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Guides: Everything You Need To Know About Importing a Wii

Posted by Sean Aaron

If you live in a PAL territory and are considering getting a North American Wii (or vice-versa), here's some tips to help you get the most out of it

Given the pan-Wii coverage on Nintendo Life there's been plenty of opportunity for the green-eyed monster to make himself known on both sides of the Atlantic. You might have considered buying a Wii "from the other side" to avoid waiting for your favourite downloads or disc releases, so here's a few tips to help you maximise your import enjoyment.

This console generation has seen shorter gaps between releases in Europe and North America than ever before, but given Nintendo of America and Nintendo of Europe are functionally different organisations they aren't equivalent (see Disaster Day of Crisis which is only available in Japan and Europe and Excite Bots: Trick Racing which is only out in North America). Third parties responsible for bringing games such as Muramasa out of Japan are different for Europe and North America, but there are often games by smaller publishers which aren't considered profitable to export overseas due to cultural differences, something particularly true of sports titles. When it comes to digital distribution a lot of developers simply don't have the time/money to put their wares up globally or there are big differences in release dates (how long Europeans have to wait for LIT?). Whatever your reason for importing there's some things you'll need to consider before making that purchase which is where this guide comes in.

Power
The voltages between the two regions are vastly different, but thankfully this is easy to work around. As the power supply on the Wii is external there's no screwdriver or tricky electrical work required: simply obtain an official Nintendo Wii power supply for your local region and plug that in instead of the one that comes with the Wii you import. We recommend official ones because whilst you can get a cheap compatible power-supply from a third party, when it comes to electrics household safety is a concern so it's best to go with one you can get support for in the event something goes wrong. If you must get a third party power supply at least ensure it's locally supplied (and from a reputable manufacturer) in case you have any problems with it. If you have trouble tracking one down you can always phone up Nintendo and order one direct or simply temporarily unplug your local Wii and use that one instead.

A/V Hookup
Video standards also differ widely with the PAL colour standard in Europe and NTSC in North America. For Europeans this is less of an issue given that multi-standard TVs have been the norm since the advent of VHS and the dawn of video importing. Europeans shouldn't be complacent however, as this is often only true when receiving signal over RGB SCART which a North American Wii doesn't have the pinouts for. Many TVs sold in Europe will not automatically interpret an NTSC signal over S-Video or Composite link, so Component Video is going to be the best solution.

For folk in North America it's very unlikely you'll have a TV capable of displaying a PAL video signal properly in which case you'll want some kind of external PAL-NTSC converter. Just be sure you get a decent one as cheap converters found in many budget region-free DVD players sold in North America have delivered less-than-satisfactory results in the past.

Regardless of region you'll want to make sure your TV can display interlaced resolutions over component, since games for Gamecube and Virtual Console in North America display at 480i and in PAL territories you'll find a mix of 480i and 576i. Unlike power supplies, component video cables aren't likely to be a big issue: we've used both official and third party component video cables and cannot see much difference on the whole. Nevertheless it bears noting that poor shielding in cheap cables can result in unwanted video and audio noise so try replacing the cable before assuming you have a hardware fault if you have issues. Of course if this is your second Wii you may require some kind of switch box to connect both of them to your TV unless you're fortunate enough to have a TV or A/V receiver possessing multiple component inputs. It's strongly advised you get a switch box that has a manual switching option as automatic switchboxes can potentially have problems with falsely treating a system on standby as active, though a casual survey failed to turn up any component video switch boxes that didn't have a manual selection option so this probably won't be a concern.

SETUP
Of course you can easily stack the new sensor bar on top of your existing one using the existing sticky pads or some Blu-tack and controllers will work with all Wiis worldwide. The legacy of European colonialism in the Americas means that you'll find English, French and Spanish language selections on offer regardless of country chosen for a North American Wii. Brazilians won't find a Portuguese language option in the Wii Setup menu, but oddly enough it is a language choice for reading the Wii Connect 24 Terms and Conditions if you set your country to Brazil (what happened there Nintendo?). The only other noteworthy Wii Menu difference will be the time and date formatting: PAL Wiis display day before month whereas the North American Wii display the month before the day in the time/date display at the bottom. The lack of an option to display a 24-hour clock still stands out as one of the great disappointments of this console generation - shame on you Nintendo!

GOING SHOPPING
Your shopping experience is largely going to be determined by what country you selected for your Wii in the Setup menu. This isn't a trivial concern because not all shops have the same content available and more importantly choice of shop determines what servers you're connecting to (and therefore download speeds), so there is a trade-off present even for people who are in the native territories for these systems. Just ask readers in Mexico and Australia who have both noticed their local Wii Shop's lack of titles present in the USA and UK! Aside from that, North American importers have little to worry about regarding purchasing beyond currency conversion, which may be in British pounds, Euro, Swiss francs or Australian or New Zealand dollars. In the UK Shop points can be purchased in only three denominations using a Visa or MasterCard: 1000, 3000 or 5000. In the shops available to the Americas you can buy points in blocks of 1000, 2000, 3000 or 5000, with prices are displayed in US dollars regardless of country setting.

