Hackers do what Nintendon't.
Nintendo's region locking policy has been a point of contention among fans for a very long time. Indeed, one of the most baffling decisions the company made was to actually take a step backwards, as the original DS was region free, but the 3DS was region locked. But now, hackers have done what Nintendon't, and have blown the region lock of the handheld wide open, providing an exploit that both works with the latest firmware update, and doesn't require the use of a flashcart, or any permanent console modification.
The exploit is known as "regionthree", and only requires the use of an SD card. It allows you to load games from other regions and runs them in your 3DS's native language if possible. It also allows you to bypass the mandatory firmware updates that are included in some games, meaning that if you never update your firmware, there will be no way for Nintendo to patch the exploit out, and you'll still be able to play all the latest games.
What it doesn't do is allow you to play homebrew, or pirated software. Regionthree only works with legitimate physical games from other regions. It also only works with the 3DS, 3DS XL and 2DS - it doesn't work with the NEW 3DS and NEW 3DS XL. The other caveat is that you need to be connected to the internet every time you want to load up a game from a different region.
If you are interested in trying it out for yourself, here are the instructions, but be warned that while this does not physically modify the console in any way, or offer any permanent changes to its software, it may still count as an illegal software modification in some regions, and may be against Nintendo's Terms of Service. There's also no guarantee that Nintendo won't find a way to simply brick all consoles running the exploit in the future. Please do so at your own risk.
We would like to remind you that The Escapist does not approve of software piracy in any shape or form.
This kind of incredibly simple and easy-to-use hack demonstrates that Nintendo pretty much just has to "flip a switch" to allow region free gaming on its 3DS. In this day and age, where every one of Nintendo's competitors offers region free gaming, they really should get with the program and just break the lock officially. It's sad that people who legitimately want to play legally acquired games from other regions have to jump through all these hoops.
We've reached out to Nintendo for comment on whether or not this exploit will make it reconsider it's region locking stance.