Useful Notes / Region Coding
This page discusses region coding, region-based lockouts, and other producer-supplied controls that restrict the use of their media in certain geographical areas.
For DVDs, region coding refers to the assignment of a number representing a geographic region to a DVD.note
This prevents a DVD purchased in one part of the world from being played in a DVD player purchased in another part of the world. The specific region codes are:
- 0 - No region; can be played on any DVD player anywhere in the world. Also denotes a DVD player that can play DVDs from any region.
- 1 - USA, Canada, Bermuda
- 2 - The European Union, Switzerland, Norway, Turkey, Iran, Georgia, Israel, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen, Oman, UAE, Qatar, Egypt, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Japan.
- 3 - Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan, South Korea
- 4 - Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Latin America (except French Guiana)
- 5 - Africa (except Egypt, South Africa, Lesotho, and Swaziland), Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, North Korea, Sri Lanka, Azerbaijan
- 6 - China
- 7 - Reserved for internal use by the MPAA, or for copies sent to censors and critics before consumer release.
- 8 - Mainly for distant transportation venues in international skies and waters such as airplanes and cruise ships, though many of these just use the format and player type of the nation they serve the most.
discs, the regional codes are much less tortuous and are as follows:
- A - The Americas and most of Asia
- B - Europe, Australia, Africa and New Zealand
- C - The former USSR, China and other parts of Asia not covered by Region A
However for most consoles, natural lockouts do exist due to differing television display formats (currently based on declining analog formats, which will most likely persist into the future despite the fact that they're not relevant with digital simply because of tradition).:
- NTSC-U/C for The Americas (and since the introduction of the Blu-Ray disc region scheme, some parts of Asia)
- NTSC/J for Japan and most of Asia (whole of Asia before the introduction of the Blu-Ray regioning scheme)
- PAL for Europe and Oceania
- NTSC/C for China (introduced by Sony)note
- NTSC/K for Korea (introduced by Nintendo)
Studios do this to control release and distribution of a movie or game globally. A movie available on DVD in the United States may just be hitting theaters in Europe. This is weakly justified
because it takes time to produce translations for foreign languages (except that the United Kingdom and Ireland are classed as part of Europe but generally need no translation), clear moral censorship
standards, abide by copyright terms and pay local distributors around the world, and because region coding restricts nationals to the approved domestic version of a film.
Predictably, Region Coding was one of the first things cracked on DVDs, and was pretty much the first thing hackers set out to circumvent when Blu-Ray discs were released. It is also the number one legitimate reason people mod consoles, slightly ahead of "running homebrew software". Region-free DVD players are easily obtained online, while most other DVD players have service codes to disable region code checking. Like any DRM
, though, it's still technically illegal to circumvent (in the United States, at least). It's completely legal in many other countries, but this may invalidate your warranty on some devices. (In Sweden, you just ask for a region-free set at the local vendor and you'll get it; but you will have to bring up the matter yourself; the salesclerk won't. In Malaysia, you can be sure that the DVD player is region free if it's a Bland-Name Product
from a big box storenote
although brand-name region-free players from Hong Kong can be purchased from most electronics dealers as well- like Sweden above, you'll need to specifically ask for the player to be region-free when buying brand-name players).
(Note that region coding itself
is illegal in some areas. The responsible bodies in Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand have investigated whether it violated free trade agreements, found that it did, and therefore all DVD players sold in those areas are required to be region-free or at least have the ability to disable the lock. This doesn't appear to extend to video game consoles, though, at least in Australia's case.)
- It's worth noting that video game consoles have had region coding since 1984. It was introduced there by Nintendo, theoretically to reduce pirated and unlicensed games on the system. However, it also serves as a huge barrier to Import Gaming, for much the same reasons as with home movies. Devices to maneuver around the region coding are also illegal, but popular to the point that such a device for the Nintendo Entertainment System, the first with such coding, still sells for a respectable amount.
