North Americans and Europeans hoping to pick up a New 3DS or New 3DS XL this year are out of luck. Nintendo has confirmed that both models will be region-locked, just like current 3DS and Wii U models.
The company confirmed the news to IGN. Nintendo began region-locking their handhelds starting with the DSi in 2009. Their home consoles have always been region-locked.
Region-locking is a form of Digital Rights Management (DRM) that locks content to the region that it originated from. For example, you could import a New 3DS from Japan, but none of your current 3DS games will be playable on it as the New 3DS is coded to only play games from the Japan region. It’s an ancient form of DRM that has been falling out of favor with game companies. Both Sony and Microsoft no longer use it in their consoles and handhelds, leaving Nintendo as the only console manufacturer to employ the archaic DRM.
Nintendo announced the New 3DS and New 3DS XL last week. Both are sizable improvements over the current models thanks to a faster CPU, ZR and ZL buttons, a C-Stick, built-in NFC, and an improved 3D viewing angle. Both handhelds are out in Japan in October, but North America and Europe won’t see them until 2015.