Australia Considers Banning Region Locked Game Consoles

When there's nothing left to ban, you start to ban banning.

Australia is considering banning companies from preventing or penalising users for overcoming region-lockout methods employed in a number of devices, including video game consoles.

A recent inquiry into price gouging of electronic devices, software, games and movies in Australia rejected the notion that it cost more to sell goods in a country with a smaller population. The inquiry, conducted by the House of Representatives, found no legitimate reason for why products cost up to 50 to 100 per cent more in Australia than other countries.

The inquiry handed several recommendations to the Australian Government for their consideration to eventually pass into law. First up was the recommendation that the Government set up a monitoring system to keep tabs on price fluctuations.

More interesting, however, is the recommendation that region-locking (also called “geo-blocking”) be legally circumvented by Australian consumers should they — in the case of gaming consoles — find a cheaper video game elsewhere in the world.

The inquiry also wants to see the Government and businesses to educate consumers about the ability to circumvent the geo-blocking features. Should the market not comply with these ideas, there was also a recommendation on banning region-locked devices altogether meaning game console makers will have to either release region-free devices, or not release in Australia at all.

Further, it will be illegal for a company to penalise users for breaking the region-lockout features, meaning service agreements and contracts will have to be rewritten for the Australian region.

Another recommendation is that consumers be given a “right of resale” on digitally purchased goods, such as games downloaded on Nintendo eShop or PlayStation Network. This stretches further to disallow companies from locking down digitally purchased items to a single ecosystem. We imagine this would extend to companies like Apple, who do not allow TV shows and movies to be played on non-Apple devices.

Of course, these are all recommendations at this point. Time will tell if any will be passed into law.

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  • Paul Candlish

    Maybe they will just stop selling consoles here?

    • Tynan Muddle

      That’s unlikely but you raise an interesting point.

      I think, ultimately, governments should sort of butt out when it comes to features of products. Region locking is a feature. It may be unpopular, but it’s still a feature. It’s like forcing all keyboards to be backlit, or there can be no white chairs in Australia. I think if a company makes a feature and people are buying the product, it should be legal.

      HOWEVER! If a company has made a feature to purposefully disadvantage a group of people then yes, that would be wrong. Though, in all honesty, I think the region locking has a lot more to do with quality of service and adhering to other laws than anything.

      • Paul C

        I think it would be a good idea to give us access to US pricing for downloaded titles. Why should a downloaded title cost anymore in Australia then it does in the US?

      • M.Sanna

        “…I think the region locking has a lot more to do with quality of service…”

        Could you better explain this point please?
        What region locking has to do with quality of service?

        • Tynan Muddle

          Content makers don’t region lock because they hate you.

          I wrote an article about this here:

          • Blue Gum

            That only applies to digital content, discs/cartridges should be region free, even if that means no access to the local digital store for dlc.

            Sony have found an acceptable model with the PSVita, it’s time the other companies do something similar.

      • Beartic

        And I believe the company does it on purpose to gain profit. Why would Nintendo release a non mainstream game in America for $40 on 3DS, when they can release it in Japan only, and thrn sell the locked version to the US gamers for…. $200?

  • Patrick Devine

    would be great if we get features and apps and add-ons we miss out on that the US and UK get.

  • shark_tsuki

    Its a good move. Region locking restricts us to have games that are not localized. I hope US/UK also takes this initiative.

  • Dafster

    Taking the Wii U as a region-locked example – Nintendo can’t just forget about it in Australia, so they’d have to start making consoles that are compatible with all regions. But then what about the people who’ve already bought a Wii U?

    • Paul C

      A simple firmware update?

    • Saurian

      There is no physical reason for the region locking to exist, a firmware update will remove it. Nintendo are looking increasingly isolated and out of touch with both gaming asa medium and the gaming public itself, removing the region lock will do wonders for their image right now and increase sales in the process.

      • Tynan Muddle

        There are a few reasons for region locking to exist –

        • Blue Gum

          PSVita proves a balance can be struck so the reasons are weak.

          • Tynan Muddle

            Vita is hardly a good example.

          • Blue Gum

            Like it said, it strikes a balance, you can either have region free with some restrictions or region free so the poorer gaming countries get boned.

            Please provide a “good example”.

          • Tynan Muddle

            See, you misunderstand the concept behind region locking.

            Again, they don’t region lock stuff because they hate you. They region lock consoles, games, movies, etc, for multiple reasons. One important reason is localisation — what might be considered illegal and offensive in one country (like, for example, pictures of females driving cars) will be a complete non-issue in another.

            Copyright is another, and again this ties into localisation. Take for example the Pokemon series. Nintendo has never called it ‘Pocket Monsters’ in English localisation (on logos, etc), but they do in Japan. Having half of the game stock at EB Games have a “Pokemon” logo, the other half having a “Pocket Monsters” logo would confuse customers and damage the brand.

            See, video game consoles are mass consumer products. You can’t look at them through the eyes of a gamer. You have to look at them through the eyes of a consumer.

            Now, you might come back and say “but wait, consoles are about gaming and gamers!”, but sadly that’s not quite applicable.

            Let’s look at the cooking industry. A chef will look at your $10 toaster and say “that’s not an efficient or delicious way of toasting bread” and have 40 examples of how to do it better. Regardless, we all have toasters because they suit us, the non-chefs of the world.

