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.
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.