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Nintendo: 18+ Wii U eShop games are restricted due to German law

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For a console intended to reunite Nintendo and the action adventure-obessed hardcore gamer, the Wii U is having a surprisingly tough time in the global market. The average Wii U buyer is only purchasing 1.2 games with the new machine according to Longbow Research analyst James Hardiman. ZombiU has received favorable reviews, but the rest of the Wii U line up like Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 and Assassin’s Creed III are finding greater success on other platforms. Nintendo’s digital storefront is seemingly unfriendly to video game enthusiasts: Mature-rated games are can’t be purchased on the European eShop outside of specific nighttime hours.

Those restrictions aren’t Nintendo’s fault, though. Even though the company has been known for seemingly backward online security and content appropriateness measures, such as Friend Codes, the European eShop is actually restricted due to German laws. As Nintendo of Europe is based in Germany, it’s subject to that country’s specific laws, despite the fact that the eShop operates in the UK, France, Italy, and other countries.

“At Nintendo we always aim to provide a safe gaming experience for fans of all ages and ensure that we comply with applicable legal age restriction requirements across Europe,” said Nintendo in a statement to Eurogamer, “Legal age restriction requirements vary across a number of European countries. Since Nintendo of Europe is based in Germany, Nintendo eShop is complying with German youth protection regulation which therefore applies to all our European markets. Under German law, 18+ content must be made available only at night.”

Germany’s ratings board, the USK, is notoriously strict when it comes to the distribution of violent media. The board refused to give Gears of War anything but the most severe rating when that game was first released, and as a result Microsoft decided not to release the game in the country at all.

Microsoft’s Xbox Live Arcade and Sony’s PlayStation Network, however, aren’t subject to the same restrictions across Europe as Nintendo’s eShop. Neither is PC distribution service Steam. Even with Nintendo of Europe based in Germany, why not establish a data distribution center at its offices in other European countries so as to avoid a single nation’s content laws?