Back at E3 2010, Nintendo revealed that the decision on whether the 3DS will be region-locked hadn't been made yet, and just earlier this month, an alleged portion of a Nintendo support email spoke of "region codes" being built into the 3DS system and its games. Ahead of Nintendo's dual 3DS conference tomorrow, the company spoke to VG247 on the potential implementation of region-locking and it might be disappointing for some.
The decision to apply region-locking to the 3DS was based on several factors:
Nintendo 3DS hardware is available in three versions: Japanese, American and European/Australian... Nintendo has developed different versions of Nintendo 3DS hardware to take into account different languages, age rating requirements and parental control functionality as well as to ensure compliance with local laws in each region. Nintendo 3DS also offers network services specifically tailored for each region.
With games only working on 3DS systems that were bought from the same region, Nintendo is keen to prevent consumers from buying products that might not work together. Hardware and software packaging will come with handy guidance, warning customers about the region-locking:
Additionally we want to ensure the best possible gaming experience for our users and there is the possibility that Nintendo 3DS software sold in one region will not function properly when running on Nintendo 3DS hardware sold in another. Guidance will appear on every packaging of Nintendo 3DS hardware and the accompanying software. If you are in doubt, Nintendo recommends that you only purchase Nintendo 3DS software in the region where purchased your Nintendo 3DS system.
It's interesting to note that within Nintendo's statement, the company refers to the possibility that software from one region will not work on hardware from another, and the last sentence in the quote almost suggests that consumers have some kind of choice where applicable. Could it even be the responsibility of publishers? Maybe Nintendo will clarify in more depth tomorrow during the 3DS conferences. To keep up to date on the announcements, be sure to follow our live feed.