Have you ever got excited about a game only to find out that it’s not being released in your

area? Have you ever wondered why that is? If it’s popular in one country, then it should be

popular everywhere, right? Or have you ever wondered why some games are much more

popular in certain countries than others? Today we’re going to be delving into localization in

games to answer these questions and more. Let’s take a look.

Eastern MMOs and Their Issues in Western Markets

Many industry leaders have noted that Eastern MMOs don’t tend to do as well in Western

markets, but why is this? A lot of it has to do with the different preferences and expectations of

the audiences.

For example, ArcheAge was a resounding success in Eastern markets but failed to hold the

attention of Western players, despite it being a great game. Why? Because players in Eastern

markets are much more comfortable with “pay to win” practices in games. Players in the west

have been historically resistant to games that allow players to pay real-world money to get

ahead. To combat this issue and appeal to western audiences, game publisher Trion released a

new version of the game called ArcheAge Unchained, which focuses on fairer gameplay. It’s

this version of the game that has become very successful in the west.

In truth, this issue isn’t quite as simple as “eastern audiences will pay to win and western

audiences won’t.” Many popular games in western markets have pay to win elements and

players are largely happy with them. For example, in World of Warcraft, players can buy a WoW

Token with real money and then sell it on the in-game auction house for Gold. Players use this

gold to buy better items in the game to help them win.

Some players prefer to be more direct and buy WoW gold straight from online marketplaces like

Eldorado where they can take advantage of competitive prices. They also buy WoW gear from

these marketplaces to help them get ahead. Therefore, it’s probably more accurate to say that

western audiences don’t like overtly pay to win games. They are happy with some pay to win

elements, as long as the playing field is relatively even and skilled players can still rise to the

top.

Why Do Some Games Stay in Their Native Languages

Many players say they prefer to play a game in the game’s original language. Some Japanese

games don’t even attempt to translate the game to English (using dubs), or other languages, but

why? It’s not that these game designers don’t think a game will do well in other countries, it’s

that they want to protect the integrity of the game.

A lot of games are translated into English first and then translated from English into other

European languages. As a result, a lot can be lost in translation.

Other times, translations can feel awkward. The Japanese game Persona 5 has been criticized

in the west for the dialogue sounding stunted. The characters often feel hollow. This criticism

isn’t said about the Japanese version though. Issues with translation can often come down to

the way translation is approaching. If you opt for a literal translation, then you get the exact

meaning, but often miss the subtext, style, and flow of a native sentence. The other method is to

just focus on the meaning of a line and try and find a similar way to convey that meaning in a

different language.

Many game designers don’t want the headache of getting translation right, so they opt to not

translate games at all.

Preparing Games For Different Audiences

Some aspects of game localization focus on preparing the game for new audiences. For

example, in China, it’s a cultural taboo to show skeletons and decaying bodies, and death must

be handled sensitively. When WoW, a game heavy in skeletons and even has an Undead race,

was brought to China, it had to be modified. The Undead race was modified to remove the

bones poking out of the skin. Skeletons on the floor were replaced with gravestones.

In the US, blood and gore are largely acceptable and encouraged in games so beyond the

rating, there’s very little incentive to reduce the amount of blood and gore in games. However, in

New Zealand and Australia, gore is monitored much more closely. If game designers want to

sell games in Oceania, then they need to either create an option to show less gore in the game

(reduce bleed effects, for example), or tone down the gore overall in the game.

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Modestas Mice – Contributor
Modestas had a passionate interest in games from an early age. With a background in IT, he has pursued a career in the gaming industry working with several service providers for avid gamers since 2018, while writing about games on the side.

Originally posted at Everything Board Games