On Breaking Nintendo’s Region Locking

Being an expat is sometimes weird. Your life bridges two worlds, and nowhere is this more annoying than in the area of region locking.

It’s irritating enough that most of my DVDs are from the UK, and don’t like North American devices. But my real bugbear these days has been with Nintendo.

My Nintendo 3DS originates from the UK, which means that if I want to play the latest and greatest new game, I have to import from Europe. Any game I buy on this continent just won’t work on my device.

Nintendo have given their reasons for region locking, but in my mind it makes very little sense nowadays. People travel around a lot, and to lock their devices to a geographical area serves to alienate users whilst providing little obvious benefit to the manufacturers.

“But, can’t you just hop on Amazon.co.uk, buy a UK game and them send it over to Canada?” I hear you say. Nice try, but Amazon.co.uk doesn’t deliver to Canada and unhelpfully redirects me towards Amazon.ca where I can buy a game that won’t run on my European 3DS.

But, then I hear you exclaim “You know most of the big releases can be purchased in the eShop as downloadable versions?”. Ah! A promising idea. Not only could I buy a game from the UK eShop directly on my 3DS, but I’d also avoid all the hassle of importing a physical game and even get to download it directly onto my device!

Sounds perfect, all I need to do is buy some Nintendo points in the eShop. Oh, but wait, I can’t use my Canadian credit card in the UK eShop, and I no longer have a UK credit card. No Nintendo points for me then, ergo no games.

So, what options am I left with? I could use PayPal to wire some money to a friend in the UK, and they could buy a game on my behalf and post it to me. Or, better still they could buy me a Nintendo Points Card and email me the card’s activation code.

However, I’ve discovered a third option. It’s not perfect, but it does help you gain access to some games.

Nintendo has a more traditional on-line store. You can order a limited selection of games there. Most of the games are physical copies that need to be sent by snail mail (and yes, Nintendo will only post physical games to UK addresses), but a few are downloadable versions. If you buy one of them, Nintendo emails you a code after your purchase, which you then redeem in the eShop on your 3DS and are granted an immediate download. Yay!

Again you’re limited to using UK credit cards. But! They also accept PayPal as an alternative, which means you can buy one of the downloadable games using PayPal, and receive the download code via email.

As I said, the game selection is very limited, and not all the biggest titles are on there (no Super Smash Bros). But it’s better than nothing. With it, I was finally able to purchase and become woefully addicted to Animal Crossing: New Leaf.

In spite of this silver lining on an annoying cloud, next time I visit England I think I’ll stock up to get my gaming fix.

Edit: Seems Nintendo plan to end region locking with their next generation of consoles: www.polygon.com/2014/11/1/7143257/nintendo-region-lock-wii-u-3ds

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