PS3's gone all this time without any region locked games. So why has it happened now?

Unlike Xbox 360, PS3 managed to get almost seven years into its life before any of its games were region locked. But it's finally happened – Atlus' new brawler Persona 4 Arena is going to be the first game that will only work on PS3 consoles from the same region the game is being sold in. The news has angered the internet, which has become accustomed to not only getting PS3 games earlier by importing, but sometimes cheaper too. But now, US gamers won't be able to get it earlier, and Japanese gamers won't be able to get it cheaper. So Atlus has responded with a press release – the content of which pretty much amounts to: "We are really, really sorry, and it won't happen again. Sorry, bye. Sorry".

The press release stated: "We were completely unprepared for the force with which the community communicated their disapproval. “There are, however, a few points to clarify. This is NOT the beginning of a new ATLUS policy, nor do we view it as a precedent or a slippery slope. If anything, your determination and dedication to what you believe in has certainly stood in the face of that."

Above: This is what all the fuss is about. A 2D fighting game based on the Persona universe

So here's a question: Can you guess why Atlus wanted to region lock Persona 4? National pride, perhaps? International export laws? An implausibly late protest over the closure of Lik-Sang? No, of course not – it's all about money. What a surprise. But before we get onto the nasty business side of things, to Atlus' credit, the issue appears to be a product of intended fan service. In trying to release a dual language game (as requested) as close to a simultaneous global release as possible, the wildly differing international markets made for a massive disparity in prices.

"Persona 4 Arena achieves a number of triumphs for our North American publishing house. For years, our fans have asked us to include dual language audio in our games. Finally, with P4 Arena, we were able to deliver on that desire and include the exact same content as the Japanese release for our North American fans. Moreover, our North American community is often forced to wait months for a localized release (a plight our friends across the Atlantic can relate to). Again, with P4 Arena, we’re able to release within two weeks of Japan. We pushed hard for these things. We know our fans want them–well really, EXPECT them–and we did our best to get as much for our release as possible.

Above: Easy, Tiger - let's not get weird here. Presumably this is why Ryu throws fireballs

"We had a version of our biggest game of the year releasing within a couple weeks in two territories, both identical in content, but at radically different price points. Importing, as great as it is for gamers who otherwise can’t get access to a title, can also cannibalize the performance of a title in one territory to the benefit of another. While we’re all one big ATLUS family, the reality is that the dramatic difference between the Yen and the Dollar makes for a dramatic difference in price. So the decision was made, perhaps at the expense of some of our fans, clearly at the frustration of many, to region-lock Persona 4 Arena."

In other words, Japanese gamers are losing out because there's more money to be made from exploiting a captive audience instead of allowing them to exploit the exchange rate and import a cheaper US version two weeks later. But at least the community uproar was so big it’s made Atlus reconsider how it will tackle this in the future:

"For many of you, there is no explanation that resonates, no justification that atones for this fact. We can only endeavor to earn back your confidence and, to learn from your arguments. We absolutely recognize the fear that this is the beginning of a trend. We in no way view it as such. Please also keep in mind that the game’s excellent online multiplayer is global, a fact that is in no way affected by the region-lock. Players can compete against fighters from all territories.

Above: Actually, a cute new girl challenger from another region. Same game, see?

"A tremendous team of talented developers and artists poured their blood, sweat, and tears into Persona 4 Arena, and every reaction we’ve ever received to the game has shown that those efforts are readily apparent. The decision to region-lock P4 Arena was a business one, one that has very clearly affected how many perceive the project, but we ask you to please not overlook the exceptional efforts of the people behind the game and to work with us through constructive dialogue.

"Thank you."

So there you go. Apparently actual heaemoglobin was shed in the making of this game, mixed with sweat and tears and poured into a vat to make the game. Logically, the extra premium you'll be paying for your western release will be going to pay the compensation for elastoplast-covered employees.

Still, we applaud Atlus for responding in such a human way. They've listened, they've learned and they insist this is 'not a slippery slope' so is unlikely to happen again. And besides, if they need to maximise profits (and perhaps even gauge exactly where their biggest fanbase lies like Edge suggested), then this is a one-off that will undoubtedly be forgiven. They do, after all, make games for gamers.



  • rxb - July 11, 2012 7:13 a.m.

    Well played Atlus, taking your fans seriously seems to be rare these days.
  • robin-smith - July 11, 2012 3:36 a.m.

    aah , red dwarf references. :)
  • brickman409 - July 10, 2012 5:06 p.m.

    i think i might buy a japanese version of the game just for the novelty of not being able to play it
  • minimaxi - July 10, 2012 8:14 p.m.

    that is so absurd, I love it! :D
  • pr0tostar - July 10, 2012 2:16 p.m.

    Maybe I'm mistaken, but I could swear this game was reported to be a downloadable title. Did I miss something? Will it still have a digital release? I can't imagine this being any more immerse than, say, Skullgirls (amazing fighter for a $15 pricepoint and DL title) but maybe it's something to do with wanting to add in dual audio. Or maybe I'm just crazy. It's ok though. I personally support Atlus. They've STRIVED to get great things over here, maintained exceptional quality in their localizations, and as with their response, keep in close touch with their fans (their forum community is wonderful and representatives are quite active in engaging its members.) So really... yeah it's a shame we've had to wait so long for this, but it's coming soon, and there's no doubt Atlus has worked hard to even get it this far. No complaints here.
  • Cyberninja - July 10, 2012 4:06 p.m.

    No it is a full retail title, if you have played Blazblue or Gulity Gear it will give you an idea on how deep this game will be.
  • garnsr - July 10, 2012 8:56 a.m.

