Interesting editorial! :D I think you're missing at least one detail which is somewhat crucial, though. Atlus has been making a big deal out of the fact that Persona 4: Arena is their first title to include both a full English localization and the original Japanese. In light of that, the region-locking decision makes a lot more sense. It does ultimately come down to the strength of the Yen versus the dollar, as you said. Japanese consumers could wait a week, then buy the US version, getting a copy of the game with the Japanese translation intact at about half the price as buying a local copy. Hence, the region lock. It's an unfortunate side effect of the economic state of both industries, but seeing as the games are coming out within a week of each other, I don't think it's a big deal as an isolated incident. Especially considering this is Atlus we're talking about--their fanbase tends to be rabid/niche enough to worry more about importing. (Speaking as someone who's waiting with bated breath for Arena.) A future with significantly more region-locking might theoretically be the case--as an occasional import gamer myself, I'd like to hope that it's not--but I think this is probably going to be an exception rather than the rule. Whether due to a lack of a Japanese translation in the US version or a delay in release between the two countries, I don't think many releases will actually see this sort of problem.
Is Atlus ruining Import Gaming?
I’ve enjoyed being an import gamer for quite some time now. It probably comes as no shock that I was perturbed to learn about the decision to region lock Persona 4 Arena. I was actually surprised to see that many gamers had expressed their grief and felt as I did on the subject.
Why import games you may ask? The answer is simple; there are a lot of good games that we never see reach our shores. Systems like the PS3, PSP, Vita (See a pattern here?), and the original DS made it a breeze by featuring a large library that wasn’t region locked. Granted that the cost of these games are a tad high but ultimately worth it as you’ll never have any other way to play these games. Fighting games are amongst the easiest to import because of the fact that they contain little that one HAS to read. Add to that lack luster stories (I’m not saying all fighting games have bad stories, just a lot) and one is missing out on very little not knowing the language.
When Atlus announced that Persona 4 Arena would be region locked even though it released about a week apart from its Japanese counterpart, I was angry and very confused. They cited the fact that the “yen was stronger than the dollar” and they feared the result of one version out selling the other. This made no sense to me. Since when had a Japanese game, especially one releasing a week before its US release, been a threat? Sure I’ve imported a Japanese game a year before its release here but I’ve always purchased the US version to show my support. I know not everyone does the same but this game had a week difference! Not a year, not two, not ten, a week! And the cost; Japanese games cost almost double. Why did they think that American gamers couldn’t wait a week and would pay these inflated costs? The answer hit me like a ton of bricks. They were scared the Japanese would import the American version. I was floored by this realization. Unless other companies have kept quiet, something like this has never happened before.
Atlus has issued some information regarding their decision. They have stated that this was an “isolated incident” and is “not part of a new policy.” This was exactly what I feared. The idea that companies were taking away my ability to the play the games I wanted to, made me sick. Sure I could import a PS3 like I did the 3DS, but Sony had been my new best friend. The only Sony system I’ve ever imported was the PS2. Atlus also said this wouldn’t lead to a “slippery slope”. As gamers, we pretty much have to take their word that they’ll stick to that. Money, being the necessary evil around the world that is, leads me to be a bit on the skeptical side. To be fair, rarely would I care about Atlus region locking games aside from this one (I actually considered importing this title until the release date was announced), I would care however that other companies might pick up this practice. What if Super Robot Wars Original Generations 2 was region locked just on the off chance it ever found its way state side and the company wanted to secure its potential profits? That might be the breaking point for me ladies and gentlemen, I might stop gaming altogether (I’ve got the backlog to keep me busy for years anyway).
It may not be a “slippery slope” for you Atlus, but it is an avalanche waiting to happen for the industry. I may be making a mountain out of a molehill, I accept that idea. As an import gamer though, I am frightened. It is already a costly endeavor and like an incoming tax increase, I am scared that it may become unaffordable.