- The US version of the NES has a lockout chip called the 10NES. While its main reason of existence is to ensure that only games certified by Nintendo will run, it has the side-effect of region-locking the console, since various European consoles have different (and incompatible) versions of the chip. It also ended up using extra pins that're used by co-processors that're found on many Japanese games. Also, the Japanese NES has a slightly different slot, offering less pins than the NES (so in actual fact, the NES could actually implement co-processors given the extra pins, but ended up not doing so anyway). And to ensure you can't even use Japanese peripherals, they removed the DB 15 expansion port, replacing it with an expansion slot under the console, and instead required that peripherals plug into the second controller port.
- The SNES actually had two plastic tabs that prevented Super Famicom cartridges from being inserted. A pair of pliers and devil-may-care attitude about warranty can fix that,note but this does not apply to people trying to play a PAL SNES game on an NTSC SNES and vice-versa, as many games actually try to detect the speed of the SNES and display a wrong region message if the speed is incorrect (PAL SNES sets runs at a slower clock rate due to being tied down to a 50Hz output, while NTSC sets run faster due to being tied down to a 60Hz output). In cases like these, a lockout bypass cartridge is usually used. Said cartridges basically has two slots on the top. In one slot, you'd plug in the wrong region game that you want to play (depending on your console), and in another slot, you'd plug in a game that is of the correct region. How the device works is a little fuzzy, but it works with most common games. However, this still won't work with cartridges that has co-processors inside.
- The Nintendo 64 used tabs to region-lock as well. It's slightly more difficult to bust it's tabs, but a worthy investment.
- The Sega Genesis:
- The console has an odd region-coding system. Sega, trying to cut costs, designed the console's motherboard so that changing the region is as simple as swapping a few jumpers on the motherboard around. The first jumper determined the clock speed of the console and the second jumper determines the console language. There were only three valid combinations - English 50Hz for PAL, English 60Hz for NTSC/UC, and Japanese 60Hz for NTSC/J- though some games will also honor the Japanese 50Hz setting to mean Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and Mainland China). This is combined with the shape of the physical cartridge (NTSC/UC and PAL cartridges were designed the same way, but NTSC/J cartridges were slightly different in terms of shape). All it took to make the console region free was to mod two switches into the console to select language and speed (although if you had a Japanese console, you must also mod the top loading section of the case so American and European cartridges will fit). It didn't really matter much during the early days of the console though, since most games released then were region free (and some even used the settings for Country Switch purposes). Only when the region locked games came out later did people take to modding.
- After region-coded games started appearing but before the discovery of the jumpers however, many Chinese companies produced "region adapters" that allow for mod-free region-free gaming. Just plug the game that's of the wrong region into the adapter itself, flip some switches on the adapter to indicate the cartridge region and console region, and the adapter itself is plugged into the Genesis or Mega Drive. This indicates that it's also possible to fool the game into thinking it's in the correct region at a software level alone.
- Interestingly, this does not apply to early portable consoles.
- They lack region protection, on the theory that someone with one of these should be able to pick up a game for his system no matter where in the world he goes (the lack of a TV may have played a part, see below). For this reason, portables are extremely common amongst import gamers from any country. However, with today's portable consoles, companies combat these solutions with mandatory updates required to play games released from there on out.
- The DSi has region locking, but only for specific DSi features, such as differing online features for each region. Future games will still be region-free, with the exception of downloadable ones.
- The Nintendo 3DS has region locking for both cartridge and downloadable games, to the annoyance of import gamers. Nintendo allegedly incorporates a whitelist database on each device, which contains a list of checksum of valid games. Game not in the list? Then it wouldn't run. Allegedly this is why the 3DS regularly receives updates even if there's no bug fix or feature addition, and is why cartridges for the original DS needed to be validated online, leading to the requirement of the 3DS having an internet connection and the slow loading time of original DS games as well, but apparently they have moved DS games to using the whitelist too.
- The PSP has region coding as well, although it's optional for games. UMD movies are always region locked, and EA and Sony themselves have abused the feature when it comes to games and applications: EA used it to lock copies of BattleZone sold in Asia so that it would only play on Asian PSPs (probably because the game is sold at a lower price in the region), while Sony abused it so that Asian PSPs will not detect or launch the comic book viewer app, and so that only Japanese and British PSPs can use the Remote TV Viewer application for remotely watching content received and recorded by PS3 USB tuner, which was only sold in the UK and Japan.
