Ethan Winters and his wife, Mia, had a traumatic experience at their previous home in rural Louisiana, and today they are starting afresh in Eastern Europe. Like any family settling into a new location, they want to fit in, but things get off to a rocky start when their baby daughter is kidnapped and Mia is shot. It soon becomes clear that their village is being terrorised by a cruel and ruthless demigod.
And you thought your neighbours were weird.
Gamers will recognise this scenario as the no-nonsense opening to Resident Evil Village, the latest entry in a lucrative franchise, which is launching today for PC, PlayStation and Xbox.
First developed by Capcom in 1996, Resident Evil is the best-selling franchise in the horror and zombie genres. The game has moved with the times, telling the story of gaming’s development over the past quarter of a century and prompting a range of film and TV spinoffs to sit alongside 27 versions of the game itself.
Originating in Japan, it quickly became a global phenomenon, selling over 107 million units as of December 2020.
What’s the secret? If you’re in the horror market it helps if you can spark genuine goosebumps. These games have no shortage of jump-scares, as well as brain-teasing puzzles. The secret to global success, of course, is to localize, and this is something that Capcom and their fellow gaming industry leaders know very well. There are over 2.7 billion gamers worldwide, and a series of COVID-enforced lockdowns over the past year have only added to that number and to their level of engagement. A market already valued at over $170 billion is forecast to keep growing by almost 10% year on year, and the cliché of it being a male-only activity has been left far behind. 45% of American gamers are women.
Another statistic that won’t have escaped Capcom or anyone else in the industry is that only 27% of global gamers speak English. And the remaining 73% have high expectations.
Gamers are dedicated and passionate. When you meet those high expectations, they’ll be your biggest cheerleaders. When you let them down, they’ll share their displeasure. What might they be looking for?
· A level of localization that makes them feel as if the game was designed specifically for them
· Localization of idioms and replacement of slang to reflect each target culture
· Skilled editing of user interfaces and game menus
· Changing soundtracks and other audio features to the most appealing regional options
· Localization of historical or cultural references
· Subtitling and voiceover by industry specialists
Above all, they’ll be looking for a connection. They are ready to be engaged, not just through an online game but through the language and culture they grew up with and immerse themselves in every day. Reach out, and they’ll hold out a hand in return. It will be a hand of friendship, and – let’s cut to the chase – it will be holding a credit card. Popular games can be heavily monetized, with in-app purchases sending revenue soaring. Gamers in China, for example, have higher in-app spending than their counterparts in any other region. Serious gamers are prepared to spend serious money.
The adventures of Ethan Winters in Eastern Europe might not be the best advertisement for cultural integration, but Resident Evil fans in that part of the world will still enjoy the ride today. They’ll enjoy the thrills and the shocks, and they’ll enjoy the attention to detail that’s been paid to their language and culture. Game on.