When fighting-game fans got their hands on the first copies of Street Fighter Anniversary Collection, which released this week in Japan only, they made an interesting discovery--the game booted up in all Xbox hardware, regardless of region. It even played on Xbox Live with no compatibility issues. This came as great news to Street Fighter fans in the US who did not want to wait for the game's planned February release.
This morning, Capcom pulled the game from store shelves. While Capcom made no official statement on either the region coding or the recall, the publisher reportedly told Japanese retailers that it was caused by a bug in the game.
Capcom's Japanese office gave GameSpot a brusque "no comment" on the regional lock issue, which might suggest that it was not a conscious decision by the company, or that it was not aware that the absence of regional coding would cause such a stir. In any case, this mystery should be solved when replacement copies of the game hit Japanese retail shelves--if they fail to boot up on American systems, the real reason for the recall will no longer be in doubt.
Early on in the Xbox's life, Microsoft announced that individual game publishers would be able to choose whether their games would be tied to a specific territory's hardware or not. Not surprisingly, publishers voted overwhelmingly in favor of region locks, which allow them greater control over distribution, marketing, and licensing.
[UPDATE: Capcom has lent some clarity to the absence of a regional lock on Street Fighter Anniversary Collection. A Capcom spokesperson told GameSpot on November 16, 2004 that, "the reason why Japan is recalling the SFAC Xbox version is only because of a sound bug and that the product being region free is a company decision and not a mistake.]