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Towels and their Misconceptions
by Kimberly Unger on 06/28/10 11:32:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

I just got back from a weekend camping trip and am hip-deep into the neverending pile of laundry that these sorts of "group" trips involve.  Just me and my kids, heck, they can wear the same shirt for three days, but go with a group of families you know and interact with on a regular basis and, hey, better have fresh shorts and socks for *every* day you are out in a tent.

Which brings me to the subject of towels.

Like any platinum level card-carrying geek, the first thing that pops into my head when staring at the pile of unwashed beach towels is, "always remember where your towel is".  The second thing that pops into my head is "wait, they had the wrong towels in the movie".  Referring of course to the recent 2005 Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy (as opposed to the metric oodle of other variations on the IP).

See, growing up near the ocean, we have these amazing beach towels.  Beach towels so large and luxurious you could potentially have sex on them, on the beach, and still not get sand in the works (so to speak).  So when the term "towel" shows up anywhere, this is the first type of towel that comes to mind. 

This is, in fact, the *perfect* kind of towel for travel, big enough to serve as a blanket if you end up sleeping in the back of a lorry, thick enough to dry off three kids, a spouse and the family dog if you get stuck in the rain, tough enough to allow you to sunbathe on a field of broken glass, were you to be so unfortunate to be stuck in such a place.  So, to me, naturally, if you need to know where your towel is, this is the towel you are going to be looking for.

But in the movie they had these panzy-a** little hotel towels.  The kind you don't feel bad about stealing because they are so chintzy and small that you'd be better of with a box of Kleenex and a wet-nap.  Okay, yes, they are portable, easy to stuff in a pocket, carrying a towel of this stripe around with you is most certainly a touch more on the side of the ludicrous than carrying something that might genuinely have purpose.

Which then brings me to preconceptions and misconceptions, and more particularly whether or not these things can ruin a game experience.  Advertising and product development have been aware of these kinds of things for a long time.  McDonalds, for example, puts mustard on their cheeze burgers in certain parts of the US, and in other places they may or may not use those nasty little diced onions.  In games we see "import" versions of games that can include different content than you might have in a US release (should the game in question actually have a US release).

With the market for games seemingly heading for a separation into ponderous, multi-year development AAA titles and smaller, nimbler, fast-release mobile/web titles, I'm starting to wonder if it might be an interesting move to regionalize these smaller games. 

Release one version of Castle Crashers in west Texas, but a slightly different version in NYC for example.  Similar things are being done.  As a current example, the new Dr Who game is only available in the UK, and you're blocked from downloading it if you live elsewhere.  (Yes, yes, I KNOW you can get your hands on it by other, slightly more nefarious means, but I'm taking a "high-road" approach here).

The question, I guess, would be in how you target the specific differences.  McDonalds knows (through focus group testing and trial and error) that BBQ sauce A fits the tastes of the Deep South better than BBQ sauce B.  Is it even possible to target games in such a specific manner, or does the historically more "global" nature of games mean that we've already begun to homogenize the gaming community to the point where these kinds of local differences are simply not worth the effort?


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Comments


Chan Chun Phang
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I'll give another possibility: Have the "regionalized" game changes be offered as a DLC, but still offer the normal game as per normal. Alternatively, treat it like language packs: the initial game can come in several different regionalized packages, but a DLC can provide the information for other regions.

Patrick Coan
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Some games are wacky enough to be universal; I wouldn't change a thing with S.Mario Bro's, even though it came from Japan.



If you're lucky enough to have a pre-existing fan base; you could determine regional preferences through a member site/forum.



Some games actually spread their originality regardless of the region, and that could be the desired effect. To have a game so full of personality that the consumer's cater to its quirks.



You could lose quality by regionalizing the game too much- like coffee diluted by too much sweetener.

Maurício Gomes
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I actually dislike "regionalized" games, specially because sometimes this result in games marketed toward some stereotype that is not always what costumers really wanted...



A example, is the thousand versions of japanese games that got religious or violence stripped from them when reaching the west (that applies to anime too... old episodes of One Piece are particularly hilarious, like changing a cigarette to a flower, or a shotgun to a umbrella), or "brazillian themed" games, that I see a lot (obviously... I am from Brazil!), that usually have some silly stuff, like soccer, or carnival (I hate both, and actually most brazillian gamers hate that too... this is way more popular with people not literate with electronic stuff in general).



Of course, sometimes a gem shows up, like brazillian versions of Wonder Boy (that they actually remade the game to fit a IP wildly popular here, "Turma da Monica").



But usually, it backfires (like the mentioned japanese games, that when reaching the west get the fans patch them back to non-regionalized version and maintain the language, or they patch the original version to non-asian languages...)

