Friday, June 14, 2013

How Key Is Localisation For The Next-Gen Consoles?

The internet, social media, and seemingly the world appear to be ablaze with talk of the newest consoles. The Wii U has been on the market since last Christmas, and though February brought the PS4 announcement, fans weren't shown any noteworthy glimpses of the console until Sony's presentation at the start of E3 in Los Angeles this week.

Microsoft had already shown off the hardware for the new Xbox One, which is scheduled for release in November. The issue of digital rights management (DRM) and second-hand games had already been the main talking point between the PS4 and Xbox One, with Sony poking fun at their rivals with a "how-to" video on trading games.


Ignoring a typical fanboy argument, we'd like to look at how important localisation and translation will be as these two consoles square up against each other towards the end of the year. Be warned, if you have a fear of statistics the next few paragraphs have a lot of them!

We've seen this battle before...
Sony's current offering, the PS3, has sold over 13.5 million units in the US, 3 million in the UK and around 1.5 million in Canada. Japan accounts for over 6 million units, which, given that Sony is a Japanese company and has a good fanbase in Japan, is hardly surprising.

In total, the PS3 has sold around 77 million units as of January 2013, and at least 40 million of these surely must have gone to locations that are not English-speaking. This would make a majority of the unit sales neither English nor, more importantly, Japanese.

As for the Xbox 360, 25.4 million units were shifted in the US, beating the PS3, same goes for the UK with 8 million units, and 1 million were sold in Australia and New Zealand. The American company Microsoft certainly has it better when it comes to English-speaking territories.

With only around 1.5 million units sold in Japan and only 13.7 million sold across the whole of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, could it be said that Microsoft is relying too much on English-speaking markets? With 77.2 million units sold in total according to latest accounts, which is slightly better than the PS3, Xbox is in the lead. However, it should be noted that the Xbox 360 was released almost a year before the PS3.

With such a high number of units supposedly requiring localised content, it would be silly to assume that consoles can sell themselves solely on the hardware, the games and software are crucial to their success.

This is particularly relevant in Sony's case.
It's fair to say that the success hinges on more than just translation. Few gamers would be happy with subtitles when a story could be dubbed. This is perhaps the only time when we advocate the use of dubbing over good ol' subtitling.

We're by no means saying that either of these companies has forgotten about the importance of localisation. Rather, we're suggesting that given the weight of international markets, whoever gets their international marketing strategies and software localisation correct will probably be crowning themselves the King of Consoles by this time next year.