Atlus has confirmed that the PlayStation 3 version of Arc System Works fighting game Persona 4: Arena will be region-locked. This, we believe, makes it the first PS3 game to feature any region protection since the system's launch in 2006.
The news was revealed in a post by a member of Atlus USA staff on the publisher's official forums. "The PS3 version will be region-locked," the post reads. "To reiterate, [the North American] version of the game works for the North and South American regions.
"Also, keep in mind that both the NA and JP versions have both English and Japanese text and voice options, making them nearly identical. I'm unsure of what the case will be for the EU version."
The announcement was immediately met with widespread criticism from Atlus' committed fanbase, many of whom feared a repeat of the Catherine delay. Persona Team's erotic horror was released in North America six months after its Japanese launch - and it took a further seven months to reach European shores.
Geraint Evans, director of Zen United, the Bristol-based company which is working on the European release of Persona 4: Arena, does not expect the game to suffer Catherine's fate. The game launches in Japan later this month, and in America in August.
"It is always our intention to release as close to the US date as is humanly possible," he tells us. "We don't have an official date to confirm at this moment, but we hope to be able to do that soon, and we appreciate people's patience in the meantime.
"We want to serve the people that enjoy our games as best as we possibly can, and try to reduce any kind of delay. That's always been our goal with all the games we work on."
While Evans won't be drawn on the thinking behind the decision to make Arena PS3's first region-locked game, our suspicion is that it was inspired by the committed western fanbase that Atlus games enjoy.
When Catherine was finally released in the UK in February, it debuted in a lowly 20th spot; how many of the chart-topping 162,000 Japanese week-one sales came from UK importers? Atlus has no idea, and this is surely the way to gauge the true demand for its games in the west - region-locking seems like a small price to pay, even if doing so will inconvenience its die-hard fans for a handful of weeks.
Based on the time we've spent with the game - look out for a preview in E244, out August 1 - it's going to be worth the wait. It'll make its western debut at Evo 2k12, the world's most prestigious fighting game tournament, in Las Vegas this weekend.
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