166: Global Growing Pains

Global Growing Pains

"My night's plans were ruined by region locking: the restriction of game consoles and their games to only cooperate with each other inside certain geographic boundaries. For example, Japanese Wii games won't play on American or European Wiis, and vice versa. This also applies to every major home console, every movie on disc and even online stores like iTunes and Steam.

"Why do we still have region locking in an era of global gaming?"

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Actually, marketing and economics can still be reasons to region lock titles. A publisher may want to focus on major regions at a time without worrying that they could be cannibalising their sales in the other regions. They may want to see how a title performs in one region before spending money launching it elsewhere. The reasons you give (and accept) for Nintendo holding back their launch in different regions are still valid today.

But yes, it sucks to be the consumer due to regionalisation of titles. Especially if it is a niche title that isn't going to be launched in your region, or is going to have a good long delay before appearing.

'cause hey, the world's a bitch.

There's a massive topic on the Steam Powered forums that's full of people (Especially Australians) lamenting how games they want won't be released in their regions (Or, in some cases, how they could pick up a game in one of their local stores or on D2D - but not on Steam). Region locking is obviously one of the reasons why people pirate games.

Global village my arse lol.

Aren't the PS3 and DS both region free?

L.B. Jeffries:
Aren't the PS3 and DS both region free?

This only solves one third of the problem. At least it's practical for the end user.
In many years, it's very possible we'll see this region system as absurd and primitive, and remember the fate of Lik Sang, ahead of their time.
Several distributors, if they could ship their products to other regions, would be looking for the cheapest and shortest trade lanes, and yet still sell their product at a higher price because of the shipping precisely. But this is not so easy, because there is no one global and balanced economy. Prices are more or less based upon the product's quality, the amount of localization work which went in it, and the local geographical purchasing power.
The issues highlighted in the article do already exist within regions, and distributors and retailers do certainly not want it to spread beyond those borders.
At least not until the new markets loosen their poverty and start to match the levels of richer countries.

One more point, relative to the article's structure: a shorter and near irrelevant intro, especially for ending citing rather obvious points, would have been much preferable. ;)

Digital distribution FTW. Destroy retail videogame sales.

There's also the video codec factor.

"NTSC" and "PAL" refer to different video codecs -- different ways of displaying the same video signal. Framerate is different, protocols are different, etc etc. Doubtless, they originally came about as a result of the market factors Blake describes; now, however, they're another factor in why region-locking exists.

They'll probably have a limited lifespan, given advances in digital broadcasting.

Yeah you never actually explained away the money problem. Basically it makes artificial local markets instead of having one global market. This means that they can sell a game for 20 USD in countries with poor economies but they don't have to worry about westerners getting it shipped overseas for that price. Otherwise everyone in the world would be paying the same price, and it wouldn't be as optimal of a supply/demand profit. Why is there a 3 page article on this again?

Dude, you can play GTIV on PS3 region free. I saw a few copies in Den Den Town and I also saw the saved date for it on a PS3 in Japan so I'm not sure why you couldn't play it......

Also I think you need to check you economics. Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, and 3rd party game developers have to make a profit. From this profit they have to pay rent and wages. A global release has to make enough profit to pay these expenses. If games could be made in China by unskilled workers, a global release might make sense because wages would be cheap. Unfortunately for you, this is not the case.

You need skills to make and sell games so you have to pay higher wages to game developers and marketers. Since first world countries have citizens with high wages, they can afford to buy $50 games. The profits have to pay the rent and wages though. So if Sony releases a game that was created in Japan by Japanese developers, those guys have to get paid first especially if the game was made for a Japanese audience (who will most likely buy the game) After all local wages and rent are paid, Sony can release another region based copy to make even larger profits.

