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Region-free PS3 356

An anonymous reader writes "IGN writes that "In a QA session following the platform keynote address at GDC 2006 this morning, Sony Computer Entertainment Worldwide Studios President Phil Harrison confirmed what was heavily demanded for import gamers all over the world and yet previously thought unthinkable for a major corporation: the PS3 will be region-free for gaming." There's no chance that the MPAA members would allow the same for movies but at least it's a step in the right direction."
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Region-free PS3

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  • by geminidomino ( 614729 ) * on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:12AM (#14979975) Journal
    One of the biggest reasons mod chips tend to be "iffy" is that, while playing illegally-copied games is illegal, playing out-of-region games isn't. This move may buy them more than it costs, since that's one less reason to give for the legitimacy of mod chips. Now if they could just do something about that pesky "backup" excuse.

    • Backups are available at affordable prices.
      • Sell backups along with the game.

        A duplicated of the disk with backup written on it, but official.

        there's the backup.

        • They can ship me 100 backups for all I care. If I buy something it's mine and I will still do whatever I want with it. Like installing modchips and making backups.

          The day Sony, Microsoft, Apple, Ford and everybody else tells me I just rent the games, software and music, just rent the playsations computers, ipods and cars. Thats the day they can make restrictions.

          But as long as they sell me stuff I'm taking for granted it's mine and I will do whatever I please with it (With possibly the exception of spreadin
          • RICK: Oh, stop being so blinking bourgousie! All property is theft, Vyvyan.

            VYVYAN: All right, then. Where's your girlie purse?

            VYVYAN: [takes Rick's coin purse, removes some money] Ha ha! Found it!

            RICK: You put that back! That's my personal property!
          • They can ship me 100 backups for all I care. If I buy something it's mine and I will still do whatever I want with it. Like installing modchips and making backups.

            The disk they sell you most definitely is yours.

            The software contained on that disk is legally owned property of the company that sold it to you.

            So, you can do anything you want with the disk. You can paint it, tie a string through the center, and wear it as a necklace for all they care. But the software contanied on that disk isn't in any way s
        • That's still not good enough.
          They should sell games not disks. That way if you bust your copy you could receive a new one thru mail paying as little as manufacture and shiping costs.
          • Bingo!
            You send in your damaged disk and they send you a replacement for $8.00 or so. That easily covers shipping, manufacturing, and all the BS costs of dealing with the return process.

            On a side note, even if this is to mitigate some of the reasons a mod chip is legal, I see this a goot thing:
            $sonyEvilScore -- ;
    • While this was one of the main things keeping modchips legal (as modchips SHOULD be legal), it is a good thing that restrictions like this are starting to be dropped. There's no good reason why games shouldn't work in every region.
      • This doesn't suprise me. Sony decided to make the PSP region free for its games, but region locked for its movies. I'm still just pissed that Sony decided to not add a second analong stick and two more shoulder buttons so you you could use the PSP as a PS2 controller...

        Though the way the delays keep coming, I suspect the first game available for the PS3 will be Duke Nukem Forever...
      • "There's no good reason why games shouldn't work in every region."

        There are, however, some very compelling bad reasons. The main being that intellectual monopoly products are not priced in free market competition, but priced depending on disposable income of the consumer group.

        Without regions, the price for revenue maximization will be set for a global consumption group, which will create a less evenly distributed market cover.

        This is an inevitable artefact of intellectual monopoly legislation (and any mono
    • that pesky "backup" excuse

      Its simple, offer free replacment for scratched disc.
      And chipping PS2's is now illegal, or at least selling/buying the mod chip(in most countries), so should be no problem getting it so that chipping the PS3 is also against the law.

      • by rkcallaghan ( 858110 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:57AM (#14980243)
        Its simple, offer free replacment for scratched disc.

        This solution does not account for what happens if $GameProducer:
        • Goes belly up.
        • Provides 'mail in rebate' level of support.
        • Realizes in the year 2075 that producing the discs on demand is no longer a good idea.

        These are the reasons "Fair Use" allows for us to make our own backups. We as the owner of the product need to be the ones in charge of taking care of our stuff, not some distant third party who sees it as an expense they wish they didn't have.

