We got our first taste of game imports here at DailyGame back with the SNES and GameBoy. Back then, you had to deal with mail order and some pretty stiff premium pricing. Later, region locking became commonplace with consoles, which created one of the biggest reasons to mod: to let you play everything, and I mean everything created for that system. With the Xbox 360, region locking is dependent upon the developer, and with the PS3, a region-free policy means gamers have more and more options opened up to them. But that doesn’t mean you’re not going to want to import games, and that’s why we’re here to help.
It can initially seem daunting to import games from abroad, and there are certain genres we wouldn’t recommend importing unless you have a command of the Japanese language (RPGs, for instance). But for fighters, platformers and driving games, the trial and error factor can be pretty low, putting you well on your way to importing.
Using the Web, importing is easier than ever. We figured we’d put two import services to the test, just to show you. First up was Play-Asia.com. The nice thing about this site is that it lists the region coding (if there is any), so you can search for deals on certain games (the Hong Kong/Asian variants are usually cheaper then their North American counterparts). Play-asia.com has a vast selection of video games both new and vintage, along with gashapon, figures, books and CDs/DVDs. We ordered a PSP game and a Mario gashapon and paid with PayPal, as it seemed the most secure way to pay. We were emailed confirmation during each stage of processing, paid $5 in shipping and within two weeks were playing our games.
However, these items didn’t come without a catch. Our postal service was collecting the sales tax on the total price that Play-Asia had printed on the box. I didn’t have a problem with this, as it was only a dollar or two, but then the postal carrier hit us with a $5 “processing” fee in order to collect the tax…and our postal carrier only took exact change. Everything arrived in great shape, bubble wrapped for security and even with a coupon for $5 off our next order of $50 or more, but the tax/processing-fee fiasco was unexpected.
Next up was DealExtreme.com, which offers some unique items but appears slightly more dodgy. It also has a fair number of third-party cases for pretty much every portable system, which is what brought us to their site. We decided to go with a PSP case that had been mentioned in a Japanese blog. After placing the order, we were emailed confirmations during every step of their process, much like we experienced with Play-Asia. Something to keep in mind with Deal Extreme, however, as well as other importers, is that they don’t necessary have all the stock on hand, which can lead to some delays as they wait on a supplier to get more in stock.
Another thing to keep in mind with DealExtreme is the old adage of “you get what you pay for.” DealExtreme is great for finding cheap, unique items — just don’t go buying a camera or batteries or a memory card, if you get my drift.
Shipping at DealExtreme is free for everything, and depending on how much you spend, they’ll upgrade shipping to courier. In our case, the shipment arrived within two weeks, and this time when we were greeted by the package, it was labeled as a “gift” and had no costs displayed on the outside of the package, which saved us from paying any tax.
One of the big reasons we import games is to get our hands on the more deluxe packaging that Japanese premium editions often have. North America is slowly catching on to this, but no, a DVD with the making-of feature doesn’t count. I recall buying the Final Fight: Guy edition for the SNES that included Guy as a playable character, and one of those CDs with three tracks from the soundtrack was a pack-in bonus. That was great, and in the case of fighters, action games and first-person shooters, you don’t often need to worry about translation problems, because the dialogue often isn’t that great to begin with.
But whatever you find yourself wanting to import, remember that, as with everything, it pays to shop around, because prices can vary. Overall we were impressed with both the speed of both sites we ordered from, as well as the condition of items. If you’re looking to import something for your personal collection we recommend ether site, as they both provide a gentle introduction as you get your feet in the game-import market.
— Phillip Vollmer