Activision Talks Region Locking as Free Markets Tumble
Why region locking is policing...
by Tim Smith
A chap called Nelson Batista has asked Activision's community manager, Dan Amrich, to explain why region locking games isn't merely a way of 'enforcing' piracy.
Aside from the choice of 'enforcing' when Mr Batista probably meant, 'encouraging', this appears to be a reasonable question. Activision is a company that loves the free market and would hate to see it policed or over-governed. So, what's the skinny on Region Locking? You maybe confused...
It is a system that means that your dear Aunty Maggie in Japan can't send you a lovely playable copy of Ni No Kuni: The Wrath of the White Witch (reviewed here) for your birthday if you live in Wakefield. So, why is it Okay?
Dan says, "Short version: no, it's not enforcing piracy. I don't think you're going to ever find any major publisher trying to encourage people to rip them off." Certainly, a masterful card to play Dan. So, what is the reason?
"You can't infringe on that Japanese company's rights or that American company's rights by releasing the game in the opposite territory if you don't have the legal right to do it.
"Region locking sort of helps police who has the rights to make what money in what territory."
Eh? Activision can't infringe on another company's rights to sell Activision property that Activision has sold to it? That's a distribution deal. Activision still makes money. What Dan means here is that selling stuff in another country is easier and more profitable if local distribution does the donkey work for you. You still make money but your costs are lower.
Well, that is until the territory becomes valuable... in which case you can get rid of the locals and make the cash yourself.
He also has another 'reason' for region locking: "Is the content that you're releasing in Country A acceptable in Country B? Germany is notoriously hard-nosed on things like violent content in video games."
Once again, that has nothing whatsoever to do with Region Locking. In this case, you simply release a different version of the game. It's not your fault or concern as a company to police who is importing your titles. That's a local trading issue.
The real reason is simple: if you're the originator of a product, you can't get the best deal possible for your game if there's no region lock since anyone looking to license your game already knows that a good chunk of sales have been lost to importing and, thus, will either pay you less of a fee or might not license your game at all.
That's really it--anything else is just marketing/PR nonsense.