- Strangely for home consoles, all but twonote PS3 games are region-free, and Xbox 360 region locking has always been at game publishers' discretion.
- Persona 4: Arena has become the first game to have actual region lockout on the PS3. The fanbase is already calling Atlus out on this, citing things such as the fact that the game might get delayed for a ridiculously long time in Europe by the localizer... which indeed happened to the surprise of no one. The game was set for release in Europe on August 31st, 2012, but its release date was removed and the localizer refused to issue a new release date. While the game was finally released on May 10th, 2013, fans have long developed Hype Backlash that many had cancelled their pre-order of the game while others are sworn that they won't buy the game if it's releasednote . The boneheaded part of the issue? The PS3's region lock type is exclusive; they could make the US version of the game run on all consoles except Japanese ones. note . Thankfully, Atlus did learn their lesson from the resulting European Internet Backdraft and didn't dare try the same thing with Ultimax.
- A PSN exclusive game, JoySound Dive, which is exclusive to the Japanese PSNnote , has been recently found to be region-locked as well, making it the second game for the PS3 to be region-locked. Download it onto a non-Japanese PS3? It won't run, period. Allegedly, Japanese PS3s operating outside of Japan won't run the game either, even on the Japanese PSN profile, indicating a two-way lockout (IP georestriction + Console region code). On the other hand, this is a karaoke game, so we can probably blame JASRAC (the Japanese equivalent of the RIAA) for this one.
- Even though Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme Vs. Full Boost is Region Free, the Online portion ISN'T. Namco Bandai added an Online Pass requirement only available to JP or Asia PSN users to prevent experienced users with multiple accounts from curb-stomping new players, so if you're willing to play the online part of the game, you'll need a JP or Asia PSN account for it, esp. if you're going to Plat the game in these accounts. If you just have a US/EU account, tough luck- say goodbye to fully platting the game (since the game has online trophies).
- EA's Army of Two has an issue similar to Mobile Suit Gundam Extreme Vs. Full Boost above. While the game itself is region-free, the multiplayer part is region-segregated into three geological regions (PAL, NTSC/UC and NTSC/J) and the region of the game disc determines which region's server you'll connect to.
- Of the three The Eighth Generation of Console Video Games consoles, it appears that the Wii U will be the only region-locked console in the market. Microsoft originally intended to region-lock the Xbox One to only 21 countries, but backed out when critics and fans vocally protested the region coding plan and DRM. Sony in the meantime has pledged that Persona 4: Arena and JoySound Dive were unique cases and they intend to retain the region-free policy with the PlayStation 4.
- In the analog age, differing TV (and electrical) standards were used as a sort of de facto regional lock-in technology. Since NTSC (typically 60Hz) and PAL/SECAM (typically 50Hz) note hardware are completely incapable of dealing with content from the other system without absurdly expensive translation hardware, this kept import trade to a minimum. Many newer PAL/SECAM TVs now offer a special 60Hz mode, and nearly every PC TV tuner/AV accessory has always supported all three standards. If all you've got are American TVs and set-top receivers, you're still hosed, though, unless you have a fairly expensive NTSC/PAL television.
- PAL, SECAM and NTSC are only color encoding standards (though they typically have a refresh rate attached, the refresh rate is actually optional. That's why there are messed up systems like 60Hz PAL and 50Hz NTSC). Ever wonder what are those letter suffixes that follows a system name when you look at the technical specifications page of a world multi TV manual? That's the transmission standard, which goes all the way from System A to System S. This is really where the TV resolution, refresh rate, and audio-visual frequency offset is defined. It's possible to mix and match transmission standard and color encoding standards, though PAL typically use B, D, E, G, H, I, K, M, N and NCnote , NTSC typically use M (though Japan's system could be arguably called NTSC-M'(M-prime) due to the slight luminance rating difference), and SECAM typically use B, D, E, F, G, H, K, K'(K-Prime) and L. And that's not counting abandoned systems like System A (which went through a brief trial period with all three color encoding standards by the BBC in the late 40s), and System S. Wait, there's more! This has nothing to do the the PAL, NTSC-J, NTSC/UC, NTSC-K and NTSC-C standards used for region locking game consoles. The latter bunch of imaginary NTSC variants were drummed up by marketroids to state what region code a game is for! You don't have to get confused tho- these don't really come into play as far as line input is concerned- only resolution and refresh rate are really important here with line input, and these systems should fall out of use as countries switch over to digital. On the other hand...
