View Full Version : globalization and how it has affected video games

03-07-2020, 06:47 AM
In 2015 there was a guy who came out and bemoaned the perils of a globalized nation. Loss of culture, lack of borders, and an eventual reality wherein every country appears to be the same. (He ran on this message and is now the most powerful person on Earth.) Now whether or not any of that is true and whether or not you care, one can not look at the video game industry's evolution over the last 25 years and deny that the standardization of video games does not exist.

Years back I remember reading an article about differences in box art from North American releases to their Japanese counterparts. The Japanese versions were vastly different. A few that I can recall were Ratchet and Clank and Ico. Im sure a quick Google search will pulll up the article.

We all know that in the 80s and 90s, sex and violence was tamed down for American gamers. An example that comes to mind is the cover of one of the Double Dragon games where the girl's dress is longer in the American version. I believe in the original Ocarina of Time, Gannondorf pukes up blood and it's not present in the North American version. The opening of Resident Evil is more violent in the Japanese release from what Ive heard. Crosses were removed from Castlevania in the North American release.

But the most obvious and well known regional difference is Super Mario Bros. 2. Vastly different from the Japanese release which IMO os the "actual" Super Mario Bros. 2 not the re-skinned Doki Doki Panic. Video Game Historian did an *excellent* video on the history of SMB2 and how it came to exist. The video also highlights the differences in media from the NES carts to the Famicom carts (and disks.)

In Link's Awakening, there is a part where you talk to a mermaid. Depending on which region release you are playing, she will say something quite different when you dive next to her after she tells you she lost her scale.

Where does all this lead to? Well for me, I just find it sad that we are (have been) shifting away from nationalized products into a one sized fits all product era where games work on any system anywhere on Earth, covers and content all look the same. I visited a game store in Paris years back and I remember the owner taking interest in the fact that I only wanted American games (well, NTSC-U/C). I dont know how the PAL differences worked for cartridge games. PAL-A, PAL-B, etc. right? So the games were tailored to specific regions of Europe. Its hard to imagine that now there would be a Super Mario Odyssey specifically tailored for French consumers. Maybe it exists? I dont know. I havent kept up with modern gaming. I just remember looking up box art differences and they all looked the same.

Its hard to put the genie back in the bottle when it comes to the globalized marketplace. Its cheaper for a company to manufacture 1 billion of the same items for the entire world as opposed to 500 mil for N America, 200 mil for Japan, etc. Home video formats have really seen a similar push toward globalization. DVDs were split by 6 regions. BD are split by 3. Now 4K are all region free to my understanding.

03-07-2020, 10:16 AM
Ganondorf coughs up blood in all versions of Ocarina of Time. It was just changed from red to green. The launch US version still has the red blood. I believe later runs of the gold cart have the green blood, and all grey carts have green blood.

Unless there are some rare exceptions not crossing my mind, there's no such thing as a physical video game that has gotten one print run that's distributed across all regions as official releases of all those regions. (That is to say, a game can get a single print run that's shipped worldwide, like with Limited Run Games releases, but the game is an official release of only one region). Even if the digital content is identical and even if the same art is used for the cover, packaging still must vary to identify the region, the product code unique to that region's release of the game, the rating of that region's rating board (ESRB, PEGI, CERO, etc.), etc.

Only the biggest games can be designed upfront with worldwide distribution in mind. Many developers and publishers don't have the funds and means for that. Just the cost of localizing games into many different languages is huge, so it's not done unless the publisher has decided from the get-go that it will be an international release or the game is licensed by a localizer, which often happens after its original release. Many games are first designed only for an English-speaking market or only for a Japanese-speaking market, only later getting picked up for other regions. And in that localization process, content is still very often changed. Cover art is different, in-game content may be edited, bugs may be fixed, so on and so on. Modern games aren't terribly different from retro games in that regard. Changes just generally aren't as heavy-handed as they used to be because modern gamers generally want the experience to be authentic to the original, and with ratings boards in place, there's no need to be so draconian in editing anything that could be offensive (unless there's fear of an AO rating, which is a death sentence on sales).

I don't know why anyone would be sad about the end of regional lockout. That shit needs to go and has never had a homogenizing effect on games. There were region-free systems all throughout gaming's history, and that didn't stop many games from still only being released in one region or still having changes between regions. With your Link's Awakening example, you could play any of those regional variants on any Game Boy released anywhere in the world because Game Boy never had regional lockout.