It's hardly a surprisingly development, particularly in light of the freshly unveiled console's other pioneering DRM plans
, but Microsoft has now reportedly confirmed that the Xbox One will feature region locking functionality.
Digital Trends reports confirmation from a company spokesperson (thanks Polygon
“Similar to the movie and music industry, games must meet country-specific regulatory guidelines before they are cleared for sale,” A rep from Microsoft confirmed to Digital Trends. “We will continue to work with our partners to follow these guidelines with Xbox One.”
When probed for further comment by Polygon, Microsoft left specifics of the region locking implementation unclarified, stating that they "don't have anything further to announce at this stage" and "We'll have more to share later".
With the Xbox 360, Microsoft left the region-lock decision for games up to games publishers, with three regions: NTSC in north America, NTSC-J in Japan and, and PAL for Europe (which has traditionally also included Australia and New Zealand), and that's probably the most likely scenario again with the Xbox One.
Despite the comments above from Microsoft, the need to "meet country-specific regulatory guidelines" has not been the case for region-locked console hardware, as obviously, European countries like Germany, and the UK have different ratings systems than Australia, yet we can play games purchased from there just fine. Rather, it has instead been used as a mechanism for publishers to protect higher price points in markets where consumers are accustomed to paying higher prices for games -- for example: by preventing European/Australian customers from importing titles from the consistently cheaper North American market.
Even though the old PAL/NTSC differences are now a thing of the past in modern displays, there are some lingering justifications for the disparity, as games distributed in traditional PAL regions generally require more language localisations, but for a platform holder to lay the blame on regulatory guidelines is disingenuous.
The Nintendo 3DS, Wii, and Wii U all feature region-locked games, while the PlayStation 3 games are all region free (with Sony's console only implementing three regions for Blu-Ray movie discs), and Sony's region-locking plans for the PlayStation 4 are unknown.
As for digital download services, aside from a few exceptions on PC, they're almost all geo-locked per country now, and there's no reason to suspect that the Xbox One will be any different in that regard.