Confession – I’ve imported video game controllers before. Which isn’t too surprising, considering my track record. I won’t be doing that with the Wii U though, as it’s been discovered Nintendo has region-locked Wii U GamePads. The news came from Japan, from Rocket News 24 if you want to be specific. The site attempted to use a GamePad from a region other than Japan with a Japanese Wii U and learned it wasn’t going to happen.
The problem comes when people perform updates. That’s how region-locked Wii U GamePads were discovered. The person performing the test attempted to perform a Wii U system update with a GamePad from a different region. The system said it wasn’t going to happen because of the region-locked Wii U GamePad. The action was denied and the person who discovered the problem presumably had to go find the GamePad the Wii U came with to complete the operation. Games and apps could be played and enjoyed with either GamePad, but when it came to a really important operation, one was locked out.
The fact that Nintendo decided to go with region-locked Wii U GamePads isn’t a problem yet. There are no games available that support multiple GamePads, GamePads are only sold separately in Japan at the moment and all GamePads are either white or black so there aren’t any limited edition varieties. People don’t have a reason to start buying multiple GamePads yet. That will change probably in the middle of 2013, when we start seeing GamePads sold everywhere, multi-GamePad games and limited edition designs.
This has got to be about the money. I’m sure that due to currency exchange rates and such, GamePads will end up being cheaper in one region than the others once they are sold separately everywhere. A GamePad will cost ¥13,400 (~$157) in Japan. Nintendo probably hated the idea of losing money on what is the most expensive mandatory controller ever and decided a region-locked Wii U GamePad was the only solution.
Read [Rocket News 24 (Japanese)]