Speaking with investors and analysts during a financial results Q&A, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata recently addressed the fact that all of Nintendo’s recent devices have been region-locked—meaning that a device bought in one region cannot play games from another region.
Region-locking is one of those touchy subjects that is frequently brought up by those that like to import games, particularly in the case of the Nintendo 3DS, which has a vast library of games in Japan. While most 3DS games worth playing are eventually localized and released around the world, a fair few aren’t, and the region-lock prevents them from being played on non-Japanese 3DS devices regardless of whether you understand the Japanese language or not.
Regarding region-locking, Iwata acknowledged that doing away with the restriction could potentially offer certain benefits to both consumers and to Nintendo.
“There have been various conditions at play in the game business, such as a history of localization taking an extremely long time, a variety of marketing constraints and circumstances in each country, and the fact that the license needed to sell games have not always been granted globally,” Iwata said.
“In a sense, the region-lock has existed more for reasons having to do with the seller than the consumers. That has been the situation throughout the history of video game systems, and as for what should be done going forward, there may be advantages for the consumers and also for us if they were unlocked.”
“Conversely,” he added, “unlocking them would mean having to resolve different issues that would subsequently arise. While we have not decided whether we will unlock them or not, we do recognize that it is an issue that needs to be considered in the future.”