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The best Nintendo Switch feature is its lack of region-locking (theverge.com)
122 points by Tomte 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 57 comments

The lack of region locking was also one of the best things about most of the handheld consoles Nintendo released beforehand. The original Game Boy, the Game Boy Colour, the GBA and the Nintendo DS were all region free as well, and it likely helped their popularity a ton, especially given how it meant you could travel with the system and be sure any games you bought while away would work with it.

Those systems may not have had an eShop, but in the days before it, I suspect not having region locking was as helpful there too.

I remember the lack of region lock being a boon for the GBA and DS. The game "Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan" was popular in Japan, but Nintendo refused to localize it. It became an import favorite in the West, driving up prices on eBay and the like. Nintendo took notice and eventually made Elite Beat Agents as a Western-tailored sequel / successor to it.

Additionally, when Phoenix Wright first got localized for the DS, the print run was very small. Someone realized that the English script was already embedded into the Japanese version of the game--you simply had to go to the language options and toggle a button to switch it to English. This made importing a popular option for people who couldn't find--or didn't want to wait--for the Stateside version. I remember vividly discussing with my brothers whether we wanted to "risk" waiting for the US edition and not being able to find one, or importing and having to deal with toggling the language at every startup.

Originally region locking was more a byproduct of TV's having different output standards (NTSC vs PAL). But we're talking back in the 8bit era (and to a lesser degree, 16bit as well).

Which might explain why most handhelds were never region locked.

I don't buy that. DVDs were region-locked with multiple PAL regions, later consoles which didn't have that problem were and are region locked.

It's about price differentiation between different regions.

Hence the "originally" part prefixing my post. I absolutely agree it later become a monetary thing (bare in mind DVDs came a long time after the time period I was discussing) but many early consoles didn't have region locking and some that did, did so because games timed for NTSC consoles would have ran slower on PAL systems due to the difference in refresh rates between PAL and NTSC (50Hz and 60Hz respectively). You can see this in effect whenever you play games on a modded Mega Drive (for example).

That all said, some NTSC games were still released for European markets without changing their timings. Sonic is one example of this - it runs slower, the music plays slower etc. For that reason I usually play Sonic on NTSC console rather than the PAL one (yeah, I have a whole room full of old computers and games consoles. It's sad but I love it).

> It's about price differentiation between different regions.

I thought the DVD region locking had to do with the old school movie distribution rights systems that were in place. i.e. Fox would sell the rights to their movies to multiple companies in different regions for redistribution outside of North America. Allowing a person in one region to buy a DVD from anywhere would mean that those regional rights holders would otherwise lose money on their investments.

Region locking tended to occur between the US and Japan frequently, despite them both using NTSC.

Indeed. Though that was sometimes used to switch languages. eg the same Streets of Rage Genesis cart will display English text when the console is set to NTSC-US but would display Japanese text when set to NTSC-J

The 8bit region locking was started by Nintendo, and it was trying to combat piracy and unlicensed games. The Famicom released without protection in 83, but they changed it internationally as a response to the video game crash.

I always guessed (a guess not based on facts) that it had more to do with music licensing rules and how those work geographically, since most games have music?

Music was generally composed by an employee until the CD era, so the licensing rules would be basically the same as the game art.

>it likely helped their popularity a ton, especially given how it meant you could travel with the system and be sure any games you bought while away would work with it.

Surely this is quite a minor feature. I think it's unlikely that it helped their popularity "a ton".

My GameBoy Colour was originally from a Japanese exchange student that stayed with my family. It was originally from Japan, with a Japanese copy of Pokemon Gold, and it had no issue playing any of the NA games that I put in it.

It is however technically against the ToS to buy digital games from a different region than the one you are a citizen of, but that's not MS/Sony/Nintendo/Valve cares to enforce until nations tell them to.

The Nintendo Switch continues to impress me. Maybe its game selection is a bit thin on the ground, but what's there is great, and it feels good to use. I love the solid click the Joy-Cons make as they slide and snap into place. I love to grasp and hold the unit with the Joy-Cons attached. I love to use the provided controller handle, or the Joy-Cons on their own, one in each hand. Nintendo has got the ergonomics for this thing on point, and it really feels built to be a gaming device in a way that, say, an iPad or smartphone doesn't.