            I guess the difference here is that when a chef hates the look of a toaster, he doesn’t spark an international hate campaign against Sunbeam.

            Trust me, if game companies started doing everything gamers demanded the industry would crumble.

            “Allow region free so EB Games can sell cheap versions of games!”. The reality would be that EB Games would import non-English versions of games into Australia and sell them at the same price as Australian versions, so keep more profit.

            Then you’ve got cases like Xenoblade. Everyone DEMANDS it get an English localisation. So it does. But then reviewers and gamers slam it not not having American voices and sales are weak (just as Nintendo probably assumed they would be, hence the delay). Do you actually think it would have sold more if Nintendo simply un-region-locked the Wii console? Of course not. 8 people would’ve imported it and realised it sucks without the ability to follow the story.

            I know it’s popular to run around the internet and slam the merits of region locking, but to me those people just sound like fools who have no actual concept of the way the world works. They’re too busy thinking of themselves and how hard done they are by evil companies that don’t localise a Tales games, while ignoring the fact that they would never buy the Japanese version even if their console could run it.

            The reason Vita isn’t a good example of gamers being misfortuned due to region locking is because there’s only about 5 Vita games that haven’t been released outside of Japan. So we might say that 99% of the games are in English anyway, meaning the region free feature is pretty much redundant.

          • sirloin

            region free is for me not so much about importing from japan but importing from the US as games are much cheaper. there are no good reasons for the price difference between Australian and the US.i regularly import games for my vita,ps3 and xbox. If microsoft and sony are able to do it i can see no reason why nintendo can’t there are many 3ds games i would like to play but the extreme price gouging that goes on in Australia had stoped me from buying the console.

          • Tynan Muddle

            I see where you’re coming from, but usually games aren’t that much cheaper from the US.

            You see a price online that says “$50”, that isn’t including sales tax. Then you need to find a supplier who will actually ship from the US to Australia, which is harder than you’d think in many cases. And shipping from US to Australia is usually about $30, minimum. So you’re already rocking about $90 for a game from the US. Surely, the extra $10 is worth the convenience of having it today, and supporting the local industry?

            So the other option is to import from the UK. Though with shipping being a cost, it’s a better idea to buy from someone who parallel imports. But even then, you’re looking at only about a $20-$30 saving. Sure, that can be a lot, but you also don’t get the range. That means, even though you’re saving $30, you’re only allowed to buy the big sellers like Call of Duty or whatever — which will probably be on special at Big W anyway.

            I don’t think merely unlocking consoles is going to help matters. It’s a regional behaviour shift. Aussies need to stop pirating, stop importing, and start supporting the local industry. That will increase real demand and lower prices.

          • Beartic

            I think game developers should include a “non regent lock” version in their games. It may delay the game, but it would ve fair to all players. Like for example, Pokemon X and Y have the ability to switch thr language from English to French to Japanese to ect in ALL versions of the game.

  • extermin8or2

    I agree with alot of this, the only point that seems stupid is the reselling digital games… Well as the product doesn’t age in a conventional manner and is always available from their server this would either mean a limit on how many times you can download an item you buy digitally or a massive loss for companies as there would be no difference between a used digital copy and a brand new bar a lower price on the former.

  • OBI

    goodbye wii u

    • gre

      Shut up troll.

  • Zimmer Remmiz

    Looks like Australia won’t be getting Nintendo consoles anymore, I mean it’s not as if games sell well enough there for it to be worth changing a company policy…

    • Blue Gum

      It adds alot of pressure to Nintendo and can no longer be shrugged off as a thing only core gamers want.

      If Nintendo withdraw from the Australian market they will have to answer to their stock holders why they are unable to provide region free games when both Sony & MS(XB1) are able to offer it and will continue to sell consoles in Aus while Nintendo give up.

  • Alex Vivian

    This would be great if it forced Nintendo to unlock there consoles.
    I’m already sad about a few titles I missed out on/still waiting for on my 3DS. I like some pretty obscure games that sometimes are not considered for localization here.

    I am happy to wait a week or two even maybe a couple of months for a game release. Though as much as I like to support company’s who localize games here, there has been some games I have had to wait over a year or more for or I simply just miss out and that is just to much…

    Though at this point isn’t nintendo the only one region locking this next gen? from what I have heard PS4 and Xbox One are region free.

  • Wehau

    I personally would love to see a law which forces Nintendo into making Free Region Console, especially for Nintendo 3DS. Why? It’s because I wanted to play games released in Japan only. For example, Super Robot Taisen UX. There’s no freakin’ way I would shell out another $300-$400 for japan region 3DS, only to play the game. I know that a lot of people especially fans of Super Robot Taisen series outside Japan are either locked out completely or forced to buy Japan region 3DS console including myself.

    So I totally support this idea!

  • J.

    Region locking prevents companies getting money. Sure it sounds simple to add a small code to keep a game from playing in a different region, but who makes the codes? Someone who soaks up more company funds. And how about the cost of making region-specific hardware? It costs more than just making the same batch for every individual country, I’m guessing. And that is also why we have age ratings for games based on the country, and counter-piracy measure, thus region locking makes no sense. Also, the owner owns the game and console, the company doesn’t, so they have the right to do as they wish providing it’s not piracy or otherwise illegal.