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
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
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
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.