Nintendo’s policy of region-locking its systems nearly robbed North American Wii owners of the chance to play Xenoblade Chronicles and The Last Story – two of the system’s very best games. Thankfully, that particular tale has a happy ending: through the efforts of Operation Rainfall, both games were ultimately released in the West.
Unfortunately, Nintendo appears to have learned nothing from the experience, and its stance on the matter of region-locks is demonstrably unchanged. Just like the 3DS, Wii, GameCube, N64, SNES and NES, the Wii U will be region-locked when it releases worldwide later this Fall.
Simply put, region-locking prevents hardware released in one part of the world from playing games released in another. Initially, it shouldn’t be much of an issue for Wii U, as the system’s launch lineup is largely the same in North America, Europe, Australia and Japan. The only notable exception is Madden NFL 13, which is, unsurprisingly, exclusive to North America. That being said, as time goes on and Wii U accumulates a library of games that are unique to one region or another, a repeat of the Xenoblade Chronicles/The Last Story situation is all but guaranteed – and next time, the outcome might not be so favorable.
In contrast to Nintendo’s strict policy of region-locking its systems and games, both Sony and Microsoft allow publishers to make that decision for themselves. There is no mandate that any PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 games must be locked to a specific region and, as a result, few are. Obviously, this is good news for players, who are free to import Xbox 360 and PS3 games from all over the world. Nintendo, for that matter, should be well aware of the benefits region-free systems can provide: the DS – Nintendo’s best-selling system – had no regional restrictions at all.
Wii U’s high-definition graphics and innovative GamePad controller, in addition to features like Nintendo TVii, suggest that Nintendo is finally ready to deliver a truly modern console gaming experience, but the company’s stance on region-locks is defiantly old-fashioned. Is it time for Nintendo join its competitors and make region-locks a thing of the past? What do you think?
The Nintendo Wii U releases in North America November 18, 2012.
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