One of the nice things about Nintendo's past handhelds was the complete lack of any kind of region restriction. The Japanese version of Wario Land 4 would play on an American Game Boy Advance, and the crazy Japanese football RPG EyeShield 21 would work on any DS, regardless of what country it came from.
Unfortunately, it appears that the age of importing quirky games from other territories will end once the 3DS is released in North America this March. According to Nintendo, it sounds like the 3DS may be region locked.
Nintendo allegedly provided VG247 with a statement about why they may choose to go down this region restrictive path:
“Nintendo 3DS hardware is available in three versions: Japanese, American and European/Australian. Nintendo has developed different versions of Nintendo 3DS hardware to take into account different languages, age rating requirements and parental control functionality as well as to ensure compliance with local laws in each region. Nintendo 3DS also offers network services specifically tailored for each region. Additionally we want to ensure the best possible gaming experience for our users and there is the possibility that Nintendo 3DS software sold in one region will not function properly when running on Nintendo 3DS hardware sold in another.”
While this may be disappointing to some, the decision is probably due to the online nature of the 3DS. The DSi, which was not region locked for cartridge games, did limit the downloadable games it could play to the owner's region. With the 3DS set to offer more downloadable content, like Game Boy Color games and original Game Boy titles, it isn't surprising to hear that the system will be more locked down than previous Nintendo handhelds. Add to that the issues with piracy the DS had, and Nintendo surely wants their new device to be as secure as possible. Letting any software from any region run on it probably wouldn't help.
Keep in mind that, for now, this "statement from Nintendo" that VG247 reported is not official. Until the big U.S. unveiling this Wednesday, January 19, we will have to take a wait and see approach.
I personally hope it isn't true, even though I expect it will be. As someone who owns several import GBA and DS games, this is disappointing news to hear. Importing isn't as big of a deal as it used to be, and most publishers realize there is a market for pretty much anything anywhere. Still, if it is true, there is a chance you could miss out on something special.
Stay turned to Game Rant for all the 3DS news we can get this Wednesday at the big Nintendo presentation.
Does the news that the 3DS may be region locked affect your intention to buy the system?