We travel, we work, we relocate. It's not usual for people to move from one country to another for work or family purposes in this day and age. It has always happened, but we have a far more international community now, than ever before. My home can be where I feel the need to be. It may be temporary, or long term, but it won't be where I began.
Around 4 or so years a go, I decided to move. I'd been working at the same place for the last 4-5 years, and felt that it was the right time for something new. There were the obvious things that I was concerned with, had prepared for and thought about: missing my family, friends, finding a place to live, and so on. But there were some smaller things that I took for granted, and didn't really consider. One of these things was video games.
Now, it may be considered pretty minor in the grand scheme of things, but games are something I do play and do enjoy. I'm an introvert, I enjoy time to myself. Escapism is very important to me, as I can feel drained in everyday social environments, and the average flow of daily life. Games gave me a place to go and recharge.
When I moved, I brought with me my laptop, PSP and DS. I wasn't a huge PC gamer, and my laptop was mostly used for other stuff. I don't even think I had Steam installed at that point in time. This had me leaving behind my PS3, PlayStation 2, Xbox, SNES, Saturn, console, console... loads of stuff basically, and loads of games. More that I would ever really be able to play through. I used to by games on a whim; walk into a store, browse, and pick up on impulse. This is something I miss.
Once I arrived at my new destination, and started to settle in my new home, I didn't really spend too much time thinking about my current gaming situation, and what I'd do when I needed that respite from the people around. I was busy with plenty of other stuff.
Around 6 months or so later, I'd played some of the DS titles which I'd never gotten around to before, some of the PSP titles, and I started to use my laptop as a gaming device a little bit more. I don't think I bought anything, instead mostly using it for free to play MMO's. Now, this is where one of the first problems came in: I couldn't play a heck of a lot of stuff, and not due to specs.
When I had a little free time, I'd find myself looking for MMO's to play. But the problem was, that due to where I moved to, I was considered as part of China to some MMO publishers. That meant that I couldn't play. It was pretty frustrating to find an MMO I'd like to try, only to find that it wasn't available in my region. The flip side to this, was that I could download my regions Client, but it was all localized. I was sure that I could do something to run the game in English, but I'm wasn't great at faffing around with my PC for games, as I was still new to all of this.
A little while later, I found that my PSP started to break down on me. The X button wouldn't respond too well, and it made a lot of games unplayable. I needed to buy a new one. This is when my eyes were opened up a little more to the reality that I currently have.
When I picked up my new PSP (a sweet Candy Red), I was able to grab God of War: Chains of Olympus (good game!). I could pick any one game from the selection available on the shelves. This was a U.K. chain, so they stocked some English language stuff, although it was the U.S. version of the content. Most of the games available were either Japanese or U.S., fortunately, the PSP is region free.
The year Halo 4 was released, I got a bit of Halo fever. I wanted in on that action. I had the money for it, so I was keeping my eyes open for a console (Xbox 360). As I looked in a number of stores, I found the same thing as I did with the PSP; I could either get a U.S. version or a Japanese version, and the games were either U.S. or Japanese for the most part, some E.U. too, but rare.
Now, I could have picked up one, sure. And got Halo. But then I asked myself a couple of reasonable questions which made me never pick one up (and still haven't): would I have any issues with an Xbox Live profile with where I am located versus the console region, and, what if I wanted to buy other games?
It's not impossible to figure out. People obviously own the console here, they also have Xbox Live subscriptions, and play Halo and whatever else they decide to go for. But the games, this was my main concern. If I buy a U.S. console, will they import the U.S. titles that I actually want to buy? Should I buy a console for an alternate region? That certainly wouldn't solve the game/region issue. There are ways to get games, I could use eBay, some companies do actually ship games to this region, when the game is not for your region, but it's a heck of a lot of hassle.
Fortunately, I'd become increasingly familiar with PC gaming, had bought an upgraded laptop, and was building quite a library of games via Steam. Now, one thing which I need to point out: Steam's sales (in my experience) are global. This is pretty amazing. Also, the currency used where I am, is in U.S. dollars, so I can likely save a little bit as they are usually a little cheaper. There's a lot I do not like about Steam, but this is something they do incredibly right. It's also a lesson some other companies should learn.
