Friday, March 6, 2009

Region-locked content

During my trip to Australia I bought a few PS3 games, and was happy to find out that they work on my US PS3 just fine - a wise decision by Sony, I thought, specially since there's currently no known way to make pirate copies of PS3 Blu-ray (or downloadable) games, so they don't have to worry about cross-region piracy. One of these games was Prince of Persia, which I happily played to the end and got almost all thropies from (except the 14-hit combo one).

Yesterday, then, they announced the playable epilogue of the game, available as a download from the Playstation Network Store. The PSN store is not really available for my country, but I created an account with a valid US address (my company's HQ, which would just forward any correspondence to me) with my real ZIP code, which seems to be the only info used to validate my credit card billing address, so buying games there has worked really well, and I got myself nice titles like Echochrome.

I went on and downloaded and paid for the epilogue the usual way - US$9.99, a reasonable price for a game. The 581MB download went on for a few minutes, and then my frustration started - the epilogue was nowhere to be found - not a separate game, not available anywhere inside the game. I searched the internet for where to find it, to no avail - sounded like it should have been so obvious where to find it that nobody would ask or tell. I beat the game again (from a savegame close to the end), thinking that maybe the epilogue would kick in after the ending, but it just threw me back to the main menu.

Obviously frustrated, I decided to look through PS3's game data files, to find a file called "Prince of Persia DLC - Americas". Only then it came to my senses - the download was region-locked! The download was in region 1, while the game disc was region 4, and those just wouldn't work with each other. From the Ubisoft forum, I found out that I was not the only one with the same problem. Damn you Ubisoft, I thought.

So, let's look at a few facts:
  1. Sony allows me to use the US PSN store from a Brazilian IP (even though they block the videos store, so it would be very easy to block that too)
  2. Sony allows me to purchase US content from Brazil
  3. Sony allows me to play an Australian game in my US console, from Brazil
  4. Sony knows that I have the Aussie version of the game, 'cause the trophies are registered on their servers
  5. In spite of (4), Sony does allow me to download the US version of the Epilogue without giving ANY warning, not even in the fine print of the download
  6. It doesn't work, and it doesn't even tell me why
  7. They won't refund me 'cause I already downloaded it
  8. They won't allow me to buy again from the Australian PSN store 'cause I don't have a valid Australian credit card
Conclusion 1: Sony is dumb
Conclusion 2: Ubisoft is dumb
Conclusion 3: DRM in general is stupid (that takes a few more facts to conclude, but that's beyond the scope of this posting)
Conclusion 4: online billing methods are a complete and absolute mess - why do I need a valid Oz address to buy from the Aussie store? Isn't the fact that I have an Australian version of the game enough? Why doesn't it detect that and already gives me the right version?

1 comment:

  1. Another case where you are happy to part with your money, but because of region locking you can't - obviously they don't want your money.
    Region locking is incredibly stupid and benefits no one, you should be able to buy what you want from the country you want in the language you want and any time you want.