Well yeah technically that's true. The PlayStation 4 itself can play any title from any region. But good luck if you change regions and make a new account, or in my case, buy DLC in your current region for a physical copy of a title that happens to be from another. You're rolling the dice.
First Let Me Explain
I'm a PC guy, have been since the 90's. Sure I owned a PS2 and when it died I bought a slim one in like 2005 I think it was, in order to replace it. Aside from that though I haven't owned or really even wanted to own a current gen console. I have nothing against them mind you, they're more affordable and generally stable while having a large library of games and apps to use nowadays. Except for shooters. Ugh, controller shooting vs. mouse and keyboard... there's just no contest.
Anyway, for Christmas I was gifted a PS4 slim with a few games that have interested me but I couldn't play since they aren't on PC. One of those is the super impressive Horizon Zero Dawn. I'm way into this game: Beautiful world, good writing and a pretty decent story. This new PS4 impresses me actually. Boot times are fairly quick and it's pretty easy to use even for a PC guy like myself who is unfamiliar with the OS layout.
So a few days back I received a ten dollar gift credit from PlayStation to use by the end of this month. "Cool", I thought. "I should buy the Frozen Wilds DLC for Horizon". And I did. The download happened over night and the next day I went for the install. I was all excited about making my first purchase on the PlayStation Store and seeing how it all works for what really was the first time. But instead of installing I get a message: (paraphrasing) "Game content not found. Would you like to open the PlayStation store?"
Now I'm confused. Why wouldn't this work? The purchase was confirmed and the download was successful. So I cancelled the install and started the download again thinking that maybe something just didn't gel. Four hours later I tried the install again and got the same message. Now by this time I'm 35 plus hours into Horizon so I know and PlayStation knows full well that I have the game content installed on the machine. So I boot the ol' PC and hit the interwebs for information.
As it turns out my copy of Horizon Zero Dawn has a European region code. Here's how that works: A code beginning with CUSA followed by five digits, is a Canada USA - North American region code. If that same CUSA code is followed by a second line of seven more digits, making twelve in total, then that code is European. Meaning of course that your copy is an EU version even though it says CUSA on the case.
Now, the PS4 itself is not region locked. If I moved to another country I would be able to bring my PS4 and buy games from that country and play them on my account. The problem is that games and DLC follow a country code. Meaning my USA region games will never, ever be compatible with another country's region DLC. Such is the case for me. No matter what I do I can never use the DLC I bought for the game I own without it costing me more money and needing to start the game over from scratch because of course save games are also not compatible cross region.
Getting Things Worked Out
Of course I decided that I didn't want to just eat the money I spent on a product that I couldn't use so I began trying to contact PlayStation Support in order to straighten this out. First let me say that if you've never had to do this before it's a giant pain the ass to get ahold of them. You'll have to navigate a few screens before you'll be able to contact anyone regarding any issue. Most of what you'll see are Twitter FAQs and search bars but if you dig a little you'll see a topics button that can be expanded thus bringing up an option of refunds that again will have to be expanded opening a screen with yet another link about how to get a refund that will show a couple of options. There is no "contact us" link, no way to email customer support to open a ticket, and only with some scrolling will you find an 800 number to call, (1-800-345-7669) by the way. But I chose to try the live chat with customer support.
I had to provide the proper information including my linked email and account ID etc. Understandable as they need to verify who I am and whatnot. Once I got that done I was placed in line in order to talk to someone and to their credit it only took a few minutes. I was placed in a chat room with a friendly agent called Melissa who promptly refunded my purchase and answered a few questions for me. Below is the transcript of my chat.So I did get a quick refund from a perfectly pleasant agent but again, there's no option for me aside from buying a new, US version of the game in order to play the Frozen Wilds DLC. An exchange, as was suggested, is basically out the question as the closest brick and mortar store is about 75 miles from my house and this was a gift anyway so the reciepts are long gone. Not to mention Sony doesn't offer a change of region as a service at all so that's never happening.
I also found out that most games don't ever have this issue. It's usually the game developer and publisher who decide if title should have a region lock. So it's even more strange to me that this game, Horizon Zero Dawn, a PlayStation exclusive title that happens to be published by Sony, would have this problem. I'll say with certainty that from now on any new games I buy will be through the PlayStation store in order to make 100% sure that I'm getting content I can fully use.