    I thought this was because the Japanese could buy the American version cheaper, because of the exchange rate, not the other way. I still can't understand how the worth of money fluctuates so much.
  • wheresmymonkey - July 10, 2012 5:51 a.m.

    So whens the PAL release. Oh you cant even pre order it in the UK yet... as usualy Atlas don't give a shite about Europe.
  • robertpopovic - July 10, 2012 9:04 a.m.

    ^This^ Persona 3 is what got me into Atlus games and I've bought every DS and PSP game of them since (well, the RPG-ish ones anyway). Even when they passed Europe like so many I could still get the US version. Pity the 3DS, Vita and now Atlus themselves axed that
  • Cyberninja - July 10, 2012 1:15 p.m.

    Zen is handling it in Europe so it isn't Atlus that you should be complaining about when it has no release date.
  • Darkhawk - July 10, 2012 5:44 a.m.

    I don't understand how it's a "big deal" to include dual language options. You literally just encode one extra audio track. If DVD/BluRays can do 6 or more at a time, I think it's absurd that video games are ever released without multiple languages.
  • Bloodstorm - July 10, 2012 6:58 a.m.

    Dependent on the amount of dialog, including multiple language tracks can be quite a large chunk of data. I'm sure for a brawler, the dialog isn't very large, and so two audio packs isn't a huge deal, but for most games you would have to actually lose quality in your game to make room for the extra tracks, which no one would want compared to just having the game in the language of the region it is sold in.
  • TheHowetzer - July 10, 2012 7:11 a.m.

    You really cant conceive how there is alot of extra cost for including two languages into a game? "You just encode one extra audio track." Ok, whats going to be ON that audio track? The same voice actors as did the main language? Probably not. Do you think it costs extra to find, record in a studio, then edit(probably need to pay someone to do that), and pay the new voice actors? Or do you simply think that all happens for free and instantaneously as well so there is no further delay or need for budgeted funds? Then lets think about who/what actually ENCODES that extra one audio track....think the person who codes it out works for nothing? Think the machine or process used to actually transfer it onto EACH and EVERY copy of the game will not cost the company a dime? Seriously why don't people ever THINK before they say some stupid shit? Why?
  • Scuffles - July 10, 2012 7:36 a.m.

    ...... Apparently not because they were going to have to do all that stuff you said when they localized the game anyhow. So why if they have the spare room not just include the original audio track(s) that are already encoded, edited, etc. That's what like three extra lines of code on a menu screen and a single persistent variable in the save game data? Woooooooo!
  • TheHowetzer - July 10, 2012 8:05 a.m.

    OK ,well then since when you buy a computer using your logic here the company who made it might as well include MS office suite on every single harddrive out the door right? Because I mean...common theres just so much extra space why not put it on there? Thats what a couple Gigs on a multiple hundred Gig harddrive? Woooooo! Because it still will cost more to put more things onto something as opposed to less, then multiply that cost times (insert amount of copies made here, maybe a million maybe more? who knows)....I dont think its very complicated.
  • Scuffles - July 10, 2012 12:28 p.m.

    So let fly the analogies eh, I'll stick to yours instead of contriving my own ^.^ It would be much more like MS releasing the retail Office Suite on DVD and leaving out large chunks of the dictionary files* even tho they had ample room on the DVD and the work had already been done. In the case of games and reality.... The original native language tracks are bought and paid for, they are paying more for the localization REGARDLESS. [b]The work is already done[/b].... if they have the space there is no reason not to add it in. I highly doubt that stamping a DVD/BR with 2.7GB is going to be any more expensive than stamping out one with 4.xGB The only reason adding the additional existing language tracks to the game would cost them more when stamping the DVD/BR is concerned. Is if it bumped production from 1 disk to 2 disks in which case you could simply play the "we didn't have the room" card.
  • TheHowetzer - July 11, 2012 4:04 a.m.

    Well, well, well!!! I'm so glad you got that figured all out there! I can see you went ahead and researched it all out for us eh? You know how I can tell that you know exactly what you're talking about when it comes to the cost of putting more things on the discs as opposed to less? Well because of the obviously well researched and explanative statement you made about it of course! Let's see what was it again? oh yeah! here it is: "I highly doubt that stamping a DVD/BR with 2.7GB is going to be any more expensive than stamping out one with 4.xGB " Since YOU highly doubt it, I am sure you are spot on. Asshole. Oh I forgot Idiot. Putting more info on anything will cost more than less jackass are you seriously having an issue understanding this???
  • TheHowetzer - July 11, 2012 6:13 a.m.

    LOL, this is gunna hurt man, but I gotta do it. Looks like I'M the idiot here. Sorry about that Asshole comment too....oh and the jackass one as well. I did some research after I shot my mouth off, and from what I could find about Blu ray replication, as long as the disc size holds all the info, the cost should be very similar. Looks like there may be a difference in the authoring costs, but this would most likely be a sort of one time cost so it would not be multiplied by the number of copies made. So while the cost still would be higher for a mass produced disc with more info on it, it does not appear that it would be that significant an amount, and certainly NOT per disc higher cost unless you have to jump up to a higher capacity disc, and even then the cost per disc would still be the same throughout the run. TL,DR: Sorry Scuffles, looks like you were (mostly) right....haha um my bad?
  • angelusdlion - July 11, 2012 7:35 p.m.

    So what I'm hearing here is basically "I'm entitled, fuck what Atlus says."
  • TheHowetzer - July 12, 2012 3:59 a.m.

    @angelusdlion, I am not sure what you are trying to say here...or even who you're trying to say it to.

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