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The Sky's US's the Limit

by TSG 

I'm here to talk to you all about a point I've touched on elsewhere in editorials before, and which is particularly in the forefront of my mind right now. I recently bought Skies of Arcadia, a fantastic game, and sat down to play it, reaching the start of Disk 2 in record time. Then, the problems started. Disk 2 would not load any towns, so I took it back to the importers (I live in England) for a replacement... which didn't work. Similarly, replacements 3 and 4 didn't work either, evidently from a problem with the entire shipment. Therefore, the only thing I could think to do was to contact Sega US themselves. Sega US promptly sent me an email stating that they will not maintain or support any products that are not bought in or maintained outside the US.

I find this more than a little unfair, personally. The first and mostly minor point is that an American product has gone wrong and should be replaced. It has /been/ replaced by the shop itself to the best of their ability, and it should now be returned to the maker - country should not come into it.

The second, and far more important point, is the unspoken 'Don't import games.' in the mail from Sega US. Every console takes steps against importers, most generally a simple country code recognition within the chip. The question: why? Why is it /so/ important that we're only able to play games released in England? Whether bought in England or America, the money'll still reach the developers and the publishers - they might be different publishers and developers, and the English ones may be worried that they'll lose money if gamesplayers can order direct from America, but given the cost for importing nowadays I imagine most gamers buying most games from England as per normal and only bothering to import the games with don't come out in PAL regions.

Well. If not that, then what? Well, here's a very unorthodox idea. If you're only prepared to support games released in England and you're looking to stop importers, then - gasp! - you could release RPGs at the same time as they're released in England, and you could stop withholding games from the PAL regions! Such an unusual idea, and one companies seem to have not thought of. After all, if companies released RPGs to the PAL region, then we wouldn't /have/ to import our favourite genre, we wouldn't have to sit there trying to get round lockouts and breaking warranty and having to sit there looking glumly at a computer screen at an email that effectively says "Hi there. We hear you're a bit screwed. Well, guess what? You're /really/ screwed."

I don't mean to be so mocking, but this topic is really getting my goat, especially since I was quite summarily hooked on Skies of Arcadia and it's extremely depressing to be totally unable to play it. Combined with the fact that three new games ordered online are in the mysterious world of 'Pending', and I'm getting fed up with having to get games over from America because companies refuse to believe there is any market for RPGs here. I know a goodly number of people in the immediate area whom I can rant at about Japanese RPGs and they'll know what I'm talking about and be interested in getting them. In fact, come to think of it I also know a large number of people around online who also import and buy RPGs in great volume. So evidently there /is/ a market here, no matter how small.

The problem is this market is stuck in a vicious circle. Companies don't release RPGs so there's little demand for RPGs because people don't even /know/ they're being released. The only way this is going to be broken is by actually releasing more RPGs in England at the same time as they're released in the US. That is the only way companies will stop die-hard English RPG fans importing American games. And personally I feel that until this is done US companies should support their products, no matter where they're maintained. After all, importing is the only way I'll ever play the Lunar games, Rhapsody, Parasite Eve 1, Final Fantasy Tactics, the list goes on longer than, well, a very long thing.

I'll end this here, and go play the DC, taking small comfort in the fact that Record of Lodoss War was released here at Christmas, long before it's even to appear in the US. A small victory, but enough to calm me for now.

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