Take-Two is an American publisher. When they publish and develop a Grand Theft Auto game, their US and UK workers and the rent have to get paid first. A division of labour is needed in order for Take Two to develop quality games and make money in the first place. So when GTA IV is properly released in Japan, Rockstar Japan will take care of the release(who works in conjunction with Capcom)

"Global growth" is not a good thing because it doesn't reflect the economic reality of the situation. If people can't make money creating games, then no one will make them anymore or only crappy games will get created. Different markets and tastes will always exist because people are different. Just find your own personal way to deal with locked regions.

There's also the video codec factor.

"NTSC" and "PAL" refer to different video codecs -- different ways of displaying the same video signal. Framerate is different, protocols are different, etc etc. Doubtless, they originally came about as a result of the market factors Blake describes; now, however, they're another factor in why region-locking exists.

They'll probably have a limited lifespan, given advances in digital broadcasting.

The only problem with that is that HD is becoming more and more popular, and HD outputs are universal.

Region Locking was at one point a technical issue, but it went further than that. Like in the DVD market regions are split finer than the issues with NTSC and PAL would cause (there are only two tv signal formats yet seven or so regions). It's strange to see this stuff though. Practically nobody imports cd's from India (where brand new albums cost about 5€), but somehow the videogames and DVD branches think such things are a great threat upon them.

As I play many fighting games this factored into my choice for a PS3 btw. I don't doubt there'll be a lot of funky stuff coming from Japan in that genre.

riftinducer & S-854 (on NTSC and PAL):
It used to be a technical problem. There was a great difference between American and European tv 'tubes' (specifically the way the projector built up the image). American ones output 60Hz and European 50Hz interlaced. One offers a higher total refresh rate (60 times the whole screen) the other is easier on the eyes with smoother transitions (100 times half the screen, first all odd lines, then all even lines, thus interlaced). Later they developed PAL tubes that were capable of handling an NTSC signal. From that point on a lot of games gained the option to be played at 50 or 60 Hz. Choosing 60 means the game will run with NTSC video output. Obviously results got messy if you did this on a tube that didn't support it (black and white, scanlines, garbled or missing sound, flickers, missing objects or simply a blank screen for example).

All flatscreen tv's support both standards as it was an issue with the projector cannon that is not present in 'flats'. You needn't even pull HD into it.

Regional limitiations in console gaming really tick me off. I can't think of any other sane reason for maintaining them, other than cold hard cash for the companies.

PAL/NTSC problems? There are ways to circumvent them. The players can take care of it themselves, thank you. The industry wouldn't need to do anything more than mark which one of the two the game is in on the box and not care too much about the rest. If it was really about the outputs, that is.

But back to the issue of cash - is it really good for the industry to divide the world when it has already been connected for a long time? I could get into a rant about how Rock Band 1 has still not been released in my country, when across the ocean people are already playing the sequel. OK, there are licensing issues, localization issues, all this complicated technical stuff a mere mortal like me can't wrap his head around.

But tell me this - why do I have to make a Japanese PSN account and an American one separately just to download some demos and trailers from the stores? Why do I have to input a fake US address and feel like a criminal just to try out a few turns of Civilization Revolution? Wouldn't it make more sense to make it easily available to every PS3 user? I mean, this is free content. No taxes, no duties, no licensing BS. Demos and trailers are advertising. And Sony is willingly limiting it. What the hell?

Airhead, don't get me started on Rock Band.
My dad bought me an NTSC-J Xbox 360 in Hong Kong (instead of PAL), and I bought the RB bundle in a recent visit to the US. The thing is, he bought the console with two games- LEGO Indiana Jones and Grid, which the boxes stated they were PAL. In fact, they are two region-free games. This led me to think he indeed bought a PAL console, so I ordered a UK (PAL) version of Rock Band. RB, of course, is region-locked, and the game refused to work. Imagine my horror at discovering that there WAS no NTSC-J version of Rock Band, so my set-up is useless!

Anyone interested in buying a new XBOX 360 (NTSC-J)?

The world is a bitch and locking games by region seems so backwards in our modern society. Really. But I suppose when I am planning to settle in a different continent, I'd be damn sure to contact support for the 360 and make sure what's plausible and what's not.


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