Sunday, July 23, 2006

More than Six Months since Launch: On Xbox 360 Game Regions

As the owner of a Japanese version Xbox 360, I've been watching the trend when it comes to game releases and availability of English text/voice and menus in NTSC-J games. For the most part, English support on Xbox 360 games is just excellent. In a nutshell, most NTSC-J games already have ENGLISH support in them so long as you set your console to ENGLISH.

I want to summarize this for gamers who are worried about the whole 'region locking' problem on the 360, which in my opinion really isn't a problem to begin with. Here are a few points to keep in mind if you're an English speaking person but can only buy an Asian version/Japanese version Xbox 360:

1. For Maximum compatibility with all NTSC-J releases (both from Asia and Japan), get the Japanese Xbox 360. If you want to have no issues with power/voltage, or essentially, if you don't want to fuss over buying a voltage converter (from 220V to 110V), get the Asian Xbox 360. It is true that the Asian Xbox 360 has compatibility issues with some Xbox 360 games from JAPAN, but the truth of the matter is, I only know of exactly TWO games where you will have a problem: Call of Duty 2 (US version) and Dynasty Warriors 5. That is all. It is easily solved by buying the asian version which can easily be found in stores and in Play-asia.

So essentially, you can't go wrong with either the Japanese or the Asian version of the 360.

2. I think most, if not all, of Ubi-Soft's games are region-free. The only known region-locked game from Ubi-Soft is KING KONG (US VERSION)

3. I am very, very confident that every single Asian Version Xbox 360 game will always have english voice/text/menus. (And Chinese, too.)

4. Games from SEGA are region free (Chrome Hounds, Condemned, and any other game in the future)

5. Electronic Arts is the only third-party publisher that is making a big fuss and putting region locking in their games. So go get Asian version titles when it comes to games from their studio.

6. Microsoft Games Studios' games are also largely region locked; but the good news is, no matter what version of MS Games Studio game that you buy, be confident that you'll always have the option for English Voice/Text/Menus in their titles! (besides, if you get Asian versions of MS games, they're way, WAY cheaper than their US counterpart)

7. After seeing Oblivion get released by 2K games for Asia, and after seeing Top Spin 2 get released for Asia, again by 2K games, I'm very confident that NBA 2k7 is coming out for the Asian/Japanese Xbox 360 via an Asian release.

Of course, know that these are just my opinions, and in the future I can be wrong....I admit to having no 'insiders' to give me information on this, my guesses on how game regions will be implemented in the future is largely based on what I've been observing for the past few months. And with Sony strongly advertising that their games will be region free for the PS3, I think the trend for video games is moving towards going region free for all game titles.

The truth is, by default, the Xbox 360 is not a region locked console....each console has a 'region' encoded to it, but game publishers can choose to ignore it completely. It isn't a requirement from Microsoft that region locks be placed in Xbox 360 games. I heard Major Nelson talk about this in an interview during an event in Australia a few months ago. They aren't forcing publishers to region lock their games, but they're giving them the option to, I guess, as a sign of respect for however game publishers want to plan out their logistics for distributing their titles. Some publishers want to be able to monitor their sales worldwide, and that's why they put region locks in the games. Others are a bit more progressive on the subject and don't bother with region locks at all, knowing how region-locks can actually stifle game sales (since potential buyers end up getting confused with the need to check game regions, etc.)

Of course there's the argument that 'some content is not acceptable in certain regions' and this is why there are region locks. One example is, in Germany, they can't have red blood in their video games, so the version of Call of Duty 2 that they sell over there doesn't have any red blood (oh, swastikas too aren't in the German version, I heard). I believe this argument, but along with that I also think that having regions is a control scheme for companies to keep watch on their game sales and it lets them properly monitor how their titles are doing in the marketplace (for instance, it helps them answer fundamental questions, like "which games sell well in 'x' region?" Something like that).

Now, back to Cyrodiil for me....

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