Last time, as a part of reviewing the overall situation of the Korean game market, we checked in which languages Korean developers and publishers mainly do localization.
See also: The major language combination for Korean Game publishers and developers.
This time, let’s look at how Korean gamers think about localization and Korean-dubbed games. If you are a global publisher who is planning to release a game in Korea, I hope this post will help you get a glimpse of Korean players’ opinion about Korean-dubbed games.
A few months ago, the news about game dubbing became a hot topic at a famous Korean game community. This was because a well-known overseas game developer overrode their previous announcement. Last year, they announced that they would localize both subtitle and voice of their upcoming AAA title in Korean. However, they reversed the previous announcement, saying that the Korean dubbing was canceled. The article about this unexpected news recorded 60,000 views and 500 comments.
User’s reaction varied. And the announcement sparked a debate about the preference of Korean game dubbing. So, I’d like to look over what people said on the comments, summarizing their opinion about Korean game dubbing. Of course, it is hard to say these 500 comments represent opinions of the entire Korean gamers. However, this would let us get a glimpse of their thoughts; whether they like Korean-dubbed games or not, and why they like (or dislike) Korean-dubbed games.
1. Analysis of Korean Players’ Opinion
The comments can be classified into three categories: preferable, not preferable, and have no specific preference.
When comparing the numbers of each category, 336 comments were neutral, having no specific preferences. And 103 comments said they prefer Korean-dubbed voices to original ones, while 68 comments said vise versa. Comparing the absolute figures, we can see that the number of preferable comments is larger than that of not preferable comments. (However, the results may be different if a survey is conducted, since more than half of comments are classified as neutral, and the number of populations is not that big.)
2. Why players prefer Korean-dubbed games?
Players who are in favor of Korean-dubbed games mentioned three main reasons.
First, they said that players can immerse themselves in the game more easily. As the players don’t have to read subtitles, they are likely to concentrate on the screen.
Second, some players mentioned that they liked when they had played the games offering high-quality Korean dubbing. Last but not least, some said they want to experience the excellent acting of Korean voice actors.
Let’s check some comments that are in favor of Korean-dubbed games.
“If the game offers Korean voice, I don’t have to read subtitles. That helps me concentrate on playing.”
“When it comes to immersion, Korean voice is more helpful. That’s obvious. After all, money is the problem, isn’t it? What a bummer.”
“Sure, Korean dubbing can have some drawbacks. I like it though… If I play the game, reading subtitles, I don’t feel like I’m immersed as much as I wanna be…”
“That’s too bad. Listening to a Korean voice is way better than reading subtitles. I can be better immersed in the game. T_T”
“Even if you watch the same movie, people who watch it with subtitles remember only 8-90% of the story compared to those who watched a dubbed one.”
“It’s really dangerous to read subtitles while driving in-game. A valuable NPC could lose their life. Dubbing can be a lifesaver… T_T”
2) The quality Korean dubbing of other games
“I’m so disappointed. The dubbing quality of Throne Breaker was really great. ;_;”
“I respect others’ tastes, but there are times when Korean voice actors’ dubbing in foreign games is really good. Like the HALO series. I love its Korean voice very much.”
“Too bad. I know the quality of voice actors’ acting in Throne Breaker.”
“I loved the dubbing of Throne Breaker. What a big disappointment.”
“I played the Tomb Raider with Korean dubbing, and that was so great. I know I can’t do anything about developers canceling the dubbing, but… It’s truly comfortable to play games dubbed in your mother tongue.”
3) Korean voice actors’ excellent acting
“When I first saw the article, I said, ‘Well, subtitle is enough.” But later, I thought that I could have a more immersive experience if I play Korean-dubbed game… TnT Too bad.” :
“… They just canceled due to the cost reason. Korean voice actors are highly capable. They never fall behind to the actors in other countries.”
3. Why players do not prefer Korean-dubbed games?
Many said that it was awkward because the impression they received from the screen and visual was different from the tone of Korean dubbing. Others commented that the number of Korean voice actors who participate in game dubbing is too small. Some pointed out the quality of translation for dubbing texts. They said dubbed texts often fail to deliver the nuance of original texts as they are often get refined during the localization or dubbing process.
(There are several reasons for refining the original text. To acquire a low rating (to target wider range of players), to avoid raising a social scandal, or just to meet the quality standards of the person in charge of publishing.)
“Honestly, the Western voice actors are much better … And this kind of game should be heard in Western language… It better suits the game… The Korean-dubbed game has no merit except that it is easy for us to play.”
“I don’t think Korean voice suits the game’s atmosphere. Japanese voice for Japanese games, and the Western voice for the Western games. That’s the best.”
“It’s true that playing Korean-dubbed game is much easier. But I feel awkward no matter how their acting is excellent. It’s so weird to see foreigners speak Korean.”
