March 3, 2008
Region Free Freeloader Emerges for the Wii
Datel has recently unveiled their hotly anticipated Freeloader for the Wii, allowing you to run games on your Wii from any world region.
Nintendo hasn't released an official comment on the device yet, but one can imagine they will not be too pleased about it, especially as they blocked the GameCube version of the Freeloader from running on the Wii. Datel has the ability to prod and poke the big N enough to make them focus on blocking their software, something Nintendo hasn't even done with DS flash cartridges yet.
Those lucky enough to be living in Japan and North America haven't had to face the huge delay Nintendo-published games generally have before they reach their shores, but Europe has suffered from this greatly. For example, Metroid Prime 3 was released in August 2007 in North America, but didn't arrive in Europe until two months later. This substantial delay was enough to convince some fans to import US Wii's so they could play further Nintendo-published Wii games at the same time as the rest of the world.
So who's to blame for the Freeloader? Is it Nintendo for not allowing the system to be open to different regions like the PS3 or DS? (The 360's region coding is decided on a game-per-game basis, controlled by publishers.) Or is Datel simply cashing in on a subset of gamers who wish to play the same things as people in other parts of the world at the same time? Well the truth is a blend between the two.
Nintendo is giving their consumers mixed messages. They allowed the DS to be region free, and haven't tried to clamp down on importing (like Sony and the infamous Lik-Sang lawsuit), but must've seen this as a big issue for the Wii to clamp down on it so tenaciously.
Datel is charging £9.99 for the Freeloader disk, which is not much for what it is, but given the low-cost materials involved and development time, it would be fair to say that they are turning a nice profit from the device.
Personally, I am waiting to see the Freeloader disc thoroughly tested by early adopters before pouncing on it, but this kind of technology is invaluable to gamers, especially when Europeans are forced to wait a long while for an anticipated game to come out. Smash Bros. Brawl is rumored to be released in Autumn in Europe, but will see US shores just next week. Datel couldn't have timed the release of the Freeloader any sweeter, as people in Europe will just import the US version now and circumvent the long wait, and I have no shame in admitting I will be one of them.