What you need to know
- Starfield is an upcoming Xbox and PC exclusive from Bethesda Softworks, creators of Skyrim and Fallout 3 and 4.
- Heralded as a new era for Xbox exclusive games, some fans are lamenting the lack of clarity over localization.
- Microsoft has fallen far behind Sony PlayStation and other platforms with regards to language localization, and fans are rallying to request regionalization for Starfield.
Criticisms of Microsoft's (lack of) localization for Xbox games has once again appeared on the horizon.
Starfield is an upcoming Xbox and PC exclusive from Bethesda, known for games like The Elder Scrolls and Fallout. Many are expecting Starfield to symbolize a new era for Xbox exclusive games, where much of the success has depended on titles like Age of Empires, Flight Simulator, and Forza, among a few others. Microsoft hasn't had a huge amount of luck with its RPGs and action games in recent times, but there are positive signs of change.
Hi-Fi Rush from Bethesda's Tango Gameworks launched to a huge amount of praise, and Obsidian has been firing on all cylinders delivering hits like Grounded and Pentiment. Still, fans are eager to see what a mega-budget mega-blockbuster from Microsoft and Xbox might look like, and Starfield could be it.
Set in a spacefaring future, Starfield is described as a "NASApunk" title with grounded-in-reality space tech, set in a diverse and complex simulation that Bethesda is typically known for. However, some fans are already expressing disappointment, expecting to once again be shut out of a localized version.
This past week, fans in the Middle East began to rally for a localized version of Starfield, launching a Change.org petition to that effect. As of writing, over three thousand signees are actively requesting some form of Arabic localization.
Starfield's Steam page suggests that the game won't be localized into Arabic, even with subtitles, which could shut out hundreds of thousands of potential players who aren't familiar with English or one of the other supported languages. According to Steam, Starfield will be delivered with voice acting in English, French, German, Spanish, and Japanese. Still, it will feature English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, and Simplified Chinese subtitles.
I think most users would accept that having a voice-over dub in every language may be cost-prohibitive, but surely having text translated and localized in major languages like Arabic is something far more reasonable.
Windows Central's Take
Again, the situation raises criticisms of Microsoft's middling efforts to globalize its Xbox footprint. I've written before about Xbox's poor localization investments, and while things have improved slightly in some cases, Microsoft is still far, far behind where it needs to be.
What's maddening is the inconsistency. Some games, such as Hi-Fi Rush, did get a complete Arabic text localization, but it remains an outlier. Despite Microsoft's push to court interest in South East Asia, we're still seeing games from Microsoft completely ignore complete Korean localization too. It's ultimately a chicken-and-egg scenario in some cases, where Microsoft and its subsidiaries may feel as though it's not a worthwhile investment to localize games for specific regions where Xbox's footprint is small. But how do they expect to grow in those regions without localization?
There is one more area where PlayStation has traditionally done much better than Xbox.Localization.They always support more langauges on 1st party games than Xbox. pic.twitter.com/mLXchz1YOjMarch 11, 2023
A flagship game like Starfield absolutely should come with as much localization as feasibly possible, covering major languages in every economy where the game plans to be sold. The message Microsoft is sending otherwise boils down to "we don't care about your region," which is absolutely no way to grow and gain favor for its efforts to compete. Starfield is most likely to end up on many best Xbox games and best PC games lists for 2023. To leave players out of the fun over something like localization betrays Microsoft's own "When Everyone Plays, We All Win" strapline.
We've reached out to Bethesda to comment on localization for Starfield, but have yet to receive any response.
Starfield launches on September 6, 2023, for Xbox and Windows PC. The game will also launch directly into Xbox Game Pass.
A big thanks to @jassem73 for the tips.
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!