The use of flashcarts instead of discs was also asavvy decision,and really fits with the mobile story of the device. Plus, I miss the instantaneity of cartridge-based games. Finding out it's region free on top of all this, it's like they're firing on all cylinders this go around.

No, I'm not a Nintendo shill. I'm just uniquely impressed by the very deep thought that went into the design, manufacture, and deployment of this particular console.

Yep, the Switch is a technological wonder.

The last console I owned was a Game Boy Advance. The Switch is wonderful for so many reasons:

It deserves its name. It really is a flexible console; the snappable/detachable joycons, the controller, the 4-way joycon sharing, TV mode, etc... none of it is a gimmick, it's all useful. And different games have different favoured settings (eg. SMO is super fun with the joycons detached, but Stardew Valley is best snapped).

Lots of games just feel great on the Switch, even games that were not originally designed for it.

And Nintendo just killed it with its own launch titles. Super Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild are both console sellers on their own. Mario Kart is incredibly fun and easy to whip out when you have your console around friends.

And that thing is a beast. Breath of the Wild runs really well on it (except for load times. but that's very forgivable). I often think about this: Breath of the Wild is a mobile game (!!!)... Crazy. And it has pretty good battery life given what it runs.

The main thing I don't like with the Switch is the low disk space. That it can't even have SMO, BOTW and Mario Kart at the same time is kind of a head-scratcher for me. I still need to get an SD card for it (at least that's an option).

(In response to the storage complaints...) Please buy game carts instead of eShop games.

Instead of renting a license indefinitely (eShop) you get an actual piece of plastic and some paper (resale value later) which you actually own.

That's a lot less convenient and game carts can break, get dirty and no longer work, etc.

I don't even own the console (it's not rooted). As long as I don't, this doesn't matter. Once I do own it, I will make backups of my downloads, which I can actually own.

There are games coming on carts that still require a large download, and 64GB cartridges have been delayed

Indeed. The new paradigm seems to be to combine the worst of both worlds. In PS4-land, the new normal for disc-based games is they cannot be played without the disc, but install their complete data to your PS4's hard drive, occupying tens of gigabytes of space.

Microsoft tried to solve this by using physical disks as the equivalent of a download code + a medium to reduce how much you have to download off the internet, but the backlash forced them to go back.

It's true it'd have killed the secondary market, but I'd have appreciated not needing the disc to play after the initial install.

Same on xbox. Loading times would be unacceptably long without doing so, as I understand it.

I haven’t played much of anything in years, but the Switch (and BotW) give me back that lost joy. What impressed me most: You buy a game, pop it in and you’re playing a modern looking game in seconds - no installing or updating or online requirement. No distractions either. Wonderfully simple yet flexible control schemes. Plus you get two player mode included in base package. One really annoying thing though: The stand, it’s useless - it shouldn’t have passed Nintendo’s quality control.

To be honest I find the game selection to be pretty weak. So far at least. I mean there are a few standout titles - no doubt. But like with the Wii, there's an overwhelming amount of shelf fillers which you'd play for a few hours after buying but then never touch again.

Having carts is a nice touch though but even there I have a few niggles: like swapping the carts out can be a little bit of a pain (like popping an SD card out of a mobile phone where you have flaps to remove and then need to jam your nail into the card to get it to spring out). Plus I don't agree that Switch games (on the cart at least) load instantaneously. Quite a few games seem to have long loading times - Zelda being the most notable.

I also really dislike how the Joycons feel when using them as two player. Particularly the one with the analogue stick in the middle.

But that all said, the things Nintendo got right far outweigh the stuff that are sub-optimal. It works nicely both docked and as a handheld (eg while on the train). It's a nice weight, has a good screen and even the battery life seems pretty decent (despite the horror stories I was reading prior to its release). The UI is a pleasure to use as well (likely down to it being focused as a games console rather than home entertainment system). I even like how game updates can be postponed when you want to actually play the game (unlike Playstation which prevents you from playing a game until everything is up-to-date).

Overly it's a really nice console to own. My daily commute is about 2.5 hours (round trip) on a good day and my Switch has made the commute far more bearable. In fact I now look forward to it.

