"Nintendo has developed different versions of Nintendo 3DS hardware to take into account different languages, age rating requirements and parental control functionality, as well as to ensure compliance with local laws in each region," Nintendo told Eurogamer. The device will reportedly see a different version for the Japanese, European and, North American market.
Nintendo has not said that all titles will be region-locked, however, noting, "There is the possibility that Nintendo 3DS software sold in one region will not function properly when running on Nintendo 3DS hardware sold in another." It's unclear if Nintendo will allow developers to set region protection for games or if the system will automatically decide what is suitable for worldwide audiences.
Nintendo added: "Guidance will appear on every packaging of Nintendo 3DS hardware and the accompanying software. If you are in doubt, Nintendo recommends that you only purchase Nintendo 3DS software in the region where purchased your Nintendo 3DS system."
Other Nintendo handheld platforms have allowed users to freely import games for their handheld--save for the Nintendo DSiWare, DSi-enhanced, and DSi-only software--though most home console systems use region locks. In the current market, the PlayStation 3 is the only home console with a full region unlock for video games. (Ed. Note: The PSP is also region-free for games.) The Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360 have region protection; however, the latter allows developers to forgo the feature for use on any Xbox 360 console around the globe.