        • Thus the reason why I think if a DRM type of system is really going to work (Steam for one example), the government needs involvement, or at least a government funded agency. Your argument about backups is just as much rellivent to current DRM ideas as the developer sending you a new disc. As I recall (as in I could very well be wrong in some ways), telcos and other utilites have been given special privlidges in the past and present since they are needed for our typical lifestyle. I think it would be a g
      • Um buying a modchip isnt illegal...selling them is
    • Well the backup excuse could be done away with if the HD was able to cache game content so you didn't need the disc in the drive to play it. How to stop people playing copies this way? Make them enter a registration code. Every so often it sends the code off to Sony. If more than one PS3 is found to have used the game with the same code, it challenges you to insert the disc to continue. Since this will affect few people, it makes HD gaming virtually transparent while allowing the original disc to stay in th
      • Except that takes for granted that everyone is going to connect his/her console to the net.
        • Most people will in one way or another. But I'm sure they could still implement an offline mode where you insert the disc at least once every month to get the same functionality. The leakage due to piracy would be marginal.
          • Why not just implement the offline mode then? That way they don't have to run authentication servers at all.
            • They could do that too, but running the test against servers would make the feature more useful to end users and might provide Sony with some useful metrics.
            • I've got an ever better idea - people are likely to lose or misplace the disc if you only have to insert it every month or so, so why not just require the disc to be inserted every time the game starts up? The game could perform some kind of check to ensure that the disc is in the drive and authentic, by using some kind of "bad sector" identification that would prevent those nasty pirates from copying the disks bit-for-bit.

              Sure, drive emulation is an option here, but I'm sure if you maintained a list of emu
          • Make it easy, offline mode equals putting the DVD in to start the game, after that the DVD (blue-ray, holographic memory, punch card, your pick) isn't touched. Already done on *Gasp* computers.

            heck, online mode could equal the same thing. Just make sure that we have 1. Plenty of diskspace 2. Removable discs (a la 360).

            No need to complicate things...
      • So your PS3 is required to have an internet connection to play games?

        Not going to fly.

        Even if it did, what's to prevent spoofing the 'ok to play' message via a proxy server?
      • what happens when your hard drive dies, you've lost the original disc/had it chewed by your dog, and you dont have a backup? :p I think your idea about using the net is a good one, but something more like Steam would be good, because then you can download your content anytime, to any machine, if you're using your account.
      • Well the backup excuse could be done away with if the HD was able to cache game content so you didn't need the disc in the drive to play it.
        If more than one PS3 is found to have used the game with the same code, it challenges you to insert the disc to continue.


        Explain to me please again how this allows me to not need a backup after my disc is scratched / cracked in half / otherwise damaged beyond readability?

    • To solve backups, they need to guarantee they'll replace a disc, at cost, for at least 5 years after the game was released. A lot of companies will do a replacement, but charge you a fortune for it...
  • by KDR_11k ( 778916 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:17AM (#14979996)
    Region locks should never have existed in first place, they are only there so different publishers can publish the same game in different regions and to enable price fixing.

    No matter why this was done, whether to make sure mod chips don't have any legal functions or to really do something useful, it had to be done. Region locks are attempts to suppress international trade and competition. They have been ruled illegal in some countries and are not protected by any DMCA-like laws. There should have been some fines over region locks but well, knowing the corrupt governments we have it'd end up being 5.95$ total.
  • by clevershark ( 130296 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:18AM (#14980003) Homepage
    This announcement seems all flash and no substance -- Europe will STILL have to have a separate set of games because they use PAL instead of NTSC anyway. What this *might* mean is that more Japanese-market games will be playable by NA gamers. Now don't get me wrong, that's a good thing, but it's hard not to think that the real reason for this is Sony wanting to save money where it can by not creating unnecessary "editions" of the same games.
    • They use PAL instead of NTSC for standard def TVs. HTDV all uses the same standard. Isn't that great?
      • Don't we still have the 24/25/29.9/30/50/60 fps thing going? I know the resolution is the same, but what about the framerate? I personally would prefer to have it as high as possible after all:)
      • by eht ( 8912 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @11:06AM (#14980299)
        HDTV defeinately does not all use the same standard, there's at least 4 different SMPTE standards I know of 260M, 295M, 274M, and 296M, and most of them have multiple standards within them.

