Was there ever really a good reason for region locking content? I would imagine that, to some extent, it was to protect the rights of various international distributors but with the freedom of imports and the wide availability of multi-region DVD players it does seem a little pointless now. With games this feels even more ridiculous, as the distribution channels for a publisher are typically their own rather than those of a local distributor who purchased the rights.
However, in an age of content that you can download, region locking makes absolutely no sense at all. Yes, you should make localised copies available for the various languages of your consumers but why not let people have access to whatever copy they want online? The additional costs of making it available everywhere range between none and exceptionally small (depending on if you want it hosted on a server close to the consumer or not).
With physical copies of games there are perfectly reasonable reasons not to distribute everywhere. I know that Peter was complaining recently about the fact that Sony aren’t release MLB 11: The Show in the UK, even though it’s widely regarded as one of the best sports games out there. The problem is that there simply isn’t a significant enough audience in the UK, or Europe in general, to justify the costs associated with a full-blown release of a title on physical media. Sure, there are people outside of the US who love baseball, but compared to the audience in the US it’s likely to be pretty insignificant.
The thing is, there’s no good reason not to make it available on PSN. SCEE do have their rules for localising all content, but is it really necessary for every game? I know that makes it sound like the UK is more important than the rest of the countries falling under SCEE’s remit but it’s more a case of logistics.
If the game’s out in the US there’s not really any localisation that needs to take place for a release in any English speaking country. You could worry about converting every American English spelling to British English, but I don’t think we’re going to riot if a game has some words that aren’t spelled the British way. If you’re downloading a title from a digital store then you’re probably used to reading a wide variety of spellings on the internet anyway.
With that taken into account there’s no reason not to release it in the UK, or everywhere. That’s not to say games shouldn’t be localised from English, they certainly should. All I’m saying is just make it available to everyone as long as there are no legal concerns.
This approach could certainly be taken with Japanese games as well, particularly because there are plenty of gamers that prefer to play a game in the original Japanese rather than the localised version. Again it should be localised for those gamers who don’t speak Japanese, but there’s really no reason not to make a title easily available to those who want to play it.
It may well be that there are certification issues I’m not considering, although I’m not sure about the loopholes that are created when a title is being distributed globally. Content that comes via the internet is still in somewhat of a legal quagmire, but given that it’s perfectly possible to import games surely this kind of scheme could treat the titles in the same way.
Really all I want is to easily be able to pay for the content I want to consume. I’ll happily pay for it if someone lets me, but it’s incredibly frustrating when no-one’s making it available to you. More than anything it doesn’t make any sense from a business perspective. If people are more than willing to give you money, with almost no additional outlay from you, then why not let them?