Nintendo boss Satoru Iwata has indicated that Nintendo could be willing to reverse its long-term opposition to region locking.
The game business has a history of taking a very long time with localization,” he told investors, as per a NeoGaf translation. [This is due to] among other things – having to deal with various issues of marketing in each particular country, or games that have made use of licensed content that did not apply globally.
[So] region-locking has existed due to circumstances on the sellers' side rather than for the sake of the customers. In the history of game consoles, that is the current situation.
As for what should be done going forward, if unlocked for the benefit of the customers, there may also be a benefit for us. Conversely, unlocking would require various problems to be solved, so while I can't say today whether or not we intend to unlock, we realize that it is one thing that we must consider looking to the future.”
The statement represents a stark change of tune for the company, which as recently as last summer was saying that "I hope that game fans can understand that the industry isn't doing this solely out of business ego, there are some reasons behind it".
Iwata went on to identify those reasons as variations in cultural and legal standards.
Region locking requires that hardware bought in certain regions (such as Europe/PAL, America or Japan) will only function with software coded to the same region. Sony hasn't routinely region locked its hardware since the days of the PS2 while Microsoft has also relaxed its policies on the matter.