I’ve started playing computer games after a few years’ break, and I’ve noticed the Polish videogame market has changed a great deal. When you walk around in a videogame store, all you see are boxes that proudly proclaim: Full Polish version! Featuring the voices of <insert names of well-known Polish actors>! It’s almost as bad as in Germany, where every single product of American culture is translated and dubbed by an army of voice actors.
Needless to say, I was appalled when I found that this trend had reached Poland. “Don’t they care about learning English?”, I grumbled. “What about all the inaccuracies and stupid mistakes you get in translations? And what happened to getting the original experience as envisioned by the authors of the game?”
I was looking for a copy of Doom 3, so I asked the sales clerk about an English version. “Nope”, he said, “There was an English version when the game first came out, but once the Polish version appeared, the English version was discontinued”. He looked surprised that anyone would want an English version even though the clearly superior Polish version was available. Those customers, sometimes they want the weirdest things!
In the end, I bought the Polish version and downloaded the English version (God bless the Internet!), which I installed using the Polish version’s CD key. Luckily it worked.
I have since looked around and asked around, and what I’ve found out is that sometimes you get full Polish voices (the aforementioned Doom 3), sometimes you get English voices with Polish subtitles (Company of Heroes), and sometimes you get to choose between English and Polish versions (BioShock). In general, you have to be very careful because information about the English versions is not always shown on the box. Obviously it’s considered unimportant to the majority of customers.
I guess this trend towards “localization” is due to the growing affluence of the Polish consumer and the increasing marketing prowess of Polish game distributors, who are looking for new ways to compete with each other. The sad thing is that Polish gamers are getting used to receiving American and British entertainment that’s stripped of the English language. When Grand Theft Auto IV for the PC came out this month, there was an outcry from many Polish gamers disappointed at the lack of a Polish-language version. The irony is that, in a few years, many of the same people who are now avoiding English like the plague will be paying for expensive language courses in Britain in order to immerse themselves in English.