It’s generally accepted these days that Nintendo was the first major company to introduce region locking to its products, limiting their use outside specific regions or territories. Heck, if you simply Google ‘region locking’ and take a peek at the Wikipedia entry, it says the following:
“Nintendo was the first console maker to introduce regional locks to its consoles, and used them for every one of its consoles except the Nintendo Switch, while mostly eschewing them for its handheld products.”
What if we told you it wasn’t actually the first, though? Would you believe it? Well, you should. In a thread on Twitter, user @AtariSpot dives into the rather bizarre case of region locking for the Atari 2600 in Turkey.
According to the thread, it seems that ME-TA, Atari’s Turikish licensee, really wasn’t keen on its consumers playing games from outside its own region, even going so far as to provide warnings that any modifications to its consoles would provide basis for ME-TA to pursue legal action.
How did ME-TA ensure its products were region locked, though? Well, in a fairly primitive solution, it effectively re-routed two pins from the cartridge roms along with the corresponding pins in the Atari console ports, ensuring that only cartridges produced in Turkey with this slight modification would line up correctly and play.
It’s relatively unknown at this point what the motive behind this move actually was. As explained in the thread, the two most possible reasons behind it is to either combat the growing piracy of Atari 2600 games, or essentially force consumers to play a measly total of 13 games only produced in Turkey. Either way, being limited to such a meagre selection of titles doesn’t sound ideal!
Regardless of the reasoning behind it, it’s nevertheless a clear indication that Nintendo wasn’t actually the first to introduce region locking to its products. Granted, ME-TA’s solution is pretty rudimentary and obviously didn’t catch on in the years since, but it’s an interesting look at the lengths certain regions would go to in order to region lock their products.
What do you make of the region locking for the Atari 2600 in Turkey? Have you managed to get your hands on any of the games released in the region? Let us know!