        260M is 1920x1035 at either 30Hz or 29.97Hz, 295M is 1920x1080 at 25Hz, but at more lines per frame the spec in 274M, 274M has a ton of standards, all 1920x1080, but at many varying frame rates, including 30, 29.97, and 25, at both progressive(1 field per frame) and interlaced(2 fields per frame), and also a 24Hz frame rate, and 23.976Hz, and then 296M comes in with 1280x720 at 30Hz and 29.97Hz progressive.

        So a movie running at 1920x1080@25Hz interlaced will run 20% faster at 1920x1080@30Hz.

        Isn't that great?

        Sorry, I work with television signals everyday and the massive amount of standards causes me no end of annoyance.
    • by GauteL ( 29207 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:29AM (#14980068)
      "Europe will STILL have to have a separate set of games because they use PAL instead of NTSC anyway"

      Most fairly new European televisions can display both NTSC and PAL picture.
      • Furthermore, most current graphics hardware is capible of displaying in either PAL or NTSC or SECAM, etc ... I think there will likely still be some sort of region identification, but probably more like it's done on the DS: it'll ship with a default region selected, and you'll be able to change it in the options. It's probably the simplest solution to "What display do I use when I boot up for the first time ever?"
        • Furthermore, most current graphics hardware is capible of displaying in either PAL or NTSC or SECAM, etc...

          You'd be surprised just how much is capable of doing PAL/NTSC (most SECAM devices support PAL), but just don't provide the user with access to that feature. If I can buy a $30 VCD discman which supports PAL/NTSC, in Asia, then I am sure that most of $100+ devices should be able to support it. In most cases I imagine that the feature disabled out of some business choice.
      • That doesn't mean the PS3 is capable of putting out both PAL and NTSC.
    • My chipped NA XBOX attached to an NTSC TV has no problem playing PAL import games. I don't see why the PS3 would present a problem.
    • this is a non issue on modern tvs... and has been for years.
    • by meringuoid ( 568297 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:36AM (#14980109)
      This announcement seems all flash and no substance -- Europe will STILL have to have a separate set of games because they use PAL instead of NTSC anyway.

      I gather that a lot of modern TVs will work with either PAL or NTSC inputs, so they won't have any trouble with this; and since the PS3 is being designed with HDTV in mind, PAL vs NTSC is really kind of irrelevant. HDTV is the same everywhere.

      I personally wonder if this is something to do with Australia. They've ruled down there that region coding on DVDs is actually illegal; I hear that all Aussie DVD players are now multiregion. Region-coding the PS3 will get Sony into legal trouble in Australia. Region-coding all non-Australian PS3s will be kind of pointless - people prepared to import foreign games will presumably also be happy to import an Aussie PS3. So they may as well drop the whole thing.

    • Europe will STILL have to have a separate set of games because they use PAL instead of NTSC anyway

      It's actually the other way around. The US, Canada and Japan are pretty much the only places that use NTSC. Almost everything else (a few exceptions) uses PAL.
    • This is completely without substance. Many modern players can choose PAL or NTSC output, most TVs can handle both. Rendered things like games have never been an issue. The trouble is usually the source content - you don't have the space to store both NTSC and PAL format, and 480i30 & 576i25 don't combine to one. With a downscaled 1080p signal that is certainly not an issue. In short, there's absolutely no legitimate technical reason for region codes - not that there really was much of one for DVD eithe
    • Why is downscaling a game from HDTV to NTSC any different than downscaling a game from HDTV to PAL? I imagine the hardware is going to do the proper scaling so it will be trivial to have a single game playable on [PAL, NTSC, and HDTV] since the game will have to support either [PAL and HDTV] or [NTSC and HDTV] anyways.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:18AM (#14980006)
    Root-kit free, no.
  • More info... (Score:4, Informative)

    by astonish ( 177831 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:21AM (#14980024)
    Actually, what he really said is that the machine itself will not have any region restrictions, but it would be up to publishers whether they want to restrict their games to certain TV formats etc. Which they probably will for many major releases.

