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'Persona 4 Arena' region-locked to prevent cannibalization of high-priced Japanese release

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The strength of the yen hits PS3 game importers hard.

Persona 4 Arena
Persona 4 Arena

Atlus explains reason behind region-locking Persona 4 Arena for PlayStation 3.

Earlier this week, Atlus confirmed that Arc System Works' fighting game based on the Persona series would be region-locked in all territories on the PlayStation 3, an extreme rarity for the platform. Today, Atlus explains why it took the unusual measure with Persona 4 Arena, citing fears that importers might cannibalize sales by buying cheaper foreign versions of the game.

In a message to Atlus fans, the publisher officially confirmed the region-locked nature of Persona 4 Arena and addressed "tremendous frustration" with the decision, writing that it was "completely unprepared for the force with which the community communicated their disapproval."

"This is NOT the beginning of a new ATLUS policy, nor do we view it as a precedent or a slippery slope," Atlus wrote in an official statement. "This is an isolated case, a situation precipitated by a number of factors, some of which are simply out of our North American hands. Moreover, and perhaps there is no way to convince our fans of this considering the magnitude of the betrayal many are feeling, but we are not doing this out of malice or a desire to control."

"We absolutely recognize the fear that this is the beginning of a trend. We in no way view it as such."

At the heart of the issues, Atlus says, is that both the North American and Japanese versions of Persona 4 Arena are identical in content, but released at two "radically different" price points. The North American version will retail for $59.99, while the Japanese release will be priced at 7329 yen.

With the current strength of the Japanese yen high against the U.S. dollar, importers could purchase a North American copy for bargain prices – about 4800 yen.

"Importing, as great as it is for gamers who otherwise can't get access to a title, can also cannibalize the performance of a title in one territory to the benefit of another," Atlus says. "While we're all one big ATLUS family, the reality is that the dramatic difference between the Yen and the Dollar makes for a dramatic difference in price. So the decision was made, perhaps at the expense of some of our fans, clearly at the frustration of many, to region-lock Persona 4 Arena."

Atlus reiterated to its fans that Persona 4 Arena will include global online play, meaning players from all territories can fight each other over the internet, even with the game's territorial hardware restrictions.