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I would like to understand what is the meaning of releasing (or not) a game in a particular country.

See for instance the case of Halo 2. According to this source the game was released in a set of countries (e.g., USA, Germany). I wonder about countries where the game was not 'officially' released. Does it mean that Mexico's market will receive a Halo 2 version that is not localized?

What happens when a game is not officially released in a specific country?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure what kind of answer you are looking for. When a game is not released in a country, that means there is no "official" way of obtaining that game in that country. \$\endgroup\$ – TomTsagk Jan 15 at 13:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @TomTsagk I was not sure about the relationship between localization and release, and if not releasing a game in a country meant that the game could not be purchased in that country. \$\endgroup\$ – frmo Jan 15 at 14:37
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It’s a bit simpler than that. If you have not released a game in a certain country, it is not available to purchase in that country. These days, you can always import it, through eg. Amazon, but you won’t find it in any retail or digital store. Before the prevalence of online retailers like Amazon, importing was a much more difficult prospect.

Note that imported copies of console games from another country may be region locked, meaning they only run on a console manufactured for that region, so you would also need to import a whole console just to play that game. These days region locking is artificial, mostly for business reasons, but in ye olden days, it was (also?) for technical reasons, due to the differences between NTSC and PAL televisions. You might have needed to import a custom television set while you were at it.

In the case of Halo 2 specifically, however, the information you linked to is incomplete. The date listed for release in the US is actually its release date for all of North America, including Mexico. See here:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halo_2

Whether it has localization is up to the developer/publisher, and is not necessarily related to releasing it in a certain country/region.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Worth noting that this terminology pre-dates digital distribution; when physical distribution is the only channel, and when online retailers largely didn't exist (or didn't exist at all), a game not being available to purchase in a country was a major thing. \$\endgroup\$ – Maximus Minimus Jan 15 at 14:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ It may be worth adding onto this answer to discuss region locking. In some instances, a game released for one region won't even run on a console from another region, even if you imported it to try to get around the lack of retail availability in your country. \$\endgroup\$ – DMGregory Jan 15 at 14:13
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Nowadays, in the era of digital distribution, it is more work to limit the regional availability of a title than to release it internationally. Sometimes there can be business or legal reasons to make a title unavailable in certain regions, but that's rather the exception than the norm. There are very few countries you can not reach by simply putting your game on a digital distribution platform like Steam or Google Play. (One exception is China, for example. You need to get government-approval to publish there, and they don't give that to everyone).

But back in the age of physical distribution, that was different. It used to be quite a lot of work to establish the logistics to get the copies of a game to a country and to convince the local retail chains to stock it. It also involved a lot of economic risk. Manufacturing physical copies and not selling them caused a considerable financial loss. So when publishers weren't expecting to sell a lot of copies in a country, they just wouldn't go through the trouble to release there.

Halo 2 was released in the age where physical distribution was the major way to buy games, especially in the console market.

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