Cyberpunk 2077 Localization Failure – Why the Russian Market Is Upset|
Cyberpunk 2077 was believed to be one of the most expected video games of 2020. Despite the fact that CD Projekt Red developed The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – probably one of the most beloved games in Eastern Europe – failed to satisfy its fans with a new product. But we’re not here to discuss the bugs that made the army of video gamers cry and laugh, the millions of dollars spent on marketing and promo which turned to ashes after the game release, but the localization failure that drove gamers away from the game.
Expecting the Russian voice-over to be just as popular as the English one, CD Projekt Red released the teaser revealing the Russian cast. Surprisingly, the developers preferred to invite popular bloggers and influencers instead of professional actors to make their heroes speak. And the effect was a total bummer. As of now, it’s the most ‘unloved’ video on Cyberpunk 2077’s YouTube channel, scoring more than 81,000 dislikes.
Despite the artists’ effort and desire to make the russian translation of Cyberpunk 2077 soar, their lack of familiarity with voice-over techniques, and let’s face it, acting, could be easily detected even by a non-gamer. The total fiasco made some of the influencers involved look back at Cyberpunk with regret. Among them, Evgeniy Bazhenov (Badcomedian) “sadly” and frankly admitted that some of the characters he played did not fit his personality, and hence the lack of character (pun intended). To complete the list of ‘what not to do’ in video game localization, the low Russian sound quality in the final game takes it to a whole new level of Bad. Even Bazhenov acknowledged that the Russian voice-over had been poorly implemented, making the game sound unnaturally flat.
Once the game was out, players quickly noted how many unquotable phrases are in the local version of Cyberpunk 2077. It is worth mentioning that Russian swearing is colorful like a rainbow and is a special, virtuosic thing. Such language in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was quite popular among fans and many pertinent expressions even became memes (at least they did something Right:) ). But Cyberpunk 2077 went too far, adding in profanity where none was needed. Such an approach changes the mood of key game scenes and even the characters’ temperaments and motivations. Many Night City inhabitants become a lot plainer and rougher than they should be, in a perfect illustration of perfectionism overkill. If it wasn’t a bit funny, it would hurt. But, this is how we learn things – the hard way, and localization is no exception.
Obviously, things are much more complex than messed-up Russian localization for Cyberpunk 2077. If the majority of local players stuck to original versions, there would be fewer and fewer localized games in general, narrowing down the core gaming audience for numerous potential projects. For instance, IO Interactive recently refused to include a Russian voice-over or even Russian subtitles for Hitman 3.
So what about players who do not speak English — should they just skip such games or wait for unofficial translations with debatable quality? On the contrary, poorly executed game localization will only push their audiences further away, irritating players like Cyberpunk 2077 did. All we can suggest for studios is to hire professionals in every department and focus on user experience above anything else. Cyberpunk 2077 made a clear statement that in video game localization little does it matter to the end user if the hero’ s voice is done by Morgan Freeman or Harry, the pizza boy, if the feeling is genuine. Hey, Harry might after all be a gamer, knowing more about your hero than Morgan Freeman. Besides, the gaming industry has its own celebs too. Don’t dismiss them just because they don’t have a Hollywood pedigree.
To add more, Russia is the no. 1 gaming country in the world, with 46.4 million gamers. 56% of them spend money on games (we’re talking big money here). 45.6 million play PC, 30.4 million play mobile apps, 16.8 million play gaming consoles. This is not a market you’d want to disappoint. So, make sure you don’t fail Russian gamers.