After years of being treated like the poor relation of the gaming world, Europe is finally getting some love from daddy Sony. Not only is it bringing its new PlayStation 3 console to Europe at the same time as the rest of the world, , but it's also lifting all restrictions on region-locked games. This means, theoretically at least, that European gamers can buy Japanese and American games without having to wait for the belated UK release.
If it all goes to plan, this multi-region functionality should eventually give UK gamers a much better situation than we're currently enduring. If gamers can import titles from anywhere else in the world, there will be no point in continuing the tradition of delayed releases for Europe. And as games are generally much cheaper in the US and Japan, prices could fall over here to compete with import sales.
Of course, that's the idealistic point of view, and there's nothing to stop Sony allowing publishers to region-lock their games voluntarily. The Xbox 360 also launched simultaneously worldwide in a hardware region-free state, but many publishers choose to lock their games to individual territories. However, the Xbox 360's current dire state of affairs in the East means that Western gamers can take advantage -- an Asian multi-region version of Call of Duty 2 can be bought online for around £25, which is half that of the UK version (although in the interest of fairness, you may be charged import duty).
When the PS3 launches, we can hope that it's the start of a new wave in console gaming where we Brits are treated with respect instead of contempt, and that we can play the new Metal Gear Solid at the same time as our American otaku. Everyone cross your fingers now. -GC