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I'm re-reading my old Super PLAY magazines from the 1990s. Since before the Nintendo 64 was released in Sweden/Europe, and after it had occurred, the magazines were full of ads selling imported USA and Japan Nintendo 64 consoles and games.

Then, in one issue in the later half of 1997, they included a small note about how it's now illegal to sell imported Nintendo 64 games in Sweden (but not to import them yourself). After that, all the following issues of the magazine have all mentions of imported Nintendo 64 games removed from all the ads.

However, they continued to advertise the sale of imported games for PlayStation, Saturn and all other consoles except for the Nintendo 64.

I find this extremely weird. Did they really pass a law in Sweden in late 1997 which specifically disallowed the selling of imported Nintendo 64 games -- not just video games in general? If so, that's the oddest/most specific law I ever did hear.

The magazine in question always seemed to "barely tolerate" what they called "grey importers", so they never mentioned this again that I can remember/find. I have no idea how I'd find out the details of this today.

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  • What makes it even weirder is that Sweden is (and was) a EU country. Import restrictions are an exclusive EU competence.
    – MSalters
    Nov 18, 2021 at 16:44
  • Could you include the complete text of the note, and the exact date of the issue in which it appeared? That would probably help anyone trying to track down the alleged law. Nov 18, 2021 at 17:43
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    More likely that Nintendo didn't like unauthorized retailers from selling their goods, so used already existing laws to shut them down. Why other entities did not do so is their problem, not Nintendo's.
    – Jon Custer
    Nov 18, 2021 at 19:03

1 Answer 1

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I've found Commission Decision 2003/675/EC which sheds light on what exactly happened here (more digestable press release here).

Basically, there was a dispute involving Nintendo and its various independent distributors who had exclusive distribution rights in their respective territories, Bergsala AB for Sweden. Note this wasn't simply a matter of Bergsala's rights being violated, but rather a scheme to reduce parallel imports/exports which the Commission found to be anti-competitive. For most parties, this was brought to an end in December 1997 (see section 2.2.11 on pgs. 54-55).

So no, there was no change in the law, but the anti-competitive scheme stopped in late 1997. Weirdly this should have resulted in the possibility for more imports, but since those imports would no longer have artificially higher prices, perhaps the advertisements and/or imports were no longer worth economically worth it. Or perhaps Bergsala pivoted to greater enforcement the exclusive rights it did have, even if this didn't include the ability to block parallel imports according to EU competition law. In any case, trade of Nintendo products in Europe was greatly altered in late 1997.

Please take my summary with a grain of salt, I'm not very well versed in the field of commerce and I've already misunderstood the decision at least once; check the cited decision for proper details.

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