For folk importing North American Wiis there's an additional consideration, since North America is the only region that requires address information from the account associated with the credit card used before a points purchase can be completed. There doesn't seem to be any kind of database check happening so you can use a bogus address, but it does need to be properly formatted. For simplicity's sake, folk in the UK can set their country to Brazil which happens to only ask for a postcode (Canada and the USA request additional address info) and also happens to use a compatible postcode format. The trade-off is a much slower download experience, but that might be a small price to pay for not having to enter a full American address! Of course if none of this works you can always search for online suppliers of points cards, though the credit card is clearly the simpler (and more immediate) solution.

Finding games online isn't terribly difficult, though it's worth noting that Amazon has branches in many PAL territories and will not export games. You can find Amazon Marketplace sellers that will, but they'll often charge ridiculous shipping rates. Play Asia carries North American games, but you're likely to pay a price as high as buying them if they were domestic releases - and that's not factoring in postage! eBay is one of the better places to find titles available for posting world-wide, though we're sure readers who already import games will be willing to share their own sources so be sure to check the comments. Happy importing!

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User Comments (37)

Ravage

#2

Ravage said:

First thing I thought when I saw the title was, 'I bet Sean wrote that.'
I was right. Anyway, I heard some info on this a little while ago when you were talking about it on the chat, and there is really no excuse for region coding in the first place. Excellently written article, should definitely help those looking for a way around region coding ad getting their hands on Excitebots :P

RaylaxStaff

#6

Raylax said:

"(how long have Europeans been waiting for LiT?). "
I'm pretty certain we have it.

Stuffgamer1

#7

Stuffgamer1 said:

I didn't know the power solution could be so simple, or the AV so complicated. Ugh...if Nintendo would just release the games I want IN AMERICA (or have region-free consoles like Sony does now), this wouldn't be an issue! Well, I don't have the money for it right now anyway, but...good, informative read all the same!:)

JayArr

#8

JayArr said:

Very well done, Sean. Enlightening.

Off Topic: I just bought a plane ticket to Brazil.

warioswoods

#9

warioswoods said:

I'm not particularly interested in a Europe Wii, but I'd love a follow-up guide focused on importing from Japan.

Egg_miester

#10

Egg_miester said:

dammit after the Go Brazilian! photo i forgot everything i just read now i don't feel like rereading

Adam

#11

Adam said:

Yea, there is definitely no database check on addresses. I live in the only state to use parishes instead of counties, and for my first five or six purchases, I thought it said "Country" not "County," so apparently Nintendo thought I lived in USA county, which I guess is fine by me.

Also, I second Warioswoods suggestion. I need to get Muscle March somehow. And short of asking Chicken Brutus to run through my actual walls, I don't see it happening any other kind of way.

Jave

#12

Jave said:

Definitely don't set up your imported Wiis to Chile. Nothing Sega-published is available. Some DLC isn't available either, such as FFCC: My Life as a King/Darklord, although FFIV: The After Years is, for some odd reason.

Also, if you want to benefit from Club Nintendo, you have to set up your Wii to USA or Canada. No other country works.

Strofan7

#14

Strofan7 said:

This is a great little guide. However if NoA would just release Disaster then I would have no interest here..

Sylverstone

#16

Sylverstone said:

@Ravage I was thinking the exact same thing.

Now to check out the Japanese edition to this _
I'll probably import a Japanese Wii in the future (if the 7th generation or Wii for that matter isn't over yet).

Jave

#17

Jave said:

@Earendel68 Yeah, I know. I usually keep it on Chile (my home country, after all), but I change to Mexico whenever I want to deposit money (another thing is that some countries don't have a credit card option, only Nintendo cards) or download something that's not in every country.

Kind of sucks, I know, but I'm used to it by now. At least the country setting can be changed. If it used IP detections, I'd be pretty much screwed.

Sean_Aaron

#18

Sean_Aaron said:

Cheers guys. I'm on to the guys to get the Japanese import guide listed under the guides section for better visibility.

MayhemStaff

#19

Mayhem said:

Nice introductory guide there, took me back to when I first got my US Wii. Glad you mentioned the Brazil trick regarding buying points, one of the first things I learnt and use to this day to get WiiWare titles. Only one thing I take concern to though:

"Many TVs sold in Europe will not automatically interpret an NTSC signal over S-Video or Composite link"

Many? Really? I was under the impression just about any European sold TV from the last 5-10 years will now handle NTSC fine over AV channels. Certainly is the case here in the UK.

As for importing US Wii games I tend to use Tronix or Videogamesplus given Amazon are region locked on that front.

Sean_Aaron

#20

Sean_Aaron said:

Well, I can only speak from experience. My first TV in the UK was a Sharp 32" widescreen CRT and anything other than SCART didn't like NTSC and would display it sans colour. Happened with my visiting father-in-law when he hooked up his American camcorder to the S-Video jack on the front.