Max Marko
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When RPG game The Witcher come out German game reviews complained about the high amount of blood. In the U.S. it was to much nudity and sex. Russian reviews pointed out that there's not enough nudity. So I would agree that there's an opportunity to make games better by addressing specific differences in different regions and countries (up until the point we start to use or create stereotypes).



Gamers around the world make a sub-culture of there own but games are a hobby and (for the most part) not a way of life so it's only natural for gamers in different countries to expect a different gaming experience. And with the constant influx of new players (those that we would consider non-hardcore) this will only increase. Some times even the hardcore gamers show that differences exist between them by the very act of creating modded game servers. In short - I don't see the homogenization of the gaming community happening unless it will be forced upon us.



And there's the regionalization of smaller games you mentioned. I think it's the other way around. Developers of big AAA titles should consider to regionalize them not the smaller developers. The practical reason for this is that they have the money and resources to make the necessary research and adjust there games accordingly. Then you spend 3 years to make a game extending that time by 3 months to (during game development, not after) address regional differences is not that big of a deal. Especially if you count the additional revenue you will make.



If it takes 4 months to make your game even additional month raises your costs and development time by 25%. That's big. And if you make a web titles it's even harder to pull that off (multiple versions to download or to play online?).



There is also a "cultural" reason not to regionalize small games. Big AAA titles in many aspects are like blockbuster movies. Hollywood makes them for anyone and every one and the whole world watches them, is one of the examples that AAA games are heading to.



It's not the case with small games. They have the potential to give us a glimpse it to a different culture or a world view of there creators. Like independent films they are created in different parts of the world and with smaller amount of people involved (which gives a more personal relationship between authors and there creation). If anything smaller game should not be regionalized.

Megan Perry
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I actually like having the flavor of wherever the game was developed show through in the gameplay. When I fired up Crackdown 2 demo the first thing I noticed was I was on a Quay, not that most Americans can even pronounce "Quay", but it felt like Crackdown and Scotland at the same time to me.



Books are media that uses localization frequently. I didn't even know what I was missing in the Americanized version until I heard the UK version of the audio-book. I felt robbed!



Gamers hate missing out on even the tiniest piece of content, regionalizing would result in a scramble for players to try and get every version of the game to see what tid-bits they missed.

Tony Dormanesh
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I agree with many of the comments, you would lose some, if not all the flavor of games made in different regions.... haha, a western Katamari just wouldn't be Katamari.



And I was thinking the same thing as Megan... I would hate to miss out on any new/different content for my favorite games. Even the smallest thing... if the Canadian version of Left 4 Dead had extra brain chunks I would be cry myself to sleep every night until I had it.



Although going with what the author's thought, instead of regionalizing game content, if you could somehow personalize it for me individually, that would rock.



P.S. Don't Panic.

Dave Endresak
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As others have said, this idea may seem okay at first glance, but it's actually the opposite from what should be done in order to maximize appeal for a product. This fact has been soundly proven by the importing and "localizing" of Japanese manga and anime (and yes, games, too) in America and other Western markets over the decades. Once consumers understood how they were being misled (and basically cheated), there was a huge backlash. One major issue that most consumers do not realize is that some changes are actually caused by the original owners in Japan (or elsewhere) who, for sometimes unfathomable reasons, refuse to allow original content to be offered no matter how much a licensing company attempts to persuade them.



The same is true for various American games that have changes for different regions and where various consumers who want the unaltered game search (and find) means to obtain it that may be less than appropriate (meaning that regionalizing games actually supports piracy and is thus counterproductive for the businesses in the various regions).



There's also the huge issue related to translations and "localizing" dialogue. There are a few examples of good translations in Japanese anime and manga (and games) but they are few and far between within the total market. The same thing is true for books, live action film, and pretty much any other media product.



In fact, this problem exists even in academic works. For example, the landmark French book "Second Sex" by Simone de Beauvoir has had its original English translation criticized for years. However, the new translation that just came out has also been the topic of hotly debated criticism (see the article and comments about it at the Chronicle of Higher Education at the following link: http://chronicle.com/article/The-Second-Second-Sex/65962/).



For those of us who wish to actually learn through media products of all kinds, annotated versions with cultural notes and other explanations that accompany the original, unaltered work are essential. This is what I attempted to do with the admittedly small scale startup Japanese company I was with. Unfortunately, most companies focus on short term profit rather than accurately offering the products, even for the original owners of an IP. What is needed is a change in business attitude coupled with better awareness of certain limitations amongst consumers.

Stephen Chin
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http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AmericanKirbyIsHardcor
e - I think to an extent, it already does happen. Region coding though prevents us from comparing it most of the time though (after all, you don't usually buy two copies of a game with either one from different regions). Notably from that page, http://i25.tinypic.com/10rodts.jpg which is a in-game shot of Ratchet in two different regional versions of the game.


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