Almost a year ago, I wrote an editorial about how Microsoft needs to start to take localization seriously, with heavy emphasis on the Xbox side of things. My faith in Microsoft to fix basic feature problems in Windows is already at rock bottom, but I generally expect better of Xbox, since they tend to ship polished hardware that actually works. I guess this is what happens when you’re faced with actual competition, namely from Steam, PlayStation, and other popular gaming storefronts.
One thing Steam, Nintendo, and PlayStation all have in common is this utterly, utterly basic accessibility feature enabled by default:
A list of supported languages on a game’s store page.
Basic, simple, easy, right? Even the terribad Windows 10 Microsoft Store seems to enforce this feature. So, um, why doesn’t the Xbox Store support this across the board? Why doesn’t even the brand-new Xbox Microsoft Store designed for next-gen Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S support this across the board? Why doesn’t the Project xCloud Xbox Game Pass app have this by default?
As we move deeper into Microsoft’s so-called push to move beyond console gaming, why do Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and other language regions have to curate their own fan-made lists of games that support their languages?
Stop asking fans do to YOUR work
The year is 2020, and as far as we can tell, there has been literally no movement, and no plan to rectify this very basic oversight that, once again, shows how Microsoft thinks of itself as a US-first, rest-of-the-world second company.
Players should be able to reliably filter by language support, and browse by language support.
And for total clarity, some game developers do list supported languages, but it seems to be an extra segment as part of the “other features” that is buried in the interface, rather than a proper database entry. For example, Grounded has supported languages hidden away in the “More” section of its description pages. Assassin’s Creed Valhalla lists nothing.
For Xbox, it’s not a requirement for a game developer to set up a list of supported languages. When you combine that with the fact that the notes are buried in several menus in the Xbox Store, it makes for frustrating browsing. Why is this so convoluted?
Players should be able to filter by language support, and browse by language support, rather than struggle through several menus and user-curated spreadsheets to find these basic features.
The Microsoft Store and Xbox Game Pass app for PC both list the supported languages each game has on their store pages. Which indicates to me that the information is there in the database for Microsoft to access, and for developers to set up. So then, why does Xbox not have it by default?
This goes beyond the simple anglo-centricity that Microsoft is long-known for, but it is also a basic accessibility feature for millions of gamers across the world. Microsoft has done a ton of great work to improve accessibility for gamers on Xbox Live, but unless you’re English, you’re still being given unnecessary hurdles to access a gaming experience that approaches that of English-speaking countries.
Microsoft is asking its non-English gamers to trawl through user-curated Google Docs spreadsheets to find what games support their language region. They’re asking fans to do that heavy lifting to keep those lists up to date, too.
This is ridiculous for a company as large and cash-rich as Microsoft, who also claims to have aspirations of reaching a global gaming audience with its cloud-based Xbox Game Pass service (which, by the way, also doesn’t display supported languages by default.)
Remember non-English gamers, Microsoft
One central problem Xbox has long-held is the lack of support from strong gaming markets such as Japan. Developers in Japan and other regions overlook Xbox as a viable place to do business. And missing basic features like language support, something Sony has enforced for years.
If I was Microsoft, I would be embarrassed to attempt to court gamers from Japan, South Korea, the Middle East, and beyond, without even the most basic localization features in place across its storefronts. Microsoft has dumped mountains of cash into marketing deals with the likes of Samsung to push xCloud in South Korea. They put in a ton of effort to appear at the 2020 Tokyo Game Show for the first time in years. The fact Microsoft isn’t enforcing the inclusion of languages on store pages is an oversight that needs to be plugged.
Getting Microsoft to listen to feedback on issues that don’t affect U.S. and UK customers seems to be an uphill struggle, and after a year, we’re starting to wonder if they’re actually serious about regions outside of that tried-and-tested anglo-centric markets.