> then need to jam your nail into the card to get it to spring out

You just press it, like you would with an SD card in a camera, and it pops out... Are you wrecking your Switch by trying to force it out???

The joy cons are great for when you travel, I bought mine in Taiwan and the wife and I played mario kart together on the plane ride home.

At home we use the pro controllers.

> You just press it, like you would with an SD card in a camera, and it pops out... Are you wrecking your Switch by trying to force it out???

I think you might have misread my post because your first sentence is literally just a reitteration of my description (even down to the SD card example). My point - which admittedly wasn't very clear - is that it's quite awkard compared to the carts in old handhelds. Granted that's entirely down the difference in sizes and I'm not sure it's a problem that can be solved; but even so, I still don't enjoy how fiddly it is.

> The joy cons are great for when you travel, I bought mine in Taiwan and the wife and I played mario kart together on the plane ride home.

Indeed. As I also said, I predominantly use my Switch for traveling as well. My point wasn't the convenience but rather their ergonomics. They're so heavily sculpted around being comfortable while used by 1 person (vertically) that the button locations and curvature of the paddles are badly located when the controllers are used horizontally. Which can make them a little unpleasant to use (convenience aside).

> I think you might have misread my post because your first sentence is literally just a reitteration of my description (even down to the SD card example).

I read it but I still do not understand why you have to "jam your nail into the card to get it to spring out" when this isn't the case at all...

That was the SD card comparison (maybe I have fatter fingers than you - I'm certainly not fat though! - but I find it easier using my finger nail on some devices to release the SD card).

My point was there isn't much surface area on the Switch game card to push it down to release and also the flap often gets in the way too (though I do appreciate the function of the flap)

Fair enough.

My only issue with the game cart is that it sometimes* doesn't reconize, but the good old magical take card out, blow on it, put it back in, and bam it works again...

This only happens on 2 of my 7 games tho.

I've had that as well. I suspect Nintento intentionally added that so it felt more like consoles of old (joke).

> To be honest I find the game selection to be pretty weak. So far at least.

Early days. To be honest, there's more than enough titles to make the console worth it IMO. I have 600 games in my Steam library and I've seriously played maybe 15 of them. I'm super happy that my switch only has quality games.

And to anyone reading this, I recommend any and all of the following:

New titles: Super Mario Odyssey, Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart (play it with friends!), Celeste.

Ports: Rocket League, Stardew Valley, Shovel Knight, The Binding of Isaac, Skyrim, Enter the Gungeon.

I love my Switch and Mario Kart is my favorite game on it, but it's not really new. I played the crap out of MK8 when it came out for the WiiU. Although it does have many tweaks that greatly improve the experience.

But I'd agree that it's a must-have! You can just whip it out and race a friend anywhere.

Honestly, Mario Kart 8 annoys me a little. I love the Mario Kart series but the 3D tracks are over-done in my personal opinion. I also think the more realistic scenery means some of the tracks lose their personality when compared to the more cartoony graphics of their predecessors. That said, the auto-steer and auto-accelerate feature is a godsend for when playing with my 3 year old. I cannot stress enough just how good a feature that is!!!

I mean, I am nitpicking here a little as it's still a solid title. But on balance it's not my favorite Mario Kart.

Zelda is a very different game from any of the Zelda's before it as well. I do like what Nintendo have done but I'd also love to see a more traditional Zelda released for the Switch some point in the future too.

Overall, it's all very easy me being critical when there's so many elements that can go wrong. So I think Nintendo have gotten far more right than they've gotten wrong.

I just want to throw in a recommendation for Overcooked, one of the best couch multiplayer games I've played in years. Bring it to a party with 4 controllers and you're guaranteed to have a fun time, anyone can learn to play in a minute.

That looks super fun, thank you for the recommendation :)

Damn, I had completely missed Celeste. I liked Towerfall and got stuck on Icy Tower way back.


> Plus, I miss the instantaneity of cartridge-based games.

I'm glad you said this in present tense, because yeah, there are still loading times from Switch cartridges, in some cases pretty bad ones. (Zelda shrine entrances, anyone?)