- This continues into the digital age as well. DVB, ATSC, ISDB and DMB: These are the four digital systems deployed worldwide. DVB is used in Europe and most of Asia (except the handful of countries as said next), ISDB is used in South America, Japan and The Philippines, ATSC is used in North America and South Korea (the only Asian country using said system), and DMB is used in China (and as a secondary system to deliver TV to portable receivers in South Korea). To further complicate matters, there are two versions of DVB, and tuners built for version 2 are backwards compatible with version 1, but not the other way around. Early adopter of DVB-type Digital TV and the government announces that it is switching to version 2 of the system, like what's happening in Malaysia and Singapore? Sucks to be you. And there are also two different versions of DMB: China's DMB is technically incompatible with South Korea's implementation, although most portable TVs sold in South Korea are designed to support both versions of DMB anyway because they're also sold in China. Also, some countries may decide to adopt two or more systems, i.e., South Korea adopted both DMB and ATSC systems and broadcasts in both formatsnote . And if a country decided to change system due to changes in political ties/technological progression, woe be upon the citizens of the country in question. To top it all off, HD images can be 24, 25 or 30 frames per second. Many early HDTVs, as well as cheaper monitors, will refuse to recognize 25 fps sources. Heck, even many new TV sets sold in the United States refuses to recognize 25 fps input.
- Some late-era VHS machines in the UK at least were able to play back NTSC tapes (at least US-format ones), though for some reason refuse to show SECAM recordings in anything but black-and-white.note It's subverted in many parts of Asia in the same era due to world-multi VCRs and TVs becoming the norm due to system confusion caused by Nintendo, Sega, Sony et. al insisting on launching NTSC/J consoles in countries that were using PAL due to being former British/Dutch colonies. (The exception is obviously the Philippines, South Korea, Japan and Myanmar, which chose NTSC due to historically being US offshore bases or having trade agreements with the US.) Even today, these countries receive PAL TV broadcasts (terrestrial TV signals- or in countries that have already switched to digital, DVB-T2 set-top digital receivers, as well as cable/satellite/IPTV set top boxes, output their analog signal in PAL) but consoles, DVD and Blu-Ray players are NTSC.
- The Internet is becoming the new battle ground this:
- Companies who are uploading shows to watch online will more likely than not make it a nightmare to watch their stuff if you're not in their region. Some of this makes sense (The BBC will be legally murdered if they release their stuff outside the United Kingdom), some are just annoying (yeah, no one has the rights to Fist of the North Star in the United Kingdom, Toei) and others fly in the face of all common sense.
- Up until today, the only other countries that are able to access Hulu are Japan, and unofficially, some of New Zealandnote . It was once widely available in Germany due to impracticalities of blocking the country without alienating the US army bases at the time, but apparently they've worked out how to block it from German civilians while still making it available to US bases now.
- Youtube allows videos to be region locked by uploaders if they so wished.
- The BBC iPlayer and CatchUpTV is this to the rest of the world. In the case of the BBC it is funded by a license that every UK household has to pay in order to legally watch broadcast television. So the reason for restricting it to the UK is justified. i.e you haven't paid to see it. There is a bit of a loophole though. You're only required to have a TV license to watch broadcast television, or live streams from the BBC such as sporting events. Anyone in the UK can still legally access everything on iPlayer without paying for a TV license as long as they don't own a TV and avoid the live streams. And there's talk of dropping that restriction entirely because the BBC has yet to find a way actually enforce it.