So, I figure better to advise caution than assume it will work and have unhappy people!

Chunky_Droid

#21

Chunky_Droid said:

All TVs in Australia interpret an NTSC signal fine, most come from the factory set to 'auto' so it's no hassle there.

As for power, I only realised that trick about a year ago, and I've been using a shonky power supply for my Gamecube since the bloody thing came out!

Good guide Sean, I myself only import all my gaming from North America and Canada, as I'm getting stuff at half the price as it normally costs in the stores in Australia

Objection

#22

Objection said:

I somehow smell a simpler solution (alliteration is fun!) NOA, just release Disaster in NA, we'll buy it and everyone will win.

Knux

#23

Knux said:

Awesome guide. But if I'm going to import a Wii, it will be a Japanese one. That Go Brazilian! photo is the best photo I have seen on NL. :D

Starwolf_UK

#24

Starwolf_UK said:

I could swear Amazon.com would ship videogames internationally but the shipping cost was about $40 making it not worth bothering with.

As for other retailers, videogamesplus has done me great in the past and Gamestop while it has pricey shipping (at least $15) the shipping is amazingly quick (I've only used Gamestop for Excitebots which they were selling for $20) meaning I had my order within 48 hours which given the distance is a mixture of incredibly fast and incredibly lucky.

Sean_Aaron

#25

Sean_Aaron said:

You would think so Starwolf, but I've actually gone through the checkout process only to get the "Amazon will not ship this product outside of the United States." They don't do that with CDs or DVDs, so I don't understand what's so special about videogames. Marketplace sellers will, but then you have the funny shipping costs which is complete rubbish.

Good to know of other exporters; shame Her Majesty's Customs and Excise don't understand the difference between importing a product to undercut domestic suppliers and importing a product which isn't locally available!

Stuffgamer1

#27

Stuffgamer1 said:

Just in case I get the cash for a European Wii at some point, does anybody have some more in-depth information about getting the AV set up? You say my TV "probably" can't read PAL signals...how do I know for sure? What converter would you recommend?

It's not just Disaster: Day of Crisis that would need releasing here for this to be a moot point, of course. There's also NPC Pikmin 2, Trace Memory 2, Super Smash Bros., Devil World, Mario's Super Picross, and probably others I haven't thought of. I just can't see NoA shaping up enough to give us ALL that stuff, so importing a system kind of makes sense.

Flaviohmg

#28

Flaviohmg said:

Haha, I'm brazilian already. That's right, we pay more for Wii here and we don't even have our language available on menu and games (Wii is the exception, PS3 and 360 are available in portuguese) D: About the brazilian girl, that's regular here , walking on our streets you can think that all the people here are models :D

Nekogao

#29

Nekogao said:

Did the Wii Freeloader ever get updated?

Being in Japan, but far from fluent in Japanese I tend to avoid text-heavy games making RPGs a no-no. But I'm sure I'm missing on on some excellent games and would like to import those games from the US or Europe.

I seem to recall a Wii update screwed the Freeloader...

DarkEdi

#30

DarkEdi said:

Mexico has all DL except Super C (i changed settings country to download it) and one Wiiware, the one that you use a line to break lines, the last one, i forgot the name.

If you know more situations like this tell us.

JLDR

#31

JLDR said:

I have a American and European Wii and being in Europe I use the European power supply, cables and Wiimotes for both, I just switch the consoles and I have access to the shop channels of both regions, so it could not be easier having both systems, so from Europe so far so good :-)

Sean_Aaron

#32

Sean_Aaron said:

@Nekogao: Yes the Wii Freeloader was killed a looooong time ago and I think the door is pretty well shut on that product.

@Stuffgamer1: I wish I could answer your query. I can only say: check your TV owner's manual, but in my experience multi-standard TVs in North America are specialty items you'd have to go to a high-end AV shop for or get from the online equivalent of same. I cannot recommend a converter, but they do exist so you should be able to do a bit of research and find some reviews on them at AV enthusiast websites.

Pj1

#33

Pj1 said:

Why do you guys across the pond want a European Wii? I can only think it's because of VC? (No offence)

Sean_Aaron

#34

Sean_Aaron said:

The VC and there's a few disc exclusives like Disaster: Day of Crisis or titles that come out in the UK/Europe before they get released in North America.

For some the grass is always greener somewhere!

GEOFF

#35

GEOFF said:

If your import console breaks your going to lose all your downloaded games $$$$$$$££££££££$$$$$$$$$!!!!!!! as nintendo will not transfer your games, I would imagine.

MarkyVigoroth

#36

MarkyVigoroth said:

Gehe... I guess Flaviohmg-san ended up giving people a hard choice: plenty of good-looking (through the perspective of plenty of Nintendo Life readers) girls for more expensive Wii games!

karenss

#37

karenss said:

Hi I've read this with interest as I am about to move to Brazil from UK - so if I take my Wii I just need to buy a local power supply for it, is that right? All the games will still work?
I'm checking as previously I purchased so DS games in the States only to find they didn't work on our UK DS consoles.

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