I was expecting instantaneous access like I remembered from the old days of cartridge systems but it is not to be, on the Switch at least.

Your ergonomic points, though, are definitely spot in. It feels good to use the system and it feels very well put-together. Nintendo has always been good at designing hardware, though - which is something that I think the other manufacturers still don't get 100% right. That, and the "just fucking play" experience that Sony and Microsoft refuse to give you.

There are loading times because it’s basically a solid state disk masquerading as a cartridge. The GBA was the last handheld Nintendo made where the cartridge actually mapped directly into CPU space.

They're not going to get loading-time-free with flash chips, and maybe they could have done a little better. But the loading times in Zelda were much more tolerable than those of, say, Final Fantasy XV.

110%. I haven't bought a console since the Wii first came out (I stood in line). Nintendo has injected the Switch with such a sense of...joy. I haven't had this much fun playing games in years.

I also appreciate the fact that the switch has built in support for Ethernet over usb-c (or your usb port in the dock)

What would honestly impress me, when the company making the music sequencer title for the console (petty sure it's by the same group behind the Korg titles on the 3ds), it's able to use MIDI over the usb-c port of the console, much like the support android has.

This article gives the impression that Nintendo was the great market leader of ending region locks, when that's kind of the opposite of the truth. The handheld consoles weren't region-locked (except for the 3DS), but the Nintendo Switch is the first console by that company to be regionally unlocked. By contrast, Sony gave up region locks in the PS3 era and Microsoft in Xbox One, both several years ahead of Nintendo.

Should be noted Nintendo invented region locking as well (with the NES), although the situation is complicated by the fact that PAL and NTSC consoles required different display hardware and timings, Japan still used NTSC and famicom games still didn't run on North American NESs.

Keep in mind with things like the C64 PAL/NTSC games still ran on the other consoles, just faster/slower than intended.

If I'm remembering correctly, besides the NES's 10NES, the Famicom had a few important differences, like extra audio channels from the cartridge and a different pinout anyhow.

With a 60-to-72 pin adapter, I suspect they'd run on the top-load NES (which also ditched the lockout chip).

The switch is awesome for the commute. So I ordered a GPD win 2 hoping to replicate that feeling and try out some of those hundreds of games I've picked up in Steam Summer Sales and Humble Bundles that I've never actually tried.

Funny - tried to buy one at Melbourne Airport a long time ago on way back to SF and was told "we don't sell them here because they're region-locked". Good to know that's a myth!

Was willing to deal with power adapters but getting locked into only Australian-available content is a total PITA

its not a secret and you still can't purchase from the Japanese store with a non-japanese credit card

Does it have good non-nintendo releases now?

There are a lot of good indies on there, but AAA titles are rather thin on the ground. Only a few, like Skyrim and Doom.

How can we praise the Nintendo Switch?

It is a computer we cannot freely write a program of. It's evil, like the most of DRM protected gaming consoles.

Why is it so important that we should be able to control what it runs? It's a consumer gaming device and does that perfectly well.

No one is complaining that you can't run your own programs on the dishwasher or thermostat, or your car (and I fear the day we get jailbroken autonomous cars)

It's funny you use the car example, because actually yes, I have heard FOSS fundamentalist using that as a textbook example of when you as a user want to be able to verify what's actually running.

It's not that far off from tractors and the like, which actually is a problem for owners when they become abandonware. Comment thread and documentary on that: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16386012

I'm happy with my Switch despite it being locked down, and hey, it's Nintendo and people are already running Linux on it: https://twitter.com/fail0verflow/status/964954316892119040

Adding the ability to program and run whatever on it actually asks Nintendo to add on a lot of extra project management, development, and overall support. This is a 300$ console not a 600$ laptop (and even that would be a low price for gaming on a laptop).

Damned evil companies trying to return profit to shareholders by selling products that get rave reviews and are generally beloved by customers and fans.

Not everything has to be an RMS-style pissing match about DRM and lack of open source compatibility. This is a game console made for the most novice of users; not a PC with a Windows license being forced on you. Calm down.

You’re entitled to your opinion, but I think that evil is a stretch. That one aspect is certainly disappointing. Maybe I’m just in love with something that is evil.

Most people don't espouse the FSF's definition of evil.

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