Import Report is a monthly to bi-weekly column that focuses on news, opinions, and reviews of everything from overseas. This week’s Report focuses on navigating the Japanese eShop for Nintendo’s newest console, the Switch. Nintendo has always been big on keeping their devices region-locked, and the Switch is their first home console to break away from that standard.
The Switch marks a major turning point for Nintendo in terms of how they’re treating their consumers. Nintendo has finally produced their first home console without a region lock behind it. While the average consumer will probably never make use a region-free console, Nintendo importers finally have an affordable way to enjoy their hobby. There’s not much to talk about here since the Switch’s current selection of games is limited in almost every region, but I’ve thrown together a quick-start guide for those that want to set up an account.
Creating a Nintendo Account
You need to set up a Nintendo account for the region you want to access before you can start using the eShop. Nintendo has made the process somewhat easy, and you can sign up for a fresh Nintendo account either through the Switch’s user profile page or online through Nintendo’s website. This process is pretty easy, as unlike with making a Japanese PSN account, the language on the account creation page doesn’t suddenly change to Japanese when you set your region. Once you’ve set up your account, all you need to do is tie it to one of your Switch accounts through the system. Now you can start accessing the store, and exploring what it has to offer.
Actually Using the Store
Things don’t start to get tricky until you want to navigate the storefront. This is where everything starts to show up in Kana and Kanji, but the layout is exactly the same as any other region. Figuring out how to get around the Japanese storefront is easy if you’re already familiar with the one for your region, but I’ve included some screenshots with translations below.
Paying for Things
Nintendo’s policy with foreign credit cards is surprisingly better than Sony’s. It was possible to use a foreign credit card for Japanese region eShop items even when consoles and handhelds were still region locked. There’s no guarantee your card will work, but most MasterCard and Visa cards seem to get through. It might be a good idea to brush up on your conversions rates though, as global currency is never truly 1-to-1. A 7,500 yen game in Japan is rarely ever going to equal out to exactly $75 US, and it gets even weirder in regions like Canada or the EU.
You’re not completely out of luck if you don’t happen to have a MasterCard or Visa. Nintendo uses pre-paid cards as well, much like Sony does for PSN, and you can find them at the same places as other import cards. I once again am going to recommend Play-Asia, since they immediately send you the card code after purchase, giving you minimal wait time.
There isn’t really much on the Japanese eShop yet that’s different from other regions. The Switch launched a little gimped everywhere with just Breath of the Wild and a few ports of other games, but there’s hopefully some more interesting stuff coming soon. A lot of the better import titles on older Nintendo consoles came from smaller publishers or virtual console rereleases, and hopefully, the Switch will continue to bring great import titles, indie or otherwise, to its library.