I’m a newcomer to the current-gen console scene, having just purchased a Playstation 3 earlier this month, and a PS Vita earlier this year. With the substantial amount of exclusives that Sony had amassed in the past seven years, getting into the whole Playstation thing felt like being handed the keys to your first car. Suddenly, I wanted to go places -- experience everything I had tried to ignore before while I played games on my PC. I powered through Uncharted, I’m in the middle of Demon’s Souls, and I’m currently taking my sweet time exploring the vast landscape of Red Dead Redemption.
And I got so, so hooked on Persona.
Persona 3 FES was great. Persona 4 Golden, even more so. Earlier this week, the PSN store had a sale on some “Ultimate Editions” -- basically full games with all the DLC in one discounted package. Persona 4 Arena Ultimate Edition, the unconventional fighting game follow-up to the RPG, was going for a couple bucks cheaper than what just the game would normally cost. And with all the DLC, too! I picked it up right away.
The following evening when I got back from work, I was met with a nasty surprise. Persona 4 Arena refused to run. It didn’t even refuse with any fanfare -- it just said the game had region restrictions and it won’t give me what I wanted. In so many words. A quick search revealed the truth: P4A is the first major region-locked release for Playstation 3, and it's also region-locked on Xbox 360. Reasons never went farther than that it was a business decision. The 6-gigabyte copy of P4A that I purchased from the North America store was useless in my Asian PS3.
I gave up trying to bypass the restriction after an hour or so of Googling and fiddling with alternate accounts on my system. The region lock had simply gotten the best of me, and I realized I had just spent 28 dollars with absolutely nothing to show for it -- nothing but an extra 6 gigabytes being taken up on my PS3 hard drive. I rectified that problem immediately by deleting the game in a fit of blind rage!
I needed a refund.
I didn’t want to bother with the form that Sony was trying to get me to fill up to get into a live chat session with their support team, and calling on the phone was out of the question. Desperate, I turned to Sony’s @AskPlaystation account on Twitter. I’m glad I did.
That night, I went to bed feeling that 28-dollar hole that P4A and Atlus managed to burn into my pocket, but the first thing I saw the next morning was a DM from @AskPlaystation explaining that they might be able to help. A couple of exchanges later, the support person on the other end of the line credited the 28 dollars back to my PSN wallet and removed P4A from my download list without asking me any silly scripted queries. It was a quick and painless process, and everything was done before breakfast!
Sony’s customer service was far better than anything I had ever experienced with EA, where the reps would go in circles, ask me unrelated questions, and cite terms and regulations when they can’t help. And then everything would somehow work itself out six hours later and I’m left wondering if any of them had something to do with the fix at all. I haven’t had the chance to contact support with any other game-related service, so my experience is limited to just these two. EA really needs to shape up, though.
Kudos to Sony and their @AskPlaystation team, although this whole ordeal just brings to light how far behind Sony’s Asian online service is compared to its North American counterpart. The whole reason why I have a PSN account in North America is to take advantage of the better prices and deals they routinely get over there. Atlus finally found a way to force me to purchase the more expensive Asian market copy of P4A by utilizing region locks, but in the end, that just makes me a disgruntled customer because I know that people on the other side of the world are getting better deals on exactly the same software just because they happen to live over there.
If the Asian store could offer exactly what the North American store could, then there should be no reason to make another account on the NA store at all. Too bad that’s not the case. Far from it. It’s not just limited to PSN, too: Origin has a lot of region-specific things going on, Games for Windows Live utilizes region locking on top of just being terrible in general, and even Steam couldn’t do anything about the notoriously astronomical prices of games in Australia. Off the top of my head, I think only GOG.com has made any real effort to equalize the online shopping experience for everyone on the planet.
There are “business reasons” for all of this, of course, and I’m sure I could come to understand why things are the way they are with the help of a good instructor and a very large chart. I don’t think I’m ever going to be happy with it, though.
I can name many things that aren’t fair, and this is just one more of them.