- The ABC's iView in Australia. This one's a bit of a wallbanger because Australians were never required to pay for a license to watch TV, and it's the policy of the ABC to freely offer its content. The ABC pinned the blame on licensing issues on the blockage screen- fair enough, we assume that ABC has to agree to some archaic licensing contract that among other things prevents them from offering otherwise-premium programming outside Australia, given that it does have a fair amount of premium imports that it offers for free to Australian residents. The violation of common sense part? Even shows The ABC produced themselves are also blocked to non-Australians on the site.
- Videos on The Hub are region-locked to only the US as well, to the ire of fans of many cartoons based around Hasbro's franchises but are unlucky enough to live in places where the shows are not available through legal means for whatever reason.
- Many MMOs have a variation of this that prevent you from playing the game if it detects that you are playing on an internet connection outside of its region. Korean websites and MMO hosts are required by law to scrutinize every user who registers to them. This is generally done by requiring the user to input his real name and Korean resident registration number, and submit a copy of his ID card or other legal document. As a "side effect", people not from Korea are unable to register to their sites.
- Certain online stores only accept certain credit cards from within their own country, effectively restricting business to domestic sales only.
- Amazon region locks the Unbox/video service and MP3 store to the country the store is in. You can't buy anything unless your IP address belongs to an ISP in the country the store is in. Likewise, the App store is only available to around 40 countries, typically those where the Kindle is sold, either officially or through an importer, although they seemed to have expanded to two-thirds of the world when Blackberry signed a partnership with them to make Amazon's store available on all newer Android-compatible Blackberry phones.
- While the apps themselves aren't region coded (but is DRM locked), Apple's App Store is somewhat irrationally segregated as well. Heard of a cool app? Chances are you can't download it because it's not available in the App Store of the country you're in. Irrational because sometimes an app from a developer may not be available on sale while other apps from the same developer are, and sometimes, an app featuring characters from a TV show will not be available even if said TV show is in fact airing in the country. Yes, there is a form to request Apple to make said apps available, but if the developers refuses for any reason, it still won't be. Either way, you're shafted.
- Leap Frog is the latest to join this madness. Especially egregious because not only do they have a monopoly over the app market, but IP blocking is as flawed as it comes (being prone to false positives and can be bypassed by the more desperate). And oh, they let you see apps available on other markets, just blocking you from buying the said app. Seeing highly desirable apps and videos but not being able to buy them is a painful tease...
- VTech has also started region locking their store, again using IP blocking. Stupidity aside, The one thing they're doing differently however is that they're outright blocking region-locked apps from displaying in the search and catalogs (like what Apple is doing with the iOS store) instead of letting them show but not letting the potential customer buy. It's still painful when they announce new videos, music and apps on Facebook tho.
- Despite Android Games are not region locked most of the time, they are also region locked in the Play Store which uses similar methods with VTech. However, due to lack of DRM, there are workarounds, but updating them to a new version through Play Store would yield the message this game is not available in your country. These apply to smartphones which attempted to install incompatible apps even if the apps themselves are not region locked. On top of this, some games uses APK extension files which can be region locked via geofencing using several means (detecting your location on GPS, your telco's MNC code, and the basic IP georestriction).
- According to Lowyat.Net- a prominent Malaysian forum, Valve Software has implemented region coding in Steam in some regions, with South-East Asian, Russian and South American countries being those on the receiving end of the blow at the moment. Some of the forumers suspect Konami is to blame for this. Eventually, all Steam games got fully region-locked. You can't even gift games to people from other regions.
- As PAL and NTSC have different video standards, this leads to, in some cases, a (roughly) 4% speed-up or slowdown when a work is ported across from Europe to America if no-one particularly cares to do it right. A particularly tragic case of this concerns the Doctor Who TV movie: Normally, Doctor Who is mastered in the European PAL standard used in its native UK, and the versions released in the American market are converted to NTSC in such a way to preserve the timing. However, the movie was a UK-US co-production, so it was mastered in NTSC, and converted for the PAL market with a 4% speedup. Viewers often find it jarring to listen to Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas featuring the Eighth Doctor after watching the movie, as his real voice is noticeably deeper than the sped-up version in the movie.
