Straight from the Horse’s Mouth: METI Explains Stance on Secondhand Game Consoles

It’s amazing how fast misinformation can spread. Despite our best efforts to the contrary, people seem to be accepting at face value Akihabara News’ mistaken claim that the Japanese government is about to ban its thriving used video game electronics market. Though some consoles will be banned without proper certification (contrary to what Roy indicated, Sega fans might be screwed!), the truth is that no comprehensive ban is forthcoming. We at Mutant Frog Travelogue intend to set things right.

The only source that Akihabara News cited in the post is this Japanese government Q&A regarding the provisional measures to the Electrical Appliance and Material Safety Law, which regulates the safety of old electronics, electric appliances, etc. by instituting an inspection system.

On the top of the Q&A page it states in big letters (paraphrased since the Japanese is kind of awkward): The items that were given a 5-year grace period in 2001 when the law came into effect will come under regulation starting in April 2006.

Below that is a table outlining what kind of labelling will be required of which types of electric/electronic goods. The items that will come under regulation this April are listed as follows: “Electric refrigerators, electric laundry machines, television receivers, electric musical instruments, audio equipment, gaming devices, etc.”

GAMING DEVICES?! My guess is that Mr. Akihabara News must have panicked at this point and typed up his post immediately to warn people.

But if you glance down at Question 4, you’ll find this (provisional translation):


Q4. Will the sale of all secondhand electronics no longer be permitted?

A4. It is not the case that one will no longer be able to sell all secondhand electronics.

The Electrical Appliance and Material Safety Law does not designate all electronics. If an electronics product is not designated in the Electrical Appliance and Material Safety Law, then it is not subject to the regulations of the Electrical Appliance and Material Safety Law.

For the electronics products that are designated in the Electrical Appliance and Material Safety Law, it is possible to sell them the same as ever if the new labels are included.

(snip)

Even if an item is on the list, such as electronic musical instruments, audio equipment, gaming devices, etc., the console/body will not be subject to the regulations if it receives its power supply via a removable AC adapter (AC adapters are subject to the regulations with a 7 year grace period (ending on March 31, 2008).

End of story, right? Well, I hate to tell you this, but the scenario is apparently not as rosy as the government would have you believe.

According to this guy at citizen journalism site JANJAN and Japanese gaming site Nintendo Inside, the following gaming consoles WILL come under the regulations (because they don’t use removable AC adapters, apparently), meaning that dealers might not want to bother with them. Forgive me for the unverified information, but if your favorite model is on this list I suggest you check it out:

All Playstation (1) models, Playstation 2 SCPH-100000-39000, Sega MegaDrive, MegaCD, Super 32X, Sega Saturn, and Dreamcast.

Again, stop me if I’m wrong, but don’t Playstation plugs count as AC adapters? They’re removable! Guess not.

Also, on the topic of “self-inspection,” Nintendo Inside seems to think that’s rather unrealistic since the only people certified to perform the inspection will be producers and importers. But according to every source I have consulted thus far, the certification procedures are somewhat unclear. It will all depend on how much it costs (in terms of money, time, and availability to shopkeepers) to become certified to perform these inspections.

And in 2008, the AC adapters themselve will come under this regulation, but those are pretty easily replaceable.

Either way, it is rather sad, as the author of the JANJAN piece noted, that the government has somewhat coldly limited the market for used electronics in the name of environmental protection. I can completely understand why the rank and file of Akihabara and the Yellow Magic Orchestra are so ticked off about this.

  1. Erm, every model of the Sega MegaDrive (including those in Japan) DOES use an external AC powerpack, so I’m not sure why it’s on the list. The same goes for the Super 32X and (I think) the MegaCD.

    As for why the PlayStation is on the list, well while the PSOne has an external AC powerpack, the original PlayStation (what we used to call a PSX before Sony made something else with that name) DID have its AC-DC convertor inside the case.

  2. No idea why it’s on the list. The author of the JANJAN piece may have had a different reason to put it there (the AC adaptor may not meet more specific guidlines etc), but he didn’t say. The Dreamcast plug, if I remember correctly, was not removable.

    If you’re interested and read Japanese, you can dig through the Japanese govt agency’s site dedicated to the law:

    http://www.meti.go.jp/policy/consumer/seian/denan/index.htm

    I’m done with it for now.

  3. The Mega Drive, 32X, and Mega CD may be on the list because of some manufacturing process that sega used in that era, not necessarily the AC adapter.

    Nevertheless, this completely and totally kills any arguments or protestations from people who are afraid that they wouldn’t be able to buy game cartridges and/or accessories. Turns out to be much ado about almost nothing, but excellent research!

  4. Funny you mentioned used video games; that’s another can of worms altogether because of the hellacious copyright laws here. The courts in Japan have actually split on whether it’s legal to sell used video games…

  5. Personally, I find it quite ironic that this whole thing is sold in the name of the environment, when probably the environment will end up hurting more. Much of the stuff that stores (much less individual sellers) won’t bother “inspecting” or aren’t legally allowed to sell will simply end up thrown out. Where else could it go? I don’t understand how that aligns with the “green” goal of this law.

  6. Justin, the law is primarily being sold as a set of safety regulations. I don’t believe that the environment has much to do with it. Still, you could make an environmental case on the grounds that newer appliances are built to far more rigorous energy consumption guidelines, and in the long run making everyone buy newer rice cookers, washing machines, refrigerators and other electricity hoggers will put a dent in domestic energy waste.

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