How Does the Splatoon 2 Region Lock Work?

I’m sure that everyone has heard of the exclusive Splatoon 2 items that Japan has by now. If you haven’t heard, Nintendo is releasing a bunch of Splatoon 2 gear via the CoroCoro magazine in Japan. A code would be included with the magazine, which you can redeem in the eShop for the exclusive gear. This practice begins all the way back during the game’s launch in 2017.

The controversy

In May 2017, Nintendo and 7-Eleven announced a partnership for Splatoon 2. 7-Eleven would distribute exclusive Splatoon 2 merchandise. If you purchased any of the eligible merch, you would get a code for two free gear items. On top of that, if you were to purchase a Splatoon 2 game copy via 7-Eleven, you would receive two additional free gear items.

advertisement for 7-Eleven Gear, courtesy of 7-Eleven

It was also announced that these gear items would become My Nintendo rewards after 2018. This has not happened as of February 2019.

As of late, CoroCoro has become the main source of complaints within the Splatoon 2 community. Many gear items have been released through this magazine, and they are all Japanese exclusive. The current CoroCoro exclusive gear include the Emperor Gear set, the Spy Gear set, and the Mecha Gear.

“Mecha Gear” contest entry, courtesy of CoroCoro

The recently announced Mecha Gear fueled the Japanese exclusive hate. This gear was designed by a CoroCoro reader and was chosen to be included in the game via a contest. As with previous CoroCoro gear, it will be distributed via a code included in a future CoroCoro issue.

Different “versions”

To understand the region locking, I must explain the different “versions” of Splatoon 2. I am not talking about updates – instead, I am talking about the region-specific versions of Splatoon 2.

There are three different versions of Splatoon 2:

  • North America and Oceania (has an ESRB rating on the front of the box)
  • Europe (has a PEGI rating)
  • Japan (has a CERO rating and スプラトゥーン2 written on the HOME menu icon)
One of these is the North American version, and the other is the European version. Both share the same icon. Guess which one is which! Image courtesy of /u/Its-A-Me-Galio.

It should be noted that this is not a new system. In fact, this system goes all the way back to Splatoon 1 on the Wii U. But why does it exist? There are a couple of reasons:

  • Splatfest – each “version” of the game has its own assigned “server” to download Splatfest data from.
  • Region-specific settings – if you read my articles on the Rank system and the matchmaking system, you should understand what I mean. Go check them out if you haven’t read them yet!

Each Splatoon 2 version is actually its own separate application. This is why if you were to insert a Japanese cartridge of Splatoon 2 and then a North American cartridge into a Switch, they would appear as two different icons despite being the same game. On the Switch, each piece of software has its own unique identifier called a “title ID”. Since each version of Splatoon 2 is a separate application, this means that each of them has its own unique title ID.

Now that we know about the three regional versions of Splatoon 2, I can move on to how DLC works on the Switch.


Each title ID has its own list of DLC, and each DLC has its own unique number from 1 to 2000. This means that each application can theoretically have up to 2000 DLC. How does this relate to Splatoon 2? Think back to how one would redeem their gear from CoroCoro or 7-Eleven. They would type in a code into the eShop. Whenever one types in a code for gear, they are really redeeming DLC for Splatoon 2.

Putting it all together

Let’s combine all of our newly obtained knowledge. We know that there are three regional copies of Splatoon 2, that each application has its own DLC, and that the gear is really just DLC in disguise.

When Nintendo produces codes for CoroCoro, they produce codes in the Japanese eShop for Splatoon 2 DLC. More specifically, because each title ID has its own unique list of DLC, Nintendo produces DLC codes for the Japanese version of Splatoon 2. This is how the gear ends up being completely region locked – even if you import CoroCoro, you cannot use the code on North American or European versions because they have different title IDs. In addition, the code would only work in the Japanese eShop, as the eShop has its own region restrictions which are entirely separate from the region-free nature of the Switch itself.

News presents

Recently, Nintendo also announced that they would distribute five free drink tickets per week in the Nintendo Switch’s news app. These are also region locked. Why is that? It also has to do with the three regional versions of Splatoon 2.

This gift button is also region locked.

Every application can get its own news channel on the Nintendo Switch. Each news channel is identified by an application’s title ID. While this isn’t enough to cause a region lock, as you can view the Japanese news channel with a Japanese Nintendo Account on your system, the contents of the news channel enforces the region lock.

In each individual news item, the publisher can include a button that launches an application with a specific title ID. You can probably see where this is going. For Splatoon 2, one of the title IDs is provided along with parameters telling it which items to place inside the present. Only the Japanese version of Splatoon 2’s title ID is provided in the button. It would not make any sense for the Japanese news to launch the other two versions of the game, as it is meant for Japanese Nintendo Accounts only. This effectively region locks the button.

Of course, this no longer is an issue as Nintendo of America announced that the free drink tickets promotion will happen in the Americas as well.


In conclusion, we only ended up in this situation because of a perfect storm of events:

  • Sometime during the development of the Switch, it was decided that each title would have its own set of DLC.
  • The development team decided to make three versions of Splatoon 2 to make Splatfests and region-specific setting changes easier.
  • Nintendo entered into partnerships with various Japanese companies for Splatoon 2, and it was decided that exclusive gear would be distributed as part of these partnerships.
  • DLC was chosen as the method to deliver the gear.
  • Because of the choice to use DLC as a distribution method, importing the just the codes for the gear became impossible. One would also have to import a Japanese version of Splatoon 2 (and also lose all their progress, as save data does not transfer between applications).
  • There were seemingly no arrangements to distribute the gear in the Americas and Europe.
  • Nintendo has not followed through with the plan to release the 7-Eleven gear on My Nintendo.

I hope that this clears up any confusion surrounding the region locking within Splatoon 2. I also hope that Nintendo fixes this ridiculous situation and releases the Japanese gear in the West. #GearForAll!


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