deals with region locking built in and making the firmware selectively enable region locking for certain titles might be tricky. Assuming the worst as easy, but since we just don't know anything it's hard to judge either way.
 

VashTS

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I guess the original DS being region free totally didn't work out for nintendo at all apparently.
/S
 

Sandfox

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xbox one came out in China with region locks, then removed them because of customer outcry.


Your move, Nintendo.
I'm not going to pretend I know what kind of deals Nintendo has in place so I'm just going it leave it alone and look forward to their next platform being region free.
 

IceIpor

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Well that's even less of a good excuse considering the other two big console manufacturers have no region locked games.
No, but the problem remains that the contracts that they have already signed & setup with distributors/publishers/companies might prevent them from releasing a region-free patch.
Unlike Sony & MS's contracts, which probably includes that the software needs to be region-free.

For example, what happens if they signed a contract with a company that supplies them with the current region-locking hardware/software? They probably can't just annul it without a fine that they would rather not pay.
 

Agent Unknown

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Really bummed they won't remove the locks for Wii U and 3DS (if modders can why can't they?) but this is definitely a much more positive tone from Iwata on the issue so hopefully they're changing their stance for the future. There's really no excuse, especially when the rest of their portables were region free and with Vita, PS4 and XB1 all open it just makes them look obstinate and unreasonable.

Anyways, grain of salt but it's something to hopefully look forward to next round. Kudos to Cheesmeister, Gibbons and the Region Free tweet feed for hammering away at this.
 

krypt0nian

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No, but the problem remains that the contracts that they have already signed & setup with distributors/publishers/companies might prevent them from releasing a region-free patch.
Unlike Sony & MS's contracts, which probably includes that the software needs to be region-free.

For example, what happens if they signed a contract with a company that supplies them with the current region-locking hardware/software? They probably can't just annul it without a fine that they would rather not pay.
May. Until Nintendo says that it's just a fake message board defense.
 

Ushojax

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That sounds as if the NX might be region free. I won't hold my breath.
 

Dunkley

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Nice, sounds just as much a confirmation as their statements on skin color options in Animal Crossing.
 

InsaneZero

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Well that's even less of a good excuse considering the other two big console manufacturers have no region locked games.
The reason why Nintendo has potential legal problem is because they enforced region locking in the first place, so products that were intended for one region is expected to be only playable in that region. Nintendo will have to renegotiate with their partners for every title released for the 3DS/WiiU and determine if they would allow those to be playable in other regions. This is a huge effort that probably would be a hassle for everyone involved, so it's easier for Nintendo to simply do things over with the NX instead.

That being said, this reason just highlights the fact that region-locking was a terrible idea in the first place.

awaiting the obligatory "which partners" response
 

Giever

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If you aren't going to remove region locking for the current systems then please release the regular fucking new 3DS in NA.
 

IceIpor

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May. Until Nintendo says that it's just a fake message board defense.
Wow. Of course they signed contracts for their parts, so no. It's not a fake message board defense.

What would you say to a company lost earnings because a company decided to break contract and not order parts from them anymore, per a signed agreement? Lawsuit most likely.

It's not a simple matter. Nintendo made their bed, and now they need to examine the consequences of backing out of it before going forward.
 

Goldmund

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What problems would there be if Nintendo decided to make it region free?
Maybe it's about winning over their subsidiaries? They should have some influence on what is and what isn't published in their markets, so every mere suggestion (not) to localize and publish might ascend to the rank of a vanity project. Could be the only thing they have.
 

krypt0nian

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Wow. Of course they signed contracts for their parts, so no. It's not a fake message board defense.

What would you say to a company lost earnings because a company decided to break contract and not order parts from them anymore, per a signed agreement? Lawsuit most likely.

It's not a simple matter. Nintendo made their bed, and now they need to examine the consequences of backing out of it before going forward.

It's firmware. it's in software. It's just an excuse.
 

yami4ct

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The reason why Nintendo has potential legal problem is because they enforced region locking in the first place, so products that were intended for one region is expected to be only playable in that region. Nintendo will have to renegotiate with their partners for every title released for the 3DS/WiiU and determine if they would allow those to be playable in other regions. This is a huge effort that probably would be a hassle for everyone involved, so it's easier for Nintendo to simply do things over with the NX instead.

That being said, this reason just highlights the fact that region-locking was a terrible idea in the first place.

awaiting the obligatory "which partners" response

I will never understand why they decided to region lock all games on 3DS instead of making it optional like Sony has done. Maybe something in the hardware makes it harder? Just didn't think about it? Optional region lock fixes most problems. Pubs that want it can have it and those that don't care can leave it off.
 
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Did modders find a way to successfully unlock the n3DS in such a way that doesn't require a constant internet connection? Last I heard it had not been done. I think the goal was to completely change the region identifier in the system to make it think it was a NA device?
 

toddhunter

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What problems there might be? Guess he means not being able to price gouge the fuck out of certain countries.
Essentially. They would have distribution deals stating they will region lock to preserve profit margins.

The best we can take out of this is that there is no real reason for them to have region locking. It also shows how all the people who have defended it over the years for some reason were completely and utterly wrong.
 

Cheesemeister

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I will never understand why they decided to region lock all games on 3DS instead of making it optional like Sony has done. Maybe something in the hardware makes it harder? Just didn't think about it? Optional region lock fixes most problems. Pubs that want it can have it and those that don't care can leave it off.
Region-locking was optional on Xbox 360, leading to a huge mish-mash of titles that were region-free, some that weren't, and some that varied by region. In order to buy anything out-of-region, you had to refer to a giant compatibility list. It wasn't practical or convenient at all. I, for one, just stopped buying Xbox 360 games altogether and went with the region-free PS3 versions by default.