The first Resident Evil game (1996) is in the Guinness World Book of Records for its many affronts to the English language, including for the now legendary phrase spoken by video game dad Barry Burton, “you were almost a Jill sandwich”. In the 2002 GameCube remake, this was altered to, “you would have fit nicely into a sandwich” yet fans wouldn’t have minded either way. For all the gore and horror involved, Resident Evil is a very camp, very silly franchise at times.

Resident Evil 1996
Original graphics of Resident Evil 1996 video game

Localisation Problems

Resident Evil’s awkward localisation for English audiences has therefore become something of a guidepost in the industry. But it’s far from the only example out there. Final Fantasy IV (1991), released as Final Fantasy II in the United States, gave us the wonderful insult, “you spoony bard!” due to a mistranslation from the original Japanese. Once again, it became a recurring part of the games, being repeated as recently as 2016.

As an aside, Final Fantasy VI also received extensive censorship of its characters in the United States, including covering the bare behind of the monster Siren with something more appropriate.

In more recent times, though, with hundreds of professionals working on a single title, fans have become less forgiving of even minor mistakes by spoony developers. So, localisation problems are comparatively rare today. In fact, it wouldn’t be unfair to say that the NES and SNES represented the heyday of botched translations, though Resident Evil Revelations (2012) was released with a spelling mistake on the box, in ‘Revelations’, of all things.

So, with such apparent perfection in localisation departments, why is the concept still worth talking about?

Native Languages

Globalisation has produced a world in which every video game with an online component will have to cater to a raft of different people, languages, currencies, cultures, and many other aspects of modern life. Today, localisation is not just about translating one language to another but trying to accommodate everybody at once. There are a huge number of variables in this approach - and just as many pitfalls awaiting lazy developers.

World Languages
Localisation is not just about translation. Photo source: Colourbox.

In the English-speaking world, it's easy to forget the fact that some countries can have tens of different peoples within their midst. At its most extreme, there are 840 languages in Papua New Guinea and 707 in Indonesia. India has 447. The same phenomenon affects currencies, too, albeit to a lesser extent. This need to provide for everybody in the least expensive way possible can be a difficult thing to achieve, but a simple concept; variety, is at the heart of many solutions.

A range of payment providers is one of the primary gateways into new markets. In a global hobby such as video gaming, for instance, shops like the PlayStation Store incorporate a range of different ways to pay for games, including staples like Visa and Mastercard and less common methods such as Paysafecard and mobile payments. Not including these options can cause problems for companies trying to establish a foothold in the country.

In the iGaming industry, an offshoot of traditional gaming, a similar issue and solution exists. The website LeoVegas India, for example, accepts eleven payment methods and ten currencies. While this might seem like overkill, it dramatically increases the brand's potential customer base.

Entertainment Value

In a recent review, the Casino Countdown website notes that, otherwise, the experience on offer at LeoVegas India mirrors those of the rest of the world, including the popularity of games like Book of Dead, Starburst, and MegaMoolah. However, it's important to realise that this is more to do with the entertainment value offered by the games rather than anything to do with the necessity of localisation. The latter still needs to happen to keep players comfortable.

In the MMO genre, the issues surrounding localisation can be so pronounced that individual versions of each game are sometimes shipped out to different companies (in different countries) to handle translations and other country-specific things. For example, Amazon just took on the task of localising the Korean MMO Lost Ark from developer Smilegate but, in true Amazon Games fashion, it seems to have bungled it so far.

Lost Ark
Amazon has shown their interest in the gaming industry with their localisation project of Lost Ark.

Rather than dying off with the careers of Resident Evil’s original voice cast (sadly, only one ever worked in the industry ever again), the art of localisation has only grown as a skill since the turn of the millennium.

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