Here in the UK we're accustomed to being ripped off. It's part of our culture, along with cricket, tea-drinking and tutting under our breath at queue-jumpers. We wait six months or more to get our hands on the next big thing then pay through the nose for it, and when companies rub our noses in our inability to resist their shiny, overpriced toys, we shrug, grumble and buy them anyway while our self-respect slinks away into the night.
So when Nintendo announced the 3DS was on its way to Europe, we held our breath for the inevitable disappointment. But no, Nintendo couldn't settle for common or garden disappointment; they had to add an extra element of uncertainty by setting a recommended retail price of whatever the hell retailers feel like charging.
Now theoretically this could work in the consumer's favour, with competition between retailers driving prices down. I won't hold my breath. Even in the best case scenario, current preorder prices with the three biggest games retailers in the UK are hovering around £210-£220, a mere fifty-percent markup on the price of the 3DS elsewhere in the world. Competition has some way to go to make up for that difference.
Worse still is the news that – unlike the DS – 3DS games will be region locked. Region-locking for home consoles, while inconvenient and ludicrous when consided outside the world of quarterly reports and fragmented multinational companies, at least has relatively limited repercussions (beyond hardened importers like myself). For a portable system, it's a whole different matter. Most of our DS library comes from the US, while visiting family – usually around Christmas, through a combination of spending money and gift-cards generously given – when our DSes naturally become a major part of our gaming apparatus. (Not to mention that I would never have played the brilliant Japan-only Ossu Tatakae Ouendan if the DS had been region-locked.)
For this forthcoming generation, it looks like our choices will be limited to paying through the nose for whatever scraps of gaming dross Nintendo and their third parties can be bothered to license for the European market, or restrict our game purchases to a two-week window every couple of years as we've resorted to with our import Wii.
Knowing the British national character, there won't be much complaint. We'll mutter under our collective breath, ponder how many pints we could've bought down the pub with the money – beer, also, gives you blurred vison, splitting headaches and impending nausea – and thank god that we're not Australia.
They really get ripped off.
Originally posted at Generation Minus One, the Webcomic of Last-Gen Gaming.