If you had fantasies of one day importing Japanese 3DS games like Project Love Plus or Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney (for an early preview), you likely won’t be able to play those foreign games on a North American system.
An alleged email from Nintendo’s Japanese support staff revealed to a concerned consumer that the 3DS will “feature” region-locking, allowing its handhelds to only play 3DS games released in the same territory:
“There are no Region codes in DS and DS Lite, but DSi, DSi [XL], and 3DS have region codes. The region codes are installed in each game and the 3DS itself. … You can’t play if the region codes are different.
For example, if you play a Korean 3DS game with a Japanese 3DS system (or vice versa), you won’t be able to play at all.”
As the message mentions, the DSi and DSi XL both feature region-locking, but gamers only noticed that with DSiWare titles and the limited number of DSi-enhanced releases — so, only a fraction of those systems’ owners experienced any difficulties with the region-locking. That probably won’t be the case for the Nintendo 3DS…
For those wondering why Nintendo would resort to region-locking tactics with the new system (or return to it, as the company originated and stuck to the practice for many years previously), while it does little if any good for consumers, it appeases retailers and publishers who have market-specific agreements.
For example, Sony published Demon’s Souls (PS3) in Japan while Atlus released it in the U.S. Atlus, which already was planning to print a limited run of copies for the niche game, was worried people would import Sony release rather than purchase its localized edition, so it alerted fans that an English version was coming.
So, no Game Center CX 3DS* for you.
See also: More Nintendo 3DS news and media
*not actually announced