“I like it. I prefer subtitles to dubbing. ?”
“I think Japanese voice is good for Japanese styles, and Western languages for Western styles. It’s kind of awkward to see foreigners speak Korean.”
2) The small resource pool of Korean voice actors and relevant limitations
“What matters is the voice actors’ acting and tone. Most of them still stick to old-fashioned acting style of 70s, 80s. A dry, dull acting, like reading a book, that was used a lot for dubbing foreign movies. It’s no wonder that we find their acting awkward. That kind of acting isn’t enough to convey the characters’ feelings.”
“I don’t like my games dubbed. While listening to their acting, I can’t be immersed into the game.”
“We have excellent voice actors. But the problem is that the size of voice actors’ pool itself is too small. They don’t do a cast audition. They just give roles to voice actors who often play the main characters. So, some voice actors’ acting has been degraded.”
“I get bored because the same actor plays the main character in so many games. Sometimes that acting distracts me. Setting aside their acting, the number of voice actor is too small.”
“I really hate Korean-dubbed games. Their acting sucks! It even distracts me from gameplay.”
3) The reality of Korean dubbing industry and its limitations
“Well, it’s possible to dislike Korean dubbing. Cuz the quality is poor. Under the current dubbing system, voice actors often record their lines without any preliminary script reading. Voice actors sometimes suck at acting and have no professionalism. And it’s problematic that a single actor plays multiple roles in one game. Young voice actors are fine, but old actors still act in the 70-80s style.”
“Many Korean actors act without fully understanding their roles and the background of the game. It’s hard to find voice actors who are good at grasping those things and show appropriate acting.”
“Korean voice actors are likely to record even if they don’t fully grasp their role’s characteristics or the game’s background. They just roughly act like when they dub an animation for children. I mean it.”
4) Quality of translated dubbing lines
“I think it’s better not to dub if characters swear a lot or if the game is sexually suggestive. I will be really glad if Korean lines do use swear words. But, you know, that’ll be the day.”
“If they do Korean dubbing, they can’t use swear words in the lines. I’ve never seen such lines in my life. And CP 2077 is a game with a PEGI 18. I’m sure that characters will swear a lot and the lines will be very explicit, like GTA5. And they will serve as factors to highlight characters’ personality. How can Korean dubbing lines show those things? In addition, the game’s genre is not so popular in Korea that it won’t even sell a lot in the country. There’s no way they’ll spend hundreds of millions of wons to dub in Korean.”
4. Have no specific preferences
There were various opinions. Some pointed out a cost issue and suggested to do crowdfunding if necessary. Some noted the limitation of the Korean console game market (This was covered in the previous posts).
Players, who cite the aforementioned factors, sometimes believe that overseas publishers value the Korean game market, when Korean-dubbed games are released. (For example, B company and U company are highly recognized by Korean gamers because they always localize and dub in-game texts into Korean.)
In addition, some suggested to players should be able to choose between the original voice and Korean. The more options they have, the better it is.
1) The limitations of the Korean console market
“Money is the problem after all. It’s not a market that sells well enough to do dubbing. It’s disappointing, but there’s no reason to blame the developer.”
“What a bummer, but it can’t be helped. This is because the Korean market is too small.”
“I guess this is because it costs way more money to do dubbing…”
2) Full localization is best but satisfied with the text localization.
“I’m satisfied with having Korean subtitles only.”
“Too bad it’s cancelled. But I’d still be thankful if I got to play with English voice and Korean subtitles.”
“Well, I understand. Dubbing costs more. I’d appreciate it if I can play with Korean subtitles. T^T”
3) Other Opinions
“How about crowd funding?”
“If you don’t like the Korean voice, just switch the option to English ;;”
“I don’t care as long as the game is great.”
In summary, those who prefer Korean dubbing cited immersion and excellent Korean dubbing quality as their reasons. On the other hand, those who do not prefer Korean dubbing pointed out the sense of alienation from the screen and voice, the situation of the Korean dubbing industry and relevant limitations, and translation problems.
Then, what do these comments suggest to developers, publishers, and recording studios?
First, recording studios, including us, should do our utmost to make quality works by minimizing the awkwardness of dubbing, thereby enhancing the users’ experience.
And we need to actively find new voice actors to increase the number of voice actors who participate in game dubbing (However, it is not a problem that can be solved at the studio level as there are problems caused by the recruitment system of voice actors in Korea. This will be covered in more detail in the next post sometimes).
Perhaps, the number of users who strongly prefer Korean dubbing and those who do not will not change much in the future. What matter is the users who don’t have any particular preferences. They can lean to either preference or non-preference depending on the quality of Korean dubbing, the nature of the game genre and content, or the image of the publishers. If you are a developer or publisher who is planning to dub your game in Korean, it is recommended to pay attention to their opinions.
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