Staying Ahead Of The Game - A Guide To Importing Your Video Games
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Jun 13, 2013

Staying Ahead Of The Game - A Guide To Importing Your Video Games

Video games are no longer the cultural pariahs that they once were and this is largely thanks to the rise in big budget, high profile games such as the 'Call Of Duty' series, which have collectively earned more than any major movie franchise in history. Quite an achievement one might think, for an industry which is less than 50 years old and rose from such humble beginnings (we all remember 'Pong' right?). But this rise in popularity is largely due to the rise of the much maligned 'casual gamer' and as a result, the Western world seems to have all but forgotten the 'hardcore' elite, the very fans who kept the industry alive throughout the 80's, 90's and beyond. In the East though (where gaming has always been a more socially acceptable pastime) there is still a massive demand for the good, old fashioned RPG's, platform games and character led adventures which made us all fall in love with the pastime in the first place.
Unfortunately however, many of these games never make it to European and American shores. This doesn't mean us Western gamers can't play them at-all though. There's a massive import and export market in games that has been around since the days of the original Nintendo Entertainment System and continues to thrive today thanks to our continuing fascination with all things Japanese.

Console Wars

Two of the major players in the 'console wars', Nintendo and Sony are Japanese companies who will always release their consoles in their 'home' territory first. This can be months or (in some cases) even years before they make their way into Europe and American territories and for those who like to be ahead of the pack with all the new hardware, this can be incredibly frustrating. Thankfully most modern consoles are built with universal compatibility so that games and accessories purchased in Europe should (in theory) work with a console purchased in Japan.

Big in Japan

As well as the more visible JRPG and Action Adventure games, there are certain 'niche' games that will never be released outside of Japan simply because they wouldn't appeal to a wider Western audience. These include dating sims, rhythms action games and 2D fighters, genres that traditionally just don't do much business outside of Japan. What many gamers don't realise is that publishing and distribution is an expensive business so if a game is not likely to sell outside of its home market then any publisher looking to bring it across the pond could be looking at a massive potential gamble. However thanks to the online market, fans of these niche genres don't have to miss out. They might have to pay a little extra (importers will generally only sell a game on if it turns a profit for them and this will include the extra shipping costs they'll have had to pay) but there are hundreds of options available so looking for a bargain shouldn't prove too difficult. Ebay is perhaps the most thriving online market for imported games but there are also stores that specialise in imported Japanese hardware and software such as the UK based site 'Genki' and the American site 'Play Asia'. Even games that eventually DO find a Western distributor will occasionally go through extensive localisation, meaning the game that comes out the other side might be almost unrecognisable. To play the game in its original, intended state, importing is often the only way.

Retro Fever

Neo Geo - CD Console Set
It's not just recently released games and consoles that are a serious part of the import business either. There is a huge market in 'classic' (or 'retro') games consoles that were never even released outside of Japan. Classic consoles such as the 'Neo Geo', the 'Wonderswan' and the 'PC Engine' were never given a Western release and even the original Nintendo Entertainment System was released as a completely different console (the 'Famicon') in its home country with its own library of games. There are also certain consoles (such as the Sega Dreamcast) that were far more successful in Japan than they were in the rest of the world so their libraries of Japanese games will generally be far larger, more eclectic and more collectible.
Of course the import trade is not restricted to just games consoles. When it comes to everything from smartphones and tablets to televisions and cameras, the Japanese are years ahead of us in the technological stakes and there will always be those of us in the Western world who will want to feel like they're ahead of the curve.
I love that curvy little 'Famicom' logo on the left side of the system

Author Bio: Steven Capocci is a freelance copywriter and enthusiastic gamer/gadget hound from the UK. His dedication to his hobby (obsession?) means that every time a new console is released across the pond he uses Freight International Services to make sure he's always playing on launch day.