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Quebec's New Video Game Language Laws

by Karen Sampson

New law forbids English video games if French-translation version exists, prompting some to question the motivation behind the "language police."

Government gets their hands dirty
Government involvement in the private sector created a big stir in video game stores in Quebec earlier this year thanks to a new law that has come into effect banning English versions of certain video games. But opponents of the law, the stated purpose of which is to promote the French language, say it could put them out of business. Ronnie Rondeau, a local game store owner who own eight stores in the area, remarked that he feared the worst for his business. "If it really was going to make a difference," he said in an interview in The Star, "I'd be for it, but only a small number of people want to play in French. The rest don't care."

The crowds will go elsewhere
Gamers are notorious for wanting new versions of games as soon as they are released, regardless of the language of the programming. Rondeau says that he even stocks several titles in Japanese becaus demand for the games was so high. But game designers frequently delay the releases of foreign language titles before they can debug the games for fear of future problems. In some cases the game may not be released in Quebec markets at all because the cost of translation isn't worth it for game producers.

Even when games do get released in these limited markets programmers often take multiple extra weeks to release the new games, like the ever popular Rock Band video game. While sales in the United States were soaring over the Christmas holidays sales in Quebec were nonexistent because the game wasn't released in French until six weeks later. Gamers simply looked elsewhere. With government involvement causing some businesses to panic, many have asked whether the Office Québécois de la langue Française, or Quebec's French "language police" have gone too far.

The business of gaming
Gamers have always been known to be a very demanding crowd. Oftentimes games that are delayed even a few days cause the majority of the crowd to look elsewhere, across the border or on the internet, for other options. "I'm afraid it's going to cost me my business," Rondeau said. And even if he is able to scrap it out in the increasingly difficult market, "... money-wise, it's going to hurt."

About the author

Karen Sampson writes for Select courses. She welcomes your feedback at Karen.Sampson1120 at gmail.com

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