Handhelds have traditionally been region free, and both the DS and the PSP have a thriving market for imported games… but Nintendo is looking to change all that with the 3DS.
A consumer emailed Nintendo in Japan asking if the 3DS would be able to play import games, and recieved this in response:
“There are no Region codes in DS and DS Lite, but DSi, DSi [XL], and 3DS have region codes. The region codes are installed in each game and the 3DS itself. … You can’t play if the region codes are different.
For example, if you play a Korean 3DS game with a Japanese 3DS system (or vice versa), you won’t be able to play at all.”
This is a disappointing move for Nintendo, as the original DS was an importer’s paradise, with a library filled with interesting, quirky games that never managed to make it to America or Europe. In fact, strong import sales of the Japan-only title “Ouendan” actually convinced Nintendo to create a Western version of that game, which came out over here as “Elite Beat Agents.”
(translation via Tiny Cartridge)