    Still if a publisher, especially from Japan, knows they aren't going to publish a game in the US/Euro they can leave it region free and let importers have more fun. Still a good thing. Lets hope they get the system off the ground, so far my impression is one of a very expensive hype machine that has to play catch up to Xbox Live. Still, I'm all for having two (three??) great next-gen systems in my living room.
    • I'm all for having the PS3 in my living room for console games (and backward compatible with all my PS1 games I still have lying around), and my PC to play PC games (rather than an X-Box to play PC games, but with a crappy control system) :)

      I could stretch the the Revolution also, if it turns out to be more than just a gimmick (ie good, non trivial games, that dont just take a couple of days to complete.. maybe something kinda openended like GTA but with samurais, swords controlled properly by swinging t
  • After the rootkit fiasco, it's starting to sound like Sony is trying to be more consumer friendly. With this, and the no downsampling Blu-Ray analogue output, I might actually consider buying things made by Sony.
  • by malkavian ( 9512 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:23AM (#14980035)
    Perhaps Sony, touched with the debacles it's been involved in recently (the Rootkit being the most well known), has decided its time to rely on a modicum of common sense. After all, the market has done without regional coding since the dawn of time (well, until a few years ago) and prospered.
    The simplest solution being the best (as is often the case) says remove the complexity that doesn't really gain anything, and see what you have. The copy protection on a console.. I can live with that.. I've never been that interested in backups, as I take great care with the disks.. I have, however, been most peeved when buying region coded items that refuse to play just because I'm in the 'wrong country'.
    Hopefully it's the start of a new trend of business actually listening, rather than dictating. I doubt it, but hey. It's a hope.

  • Here's hoping (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hcdejong ( 561314 ) <hobbes&xmsnet,nl> on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:23AM (#14980038)
    The blurb says 'no chance' the MPAA will get rid of region coding for movies, but if the gaming industry sees a solid business case (as in, they end up with more money), then maybe the MPAA will see the light as well. After all, greed is eternal.
    • Re:Here's hoping (Score:3, Interesting)

      by yuna49 ( 905461 )
      Unlike videogames, the movie producers need to work with distributors around the world (theater owners, etc.). Region coding makes sense for movies because they have staggered release schedules. A foreign theater chain is not going to be happy if a movie for which theatrical display rights are not yet available in that country is suddenly available on an HD videodisc. Videogames obviously don't have these issues.

      • Staggered release schedules made sense when theaters showed the movie off an (expensive, so limited numbers were available) analog film reel. Now that digital distribution is becoming common, there's no need to stagger the schedule. A global release, taking maximum advantage of the publicity generated in the US (premiere, talkshow tie-ins) would have advantages for the producer.
        • Except that it takes time and money to dub the movie into foreign languages. Even subtitles take time, and if a movie tanks in the US you probably don't want to bother. On the other hand, if some unknown comes out of nowhere and blows away the US box office, then you might be scrambling to find voice actors to get it in your country as fast as possible.
        • 2 things:
          1.The number of films being shown digitally (i.e. where there is no film print involved) is a very small number of the total screenings of films. Digital projectors for movie theaters are VERY expensive for the theater owners to buy.

          and 2.Even if the distribution was digital, that doesnt take away the need to figure out how many showings of a film are required. A large part of the delay between US releases and e.g. aus releases is aparently so that they can use box office and marketing numbers from
      • huh? Games producers need to work with retail outlets around the world.. region coding for movies is no different to that for games - video games also have 'staggered release schedules', and there is no reason that they should have, unless it's because the game needs to be translated to another language..
    • if the gaming industry sees a solid business case (as in, they end up with more money), then maybe the MPAA will see the light as well

      There is little chance of that, I think. The import market for games and videos is small. Different languages, different cultures. Different tastes in entertainment. Think of something as simple as the sea-change in the latest Harry Potter when it migrates from the U.K. to the states.

  • Older games? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:27AM (#14980053)
    So the PS3 will be able to play PS1 and PS2 games... could this mean it'll be region free for those games as well? I finally get to play the Sakura Taisen games released for the PS2 but couldn't because they were dual-layered and wouldn't work with swap discs?

    If older games are region-free, the good word of mouth import gamers will be giving Sony will be strong enough to carry over into other markets I think.