Although I could and did game on my laptop, I have always been a console gamer and there are a lot of franchises and experiences on those consoles which I cannot get on the PC. I was also very interested in the 3DS, but like the Xbox 360, it was region locked. This has 100% stopped me getting the console. I mean, I won't be here forever, maybe go back to the U.K., so getting a Japanese or U.S. console isn't really going to be very useful in the potential long term. And on top of that, while I'm here, there is the issue with the games. I like console released Japanese titles, and you can guarantee that Japanese titles when released here, are the Japanese version of the game. So I can get a Japanese console, get the game, but not actually understand it AND have the same long term issue when I move.
This has also been the same issue with the Wii U. I wouldn't buy it as it is now anyway, although I have come close due to wanting to try something new, but there are just way too many reasons not to. That's without including the somewhat uninteresting library.
When the Xbox One was announced, I'd had plenty of experience regarding difficulties which surround being in an unsupported region. The first thing that really put me off the the console, was that so many of the cool TV related features just would not work if you were in an unsupported region. So much of the console that you bought, wouldn't function. You'd be paying 100% of the price, for about 50% of the functionality. The U.S. is the biggest market for the console, so it can be understood why it's the priority, but I was left frustrated. I started to see things the way that others who live in unsupported regions could see these consoles.
Fortunately, the PS4 is not only region free, it also has a launch here later this month. I likely won't buy it, but I know there is an option. It's region free, and it's supported officially. The PS Vita is similar; it's available, region free, but it just has the unrelated issue of absurdly priced memory cards... Another bonus, is that the consoles are taking a digital stance, and when you don't know what releases you'll get here physically, this is a good thing too.
It may all seem anecdotal, and just a bit ranty, but I'm not the only one to have this issue. It also links to something far bigger.
People play games here. They play games all around the region. Mobile titles do really well, PC games and online titles do fantastically well too. Take a look a countries like Korea and China for examples of this, there are areas in south-east Asia which are similar. People want to play.
With the support the way it currently is, it's difficult for people to play though. Even if you remove the expat factor, there are still regions without support from consoles makers. Now, factor in that in the region, there are more and more game developers and development studios appearing and starting up. It's popular, and there's a wealth of very passionate and skillful talent. There are people that can make fantastic games, and likely young kids with great ideas, but they do not have access to consoles to experience some of what is being made right now. When we look at titles developed in European countries, the U.S. or Japan, they all have their own specific flavour. What if we had more countries, and communities creating stuff?
I sometimes think of how Nintendo could be selling more Wii U's right now, if it was region free and available in some of their currently unsupported countries. With phones, some of the poorer regions will still buy smart phones, but the lower/cheaper ones on the market. This is a slot Nintendo could fill for some consumers, although they likely wouldn't want to have that stigma of being the 'low end'. But the point is, is that there is a market.
Microsoft is at least doing the right thing this time, with their console being region free. But their overall plan isn't great for those outside the big regions. But at least there is the idea of digital content, so it's something to look positively at. The PlayStation 4 does even better, with it being region free, digital content, and supporting more countries off the bat. But you could argue that the reason it looks a better deal, is because overall, it tries to do less than the Xbox One. But again, it's a positive, and that's a different discussion.
While there are people arguing over which console is better and which exclusives they'll get, Black Friday sales, and bundles, there are some people out there who can't realistically look at getting any console without a number of headaches coming with it.
From what I have experienced, there can be more content when embracing more regions, like the PC, and like mobile. In addition, there are people who want to buy a console but cannot. There's a fix to this problem in there somewhere, and it looks like some steps are being taken, but it's not there yet.
For now, for me personally, I'll continue to consider the PS4. I'll look at maybe upgrading my laptop and going for a desktop set-up for gaming. But I'll also be looking at the 3DS and sighing, as I see a console I'd like to own, but also one that isn't ready for me.