There are a lot of great games on Nintendo platforms, but not all of them are released in the West. Many games from Japan-based developers are never localized. This is an issue that Nintendo is working towards improving, but that doesn’t mean Japan-only games will ever completely go away.
Speaking with the Part Time Gamer Podcast, Nintendo Treehouse employee and localization writer/editor Chris Pranger opened up a bit about the struggles of localizing. Chris is used to the chants of “Why do you hate money?” from disappointed fans waiting on localization, but he says it’s not that simple. Localization is more expensive than people think, and even localizing a well-known game like
Xenoblade Chronicles on Wii was a financial loss for Nintendo.
“The hardest thing for everyone to understand and to accept — and I’ve seen this first hand in the company, that this is typified — people think that obviously they’re right, and what they like or dislike has to be the norm. Why would it be otherwise? And they just say the classic “Why do you hate money? Why do you hate money, Nintendo?
“And it’s like “What are you talking about? We’re trying to make…obviously it has to make calculated risks, but at the same time, one of those risks…and I mean they’ll bring up games that are very Japanese games, like Captain Rainbow for instance. They’ll bring that up like “Look how many people want this. Don’t you want money?” And we’ll be like “Yeah, we do want money, which is why we know it’s a colossal waste if we ever try to localize that in this current market, because look at you people. You don’t make up a big enough group.”
“The hardest part for people to realize is how much money it takes sometimes to make a game like…if it’s a Japense game, to bring it over the States. Not just translating and then localizing and marketing, but if it’s a game that has substantial voice text, oh my goodness! That is a collosal cost to bring that over. And some games you look at and you’re like “Well how are they going to bring that over?” and it’s like “Well, they can’t.”
“You look at something like even Xenoblade Chronicles. People love that game, you know, within a certain group. That game is not the type of game that just pulls in enough to justify the costs on that. So that’s like, we got it in the States by luck, that NoE decided “Oh, we’ll take the fall. We’ll localize that.” Okay, cause someone is going to have to eat the costs somewhere, because that game is guaranteed to not sell enough to justify how big that game is. You know, hundreds of hours, all voiced. That’s a lot of money that goes into that.
“And people are like “Why do you guys hate money?” We don’t. That’s why you literally can’t make everything. And people don’t like finding out that their fanbase is actually too small to justify the costs of the thing they want.”
— Chris Pranger
Localizing a game, especially a game that has a lot of voice acting, can be a lot of work. Are you happy with the rate at which Nintendo localizes games? What do you think of Chris Pranger’s explanation? Sound off in the comments.
Source: Chain Gang Media (Localization talk begins at around the 9:20 mark)