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Report into excessive Wii software delays in Australia / New Zealand

Update: 7 October, 2007

I had the great opportunity to sit down with the Aussie-Nintendo.com crew again for their A-N On Air Podcast! I have been getting a lot of e-mails enquiring about the specifics surrounding my talks with Nintendo Australia, and I explain what happened in detail on the Podcast – plus a lot more! It’s a great listen, be sure to check it out.

Update: 3 October, 2007

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Recently I was in discussions with Nintendo Australia in relation to the issues raised in my report. I have had multiple conversations with both Heather Murphy, Public Relations Co-ordinator of Nintendo Australia, and Greg Arthurton, Marketing Manager of Nintendo Australia. I have not been publishing any information as a result of these discussions in order to allow the company to have time to construct a response.

This has changed now.

I was offered the opportunity by Nintendo Australia to put together a list of questions to ask; I compiled a list of questions based off my research into the issue at hand, as well as the extensive feedback I have received after the publishing of my initial report.

The questions I submitted are as follows:

What is involved in the localisation process that causes these extreme delays of software titles? Looking at the Office of Film and Literature Classification’s database, Wii software titles are often rated for release many months before they are available for sale. It is my understanding that video game software must be at a final, pressing-ready stage before it can be submitted for classification (OFLC, 2007). If the software titles are at this level of progression at the submitted time, what causes the actual release date to be pushed back so far?

Due to both Australia and Europe sharing the same PAL video standard, Australian Wii owners are generally forced into waiting for games to be translated into the various European languages before any PAL release is made available. To the best of my knowledge, there has never been an Australian–specific Wii game SKU, with all first-party Australian region Wii software releases containing the exact same discs as the fully translated European release. This is an issue that has been raised by many of my readers. Does Nintendo Australia have any plans to release its own versions of Wii software, without having to wait for the various game translations needed for the European audience?

The topic of Regional Lockout systems implemented on the Wii console has been extremely debated since the publishing of the mentioned report. Due to the wide availability of 60Hz-compatible displays within Australia, and the ability for Australian released Wii consoles to output to this format, any technical differences between regions have become nothing more than trivial. A statement was released by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission four years ago; it states “The ACCC has long believed that region coding is detrimental to consumer welfare as it severely limits consumer choice and, in some cases, access to competitively priced goods” (ZDNet, 2003). Does Nintendo Australia see how the Region Locking mechanism present in the Wii not only limits consumers’ choices in the aforementioned ways, but also forces them into putting up with the extreme software release delays?

Region Locking has also been outlined in the presented report as a form of both market manipulation and consumer bullying; Does Nintendo Australia agree with this? I feel that these are strong but very well founded accusations, and I am certain your consumers would like a response.

After a long delay, I got a response:

"Nintendo Australia has no comment; Nintendo Australia does not comment on these issues."

Now, these questions were not simply pushed to Nintendo Australia without any prior notice. I was offered the chance to submit these questions by the company directly, after multiple discussions.

I find this strange and unfair to me and to you as consumers. I cannot help but thinking the company was expecting these kinds of issues not to be brought up. I am left under the impression that Nintendo Australia is well aware of its business practices involving illegal market manipulation, and simply try to avoid the issue.

I am unable to pursue legal action, nor can I recommend it to anyone at all, but I cannot help but think such action would have a chance in being extremely successful. As I research more, the consumer and trading laws present in both Australia and New Zealand clearly outline terms related to the illegal nature of Regional Lockout mechanisms, and there has been key examples of successful cases in the past involving market manipulation in a similar sense.

Looking forward, I just hope that the issue at hand gains a lot more media attention. The more light shone on the situation, the more chance of a resolution.

If you have anything you would like to contact me about in relation to this report, please feel free to email me at aaronights@gmail.com.

With enough attention, Nintendo will be forced to face this issue.

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All information is © 2007, Aaron Rex Davies, aaronights.com. Nintendo, Wii, and all other related properties are © Nintendo Company, Limited.