Let’s talk firstly about general region codes which are set like your DVD player – these setting have been set by your country. It is not a game related thing, it was determined by a set of two things: the power input (mains electricity) & the type of TV that you use (different TV signals). The 3 main systems we have worldwide are PAL, NTSC & NTSC/J, for more information on why we have these click here (opens a separate window).
Whereas a DVD player only plays DVDs from your own region (with a few exceptions), the video games machines are a lot more complicated and generally unpredictable. There is no single easy region code standard for video games, it is quite obvious that the coding has been left in the hands of the games companies & the residing country.
The easiest way to explain gaming region settings and codes is to split up each console into its own segment and discuss it.
Many people have bought Japanese systems from all across Asia in a bid to get a cheap console, and brought it home to the family only to find that the entire thing is region coded to hell and only plays in certain languages.
So to say it clearly for everyone to hear – the Wii is not a region free console! If you buy one from outside your own country please don’t expect your countries’ games to work. Don’t shout at us if it doesn’t!
The other thing that you have to be aware of is that the w is a product that keeps it’s language system locked in certain regions, so for example: if you buy a Wii in Japan, it will not display any English language within the console’s operating system or the Japanese game you put in it. You have been warned!
Nintendo is one of the biggest companies in Japan, it is (at time of writing) second only to Toyota. They have got to where they are by making clever & rather dicey business decisions which could have cost them the business, one of which is their region code system. Nintendo is very much a Japanese company, and wants to keep all of it’s profits in Japan – after all it’s only income is from video games so they feel it is necessary to keep strict rules to ensure they know where the money is going.
Microsoft Xbox 360
The xbox 360 is riddled with region problems. The xbox 360 console itself is a 100% region free system with the only exception of the normal DVD movie region codes. I have heard many people say on the net that all PAL games do not work on an NTSC consoles, that is simply not true! Gears of War & Halo 3 all work on my Japanese (NTSC/J) 360. For the 360 we have to take into account the above mentioned NTSC, PAL & NTSC/J problems. The 360 has two (sometimes 3) NTSC/J platforms arranged with different language settings – there is a Japanese version (日本語版), an english version (Asia) and recently we have seen a Chinese release too.
Due to the complexity of the 360 region coding I have complied a list from different areas of the interweb that you can find HERE.
Hopefully you can work out which game is good for you and your console – but don’t flame us if we are wrong, this information does come from the internet after all – please use it as a general guide, not a definitive guide. If you know of a game that is not listed or you know it works in xx language and it’s not listed, please please let us know here so that we can add it to the list and help other people like ourselves.
Getting games from abroad is a tricky business, I would check the interweb for trustworthy places to buy from, but sometimes even the big guys mess up and send out the wrong stuff. I pre ordered halo 3 with play-asia only to find that when I got it the damn thing was entirely was in Chinese Mandarin!?!?! Luckily I knew from the interwebs that I would be receiving the game and quickly sent it back to get my money returned.
The best way to get the games you want are to get your friends or family from abroad to send one over to you. Though be warned, if you buy a game from abroad you are liable to pay duty on it when it comes through the postal service’s customs office (if they open it)! The easy way around this is to get your friend to take all the wrapping off the game and break the seal on the case – this is now classed as used goods and I believe they have a hard time trying to prove you need to pay duty on it.
Getting around region codes
The only way to get around the region problem completely is to ‘mod’ (modify) your console, in fact many of the consoles from Thailand have already illegally fitted them. A modified console comes as two types, a hard-mod and a soft-mod: a hard-mod is a chip which is placed inside the machine to fool it into thinking som ething else OR a soft-mod which has been created by hackers to break the underlying source code of the console and changing the settings. Most hard-mods need some electrical experience, and knowledge of soldering – so for many people they find and external person to mod the box. I have heard of many people on the interweb spilling solder onto the motherboard and thus making the console into a brick. Mod at your own choice/risk, this site does not support it so please don’t ask here how it is done….that’s what google is there for.
Update: Even though I have a picture of a 360 there, I recently found out that even if you modify a 360 it will not play games from other region codes. I am not an expert at console mods so don’t take my word for it – but I heard that at the time of writing this it is not possible to play dodgy copy of XXX game from a different region.
Details on the ps3 coming soon!