The Strong Yen and the Blu-Ray Format

This business with region restrictions and Blu-Rays between Japan and the US is starting to get out of hand. It’s reaching the point where I’m starting to doubt Sony’s decision to make the PS3 region free, or make the two territories share a Blu-Ray region.

In case you don’t know, Persona 4 Arena which comes out this week will be the first region-locked PS3 game ever. This and a handful of other cases I think are starting to bring to light the growing conflict between different geographical regions and the digital world as a whole.

Atlus Japan basically did this in order to discourage Japanese consumers from reverse-importing the North American version, which will have dual audio but will cost much less than the Japanese release. For presumably the same reason, the American Blu-Ray of Persona 4: The Animation won’t have the original Japanese audio.

Apparently this is the price of having Japanese and North American releases within weeks of each other with the same language content. Max Anarchy – the Japanese version of which is fully localized in English, got delayed to 2013 in North America seemingly right under the developer’s nose. From their comments and forum posts it sounds like they had the launch ready to go over here, but the publisher pushed it back at the last minute.

The main underlying issue here is probably the strong yen which is making products exported from Japan more expensive and things imported into the country cheaper. From what I’ve seen, current gen games and anime Blu-Rays have been hit hard. If you look up the Japanese versions Persona 4 Arena or Max Anarchy (called Anarchy Reigns in Japan) online they each cost something like $90. Persona 4: The Animation, like most anime series Blu-Rays in Japan, is split up into 10 volumes, each one around $80 containing two or three episodes. When the first collection comes out in North America this fall, the Blu-Ray will cost $60 and contain probably 10 episodes.

I could see the appeal for Japanese consumers but I have no idea if reverse importing really is that much of a problem. It might just be the Japanese license holders being paranoid. Whatever it is, the system is screwing over consumers on two sides of the Pacific right now.

The real reason this is happening though is because we have one region coding of a format representing two wildly different price markets. From here I could go into a big discussion on how the rise of the digital age has created a market that yearns to be global but is still chained by varying regions and currencies. I think that discussion is a long way from where we sit now though. I guess you could also ask Japan to depreciate the Yen but that’s another discussion that goes way beyond gaming and into how the world financial crisis has affected the Far East. Maybe for now we should just mark the current gaming/Blu-Ray situation down as one of the casualties.

BULLETS:

  • If you get one game from GameStop’s current “GameStock” sale, get The Witcher 2. It’s currently $30 on Xbox and $20 on PC. Check the previous blog I did on the game to see why.
  • Now you can check out the manual for the upcoming PC version of Dark Souls: http://t.co/avr1Plwo
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