Nintendo’s president, Satoru Iwata, told investors during a Q&A that the company might reverse its policy on region locking.
Region locking is where a device, or in this case video game or console, is locked for a particular region. That means you can’t play a game that’s sold in the US in another country, such as China or Japan.
Iwata explained that region-locking has existed because of various circumstances having to do with marketing or licensing in the different countries.
“The game business has a history of taking a very long time with localisation among other things, such as having to deal with various issues of marketing in each particular country, or games that have made use of licensed content that did not apply globally, and had all kinds of circumstances, so to say, that region-locking has existed due to circumstances on the sellers’ side rather than for the sake of the customers,” he said, as translated by NeoGAF user Cheesemeister.
Iwata stopped short of saying that the policy would definitely be reversed, however.
“As for what should be done going forward, if unlocked for the benefit of the customers, there may also be a benefit for us,” he said. “Conversely, unlocking would require various problems to be solved, so while I can’t say today whether or not we intend to unlock, we realise that it is one thing that we must consider looking to the future.”
Nintendo was actually among the first companies to region lock its consoles, and it looks like it’s one of the last to still do it. Sony and Microsoft no longer region locks their consoles. And Nintendo’s handheld consoles prior to the DS were also region-free. The Wii U is the only current-gen console that’s region-locked.
Iwata has even defended the policy as early as last year, according to Ars Technica.
Many fans disagree with region-locking. In fact, some even started a petition to get Nintendo to reverse its policies.
Of course, region locking might not be a huge deal for a lot of consumers. As NintendoLife points out, most people don’t import games from other regions anymore.
But the move would prove that Nintendo is finally looking to a future where games are distributed digitally, rather than on cartridges or discs. And, by removing its region locks, games could also be distributed more quickly and efficiently on a global scale.