I'm sure you've all heard the story, Europe always gets treated the worst in the games industry. It's the last region to get the games. Companies such as Nintendo often release a game first in the US or Japan, then three to six months later when they've all finished playing it they decide to release the game in Europe.
What can you do about it? Sadly there is only one solution, importing a US or Japanese console. You'll be the talk of the town, playing games 6 months before anyone else in the UK.
But how do you go about importing a console? We've compiled this short article explaining everything (hopefully) you need to know about importing a console into the UK.
In the old days, it was actually more expensive to import games. Independent gaming shops would charge your a fortune for the latest Japanese releases, but with the birth of the Internet and the online market place its become really competitive.
Whilst it might be slightly more expensive to import a console, its actually cheaper to import games especially with the strong exchange rate at the moment. US games retail for around $49.99, that's only £26.
The Wii console will retail for $250 which converts to £131 by today's exchange rate, remember Nintendo's retail price for Wii in the UK is £179.99. Whilst this sounds fantastic, there are a few hidden charges you need to be aware of, read on to find out more.
You'll probably need either a VISA or Mastercard to buy from International websites, no Switch or Debit cards I'm afraid, so you might have to ask Mum or Dad if you can borrow their card.
Whenever you've been away on holiday you'll of noticed that you have to take a travel adapter, so it makes sense that whenever you buy electronics from a foreign country you'll need an equivalent. As you may know USA and Japan runs on 110v power whereas in the UK we have 240v power. This means that not only do we need an adapter plug but instead we need a “step down transformer” that transforms the power voltage at the same time.
Step downs are often sold on the same sites that export consoles, there isn't much to know about them apart from you want one to convert US to UK power. However, gaming sites can charge you slightly more for these devices, most home electronics shops should sell them at a cheaper price. Also bear in mind the cost to ship a step down transformer from abroad might be high because they are normally fairly heavy.
Although the power is different over here, pretty much all other cables and accessories will work just fine with an import console. For example, all your AV cables will be the same, buying additional controllers and memory cards won't be a problem. There is one quirk that affects Gamecube memory cards, they need to be formatted in the region the console is from. So if you buy a UK memory card and want to save Japanese game saves it needs to be formatted as a Japanese memory card first.
There are two main ways to get your products delivered, couriers (DHL, Fedex etc) and Airmail. When buying a system its advised to use a courier, you can track the package and you'll get it a lot faster – generally 24-48 hours. Obviously couriers do cost a lot more, some US sites give quotes between $30-$50. Couriers will always declare their shipments for import tax.
Airmail is recommended for games, they'll just be slipped into jiffy bags and sent over. A number of sites offer free world wide postage with this method. Delivery times usually range from 5 to 7 working days. Sites will also mark your package as “Optical Media” which makes it nice and vague for the customs man, its unlikely that you'll be taxed importing a game into the country.
Whenever you import something into the UK that is worth more than £17 it is subject to a VAT charge. Typically this is known as “Customs” and it'll get charged at your doorstep by the courier company. VAT is charged at 17.5% like any other product in the UK. Couriers will often add their own “handling” fee as well, to cover their costs as they pay the VAT for you when the package enters the country.
Courier charges can be around 2-3% and therefore your Wii will likely come with a whopping 20% surcharge. For example, if your Wii order came to £200 (Wii and a few games) you'd have to pay £40 charge when it finally gets to your door. Some couriers will send you an invoice for the customs and tax charges a few days after they have delivered your items to you. This speeds things along and means you can still take in the parcel if you don’t have any cash in the house!
Not only does Japan and America have different power to us, they have a different type of TV signal. The UK and Europe tends to use the German developed “PAL” system whereas America and Japan adopted the “NTSC” standard.
Pretty much all modern TV's will support the NTSC signal these days, so it’s really less of a headache as previous generations. It's worth checking your TV's manual to see if it supports the NTSC signal, otherwise you'll only get to play your games in black & white.
There are downsides to importing, firstly your warranty doesn't mean squat. Forget about getting your console fixed by Nintendo, they won't be interested. You also won't be able to rent games from your local rental store, nor will you be able to borrow games from your mates. There's a good 2 for 1 deal at your local games store? Forget it, your Wii won't play any PAL games.
Also, when ordering games or a console from a website, you need to be very very careful. It's not like you can pop down to their office and have a go when they don't deliver your console. Only buy from stores with a good reputation, Google their name and see what people say about them.
Importing really isn't as complicated as Nintendo might want you to think. If you’re still not sure about something, please contact us and we'll be happy to help. Whatever you decide to do, you won't be alone. We wouldn't recommend importing to the average gamer, it’s just not worth it. Either way we'll be importing a few US consoles - that'll allow us to review all the upcoming games for you guys, that's just how nice we are