Most NTSC-to-PAL conversions used this process, as it would make sense to preserve the image quality than to retain the speed. The process for converting NTSC to PAL while retaining speed accuracy would cause frames to interpolate, since 30 frames would have to step down to 25, every frame in PAL would be an intermediate of two frames in NTSC (doing simple math, this means only every 300th frame would be a non-interpolated frame). Convert that back to NTSC and it would be doubly messy as now some of the frames would be duplicates of intermediate frames in PAL. There's a reason this conversion method is only used for worldwide live telecasts or in conversion boxes to convert NTSC game console output for use with older non-world-multi-capable PAL TVs and vice-versa. The other way of fixing this is resampling the source of the video (either PAL or NTSC) at the lowest common denominator for both PAL and NTSC- which is 300 frames per secondnote , apply motion compensationnote , and then recapture only the needed frames (every fifth for PAL or sixth for NTSC). Needless to say, you need some really powerful (and expensive) hardware to be able to do that, moreso in real time.
- Weirdly, Cellphones were also somewhat region-locked by frequency range. Most of these were eventually subverted by world-multi-band phones:
- Back in the 2G era, it was usually the US' 850MHz/1.9GHz vs the rest of the world's 900MHz/1.8GHz. This was eventually subverted with the creation of quad-band 2G phones.
- In the 3G era, it moved on to the US' 850MHz/1.7GHz/1.9GHz vs the rest of the world's 900MHz/2.1GHz, plus a 6th 800MHz band used by Japan, Korea and Australia (but only for out-of-town areas like the Australian outback and villages in Japan and Korea that are far from town). This was eventually subverted with the creation of penta-band 3G phones (which would ensure that the device will at least work in the town areas of said countries), and later, hex-band 3G phones.
- Now, in the 4G era, bands are divided between the US' 700/1.7/1.9GHz, the majority of the rest of the world's 800/1.8/2.6GHz, and the 850MHz/2.1GHz used in some other third world countries. And that's not counting the TDD frequencies- 2.3, 2.5 and 3.5 GHz. So far, there is no one world-capable phone that can support all the bands, but several phones can already support all the non-TDD ones.
- To make things worse, some phones may be sim-locked, ensuring that they may only function with the SIM cards provided by the company who sold you the service.
- Samsung region-locks their phone so those phones may only be used in the country they're sold in, even if the phone isn't sim-locked. For example, a Galaxy S5 sold in Malaysia may only use Malaysian telco issued SIM cards, taking one into Singapore and trying a Singaporean SIM card will render the phone useless.
- Konami's eAMUSEMENT Participation program, used for current Konami arcade games such as the BEMANI franchise and Quiz Magical Academy. Games under this program must be connected to the eAMUSEMENT network upon boot or they will refuse to start. eAMUSEMENT services are limited to Japan, select East and Southeast Asian countries, and the United States (which also has Japanese machines available thanks to Japanese-owned arcade chain Round 1note ); anyone living outside of these countries will not be able to play current Konami arcade games even if they have access to the necessary hardware. Unfortunately for Konami, this boneheaded decision not only caused a bunch of Shoddy Knockoff Products to spawn, parallel importers also found out that Konami made versions of the games that do not need eAMUSEMENT to function for the Chinese market, and proceeded to import those instead. A private server also existed for arcade owners that provided connectivity for machines outside these regions, but was shutdown by Konami prior to eAMUSEMENT's introduction into the US.
- While Netflix is now available worldwide, it still has region coding- not every show is available in every region. Up until recently, only Latin and South America has access to Disney's shows (and even now, the licensing has only been expanded to North America. Europe and much of Asia are still left out in the cold). Additionally, a lot of Netflix's anime are not available in Asia due to licensing limitations (most of the anime were already exclusively pre-licensed to either Animax or per-country national TV). It also works in reverse- certain shows like Mythbusters and Doctor Who are not or no longer available in the Americas due to exclusive licensing deals with other streaming services, but are (still) available in Asia and/or Europe. This is largely averted with Netflix exclusives however, although some exclusives like the Netflix-exclusive seasons of Arrested Development remains unavailable in Asia.