At the beginning of the month, we announced that Warface now includes Spanish-language support. The move will help to make the game more accessible to a wider audience, but it also got us thinking – what are some of the other issues developers and publishers have to address to optimize a game for as many players in as many regions as possible? Below, we highlight just three of the challenges of ensuring a new release enjoys safe passage into international waters.
SHOW ME SOME ID – Age Ratings
Every game, quite rightly, comes with an age rating to define who its content is appropriate for. But for developers, it’s not a simple matter of dropping the finished product off at ratings HQ and seeing what number they slap on it. In fact, it’s not uncommon for devs to meet with regulators during the creative process for guidance on how to achieve a particular rating – but that advice can vary by country.
This is regulated by PEGI in Europe with the exception of Germany, where the USK does the job. In the UK, the British Board of Film Classification can step in to apply a film-style rating if it considers a game particularly extreme. Meanwhile, North America’s ERSB has its own classification system to adhere to as well – making it one of 15 ratings bodies currently in operation. Over the years, games have had to be adjusted for all kinds of reasons, with the most common causes being violence, sex, and potentially offensive language.
But there are very specific cultural issues that can crop up too. Allusions to atomic disasters, steroid use, religious imagery, and historical figures are just some of the things that have been filtered out of games over the years due to evets or topics that loom large in a country’s collective mindset. So next time you see an age rating flash up at the start of a game, you can rest assured some serious thought has gone into picking it!
ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US – Localization
If you’re lucky enough to live in one of the territories typically served by localized game content, you might ignore the available language choices on a game’s menu screen. For lots of people though, the ability to enjoy a new release in their native tongue isn’t a given. From a development perspective, it obviously adds another layer of complexity to include more in-game copy or voice acting, and just fitting all the relevant words on screen or timing cut-scenes in different languages can take a bit of effort. Mark Twain wasn’t joking when he said “Some German words are so long they have perspective.”
Just last week, in fact, VR Focus reported that “localization requirements” were one of the reasons European gamers would be getting a slightly different demo disc bundled alongside their PlayStation VR – highlighting that the challenges of localization remain alive and well.
And just because you’ve translated your game doesn’t mean your work is over. Any translation has to be up to scratch and checked in context. Gaming history is littered with hilarious examples of localization gone wrong – turning some weighty moments into legendary arcade banter as players were crowned “the very prevailer” or told their “fists of evil” were about to meet their enemy’s “steel wall of niceness.” Such slips are now largely a thing of the past, but that doesn’t mean it’s a piece of cake to deliver a localized game to a global audience.
IS THAT REALLY APPROPRIATE? – Box Art
It’s not uncommon for publishers and developers to tweak their promotional plans around regional tastes and preferences, but sometimes their hand is forced when it comes to a game’s box art. (As websites like Box vs Box make very clear.) In the US, ratings guidelines occasionally mean that a game’s physical artwork is a little less, well, physical, than it might be in Japan and Europe. The same can be true for depictions of gore. Often though, the changes are purely strategic. Characters that appear as cute little bundles of fun on Japanese box art have been known to turn into snarling hero types in western territories – an example of artwork being adjusted simply because the imagery or composition is expected to be more appealing to a specific locale. Whether those changes strike the right chord is often a topic of hot debate.
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