While the New Nintendo 3DS may have some sleek new features and power, one thing staying the same for the system is that it will still be region-locked.
In a statement released to GameSpot today, Nintendo confirmed that the New Nintendo 3DS will, like its predecessor, be region-locked. With the region-lock, New 3DS owners will only be able to play games that are released in their own territories.
The reason this is so controversial is simple: Some games don't come out in some countries. There are plenty of Japan exclusive games that European and North American Wii U and 3DS owners will never get the chance to play. Sure you can still import the game, but you're gonna need a whole new system to play it.
Region-locked systems are not new to Nintendo this generation, as their home consoles have had some form of region-locking since the Super Nintendo. The 3DS however is the first Nintendo handheld to "feature" region-locking.
While Microsoft and Sony both had region-locking in the past, their newest consoles are completely region-free. Developers do have the option to region-lock their games though they are highly discouraged from doing so.
In an IGN interview from last year, Nintendo President Satoru Iwata gave some reasons as to why the company was in favor of region-locking.
"There are many different regions around the world, and each region has its own cultural acceptance and legal restrictions, as well as different age ratings. There are always things that we’re required to do in each different region, which may go counter to the idea that players around the world want the freedom to play whatever they want. "
Personally I think Iwata's reasons are incredibly weak. Yes, there are cultural differences. And you know what could be a good way for young people to learn about other cultures? By letting them play games from different cultures and in different languages.
When I was learning Italian I played a copy of Pokemon: FireRed that my mother had bought me when she was in Italy. It helped me learn the language a bit and it was a really cool experience.
The only thing Nintendo is doing with region-locking is hurting themselves. They had a colossal chance to fix this problem with their New 3DS, yet they chose to ignore it.