    I might be very happy.
  • Sounds nice... (Score:2, Insightful)

    Whilst it may have region-free games, will all the games actually be available in all markets at the same time? And will online retailers be allowed to ship games over to areas where a certain game hasn't been released yet?
    • well they're making a good start by releasing the console simultaneously in Japan, US and EU. There will still be some games that area made in Japan/wherever that need to be translated for the English speaking market (I know that isnt the only important market, but it's the one most relevant to me, and probably most slashdotters), but any games made in the west hopefully will be able to be released simultaneously.
  • by Guppy06 ( 410832 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:38AM (#14980121)
    Or is it because Sony is satisfied with the court decisions in the UK, etc. where they successfully sued importers of the PSP for trademark violations?

    After all, why worry about the technical hassles of DRM when you can sue the pants off of somebody trying to sell Japanese games in the US, US games in the EU, etc?
    • "Is Sony being charitable?"

      Isn't it funny that just because we may be able to buy their games and play them at any location in the world that we're considering them "charitable"? What a screwed up time we live in. The customer has no power anymore.

      So, to answer your question: NO. They are not being charitable.
    • IIRC they sued through a technicality (use of the Sony trademark in their adverts without permission) - they couldnt stop them from actually selling PSPs. Also games that run on a system are quite different from something that Sony has built themselves, though presumably Sony still has to license games (and supply some kind of code) for them to actually work on a non chipped PS (which has been true ever since the PSX, and is not any new sensational kind of DRM)
  • by LordJezo ( 596587 ) on Thursday March 23, 2006 @10:44AM (#14980156)
    Wouldn't this be more part of the BlueRay news instead of PS3 specific news?

    Japan and USA to share BlueRay region codes [qj.net].

    Import games and movies here I come!
  • FTA: NTSC bPAL? (Score:2, Informative)

    by cyclomedia ( 882859 )
    TFA suggests the possibility of a "no play" screen if an import game demands an output signal that is incompatible with your region coding so that things dont go bang. which to me suggests two possibilities.

    1. the author is dumb
    2. all my tvs have been magic tvs

    currently (well, not this very second) i'm playing a US NTSC import of a PSone game on my PAL telly in the UK, sure the picture is a bit stretched but even this cheapo 19" tv has a 16:9 anamorphic button, squashing said picture back down to something
    • Sounds like you have some halfassed TV that accepts both PAL and NTSC inputs, but doesn't account for the resolution differences. Normally if you play a PAL game on an NTSC TV or vice versa, the picture will roll in addition to being squashed.

      Of course the PSx and PS2 hardware is the same on both sides of the pond. The games are pretty much the same too. The only difference is a file on the disc that has the line "FORMAT = NTSC" or "FORMAT = PAL" or something like it. It would be trivial for Sony to j
      • Well, in Europe most TVs won't roll, or display it squashed, they can lock onto 60Hz singals fine. I think he just has a crappy TV.

        They may display in black and white however if you're using composite connections, not every TV like NTSC colour, that's why most consoles (apart from the PS2) use PAL60 for 60Hz modes. You can bypass that bit by getting an RGB SCART cable or similar.

        Support for PAL60 is pretty high, and Nintendo and Microsoft both have 60Hz only games on their consoles, although they do have wa
    • However, as has already been pointed out, the converse doesn't hold. North American TVs have a real hard time trying to play PAL content, whereas Europeans have no difficulty playing NTSC content on their TVs. It's a problem for the Yanks, not us.
  • The real DRM question is HDMI.

    This is a proprietary version of DVI created by Sony. Some new HDTV's have HDMI hookups in the back - most don't.

    It is rumored that Sony will require HDMI connections from the PS3 to the HDTV to prevent Blu-Ray movie piracy. If you need to run out and buy a HDMI capable TV (or an expensive DVI-HDMI adapter) there will be many unhappy people.

    HDMI IS the reason why Sony has already pushed things back.
  • "A PAL PS3 game, for instance, will have difficulty running on an NTSC TV, unless the developers have thought ahead and planned for that issue."

    Is that really much of a problem nowadays? I know my TV automatically switches PAL/NTSC based on the signal, and AFAIK pretty much every reasonably sized TV does, as do most smaller TV's.

The absent ones are always at fault.