Posted on August 25th, 2009 5 comments
The English fan-translation for the PlayStation version of Policenauts is finally released. You can poke around the Internet for a while and you can find everything you need without much trouble. Ethically I shouldn’t recommend you do that because I do pro translation for a living. I’ll just cyber-turn my back to you and cyber-whistle while you do whatever you want as I’m not looking. That’s what I’m doing, right now. See?
You can read a lot about the creation of the English version on this Something Awful thread where most of the main folks involved are posting and answering questions. It’s a very constructive and interesting thread. Meanwhile, on NeoGAF, someone is complaining about Hideo Kojima using the word okama in the script and it getting rightfully translated as “fag.” It’s like the difference between the BBC and Fox News sometimes.
I rarely play fan translations because (cocks head back, looks over sunglasses, flicks cigarette holder) I don’t need them, dahh-ling. The stereotype in my mind was of people with their heads lodged up their arses chopping up Square games to match their homoerotic fanfiction-driven vision of what the story “should be.” This release is nothing like that. It is a great localization in every sense of the term, expertly capturing Kojima’s dirty, ribald vision of the future without coming out at all strange or awkward. I’d like to think Kojima would approve. The only complaint I have is that they should’ve done the Saturn version instead, since it’s neat to have the hypertext online encyclopedia (available in English on policenauts.net) accessible within the game by clicking on dialogue text, but I’m sure that would’ve made the whole project even more painful and delayed.
Frank Cifaldi posted this question on the SA thread:
Playing great fan-translated games like this and Mother 3 confuses me. I know Big Business is some voodoo art that I’ll never understand, but seriously, are the margins so low on something like a Policenauts translation that Konami would not profit from doing this itself or just paying you guys off for your work?
I mean really, what is stopping this sort of thing from happening? Is it just a taboo that a big company can’t acknowledge “amateur” work as being valuable? There’s obviously a consumer demand here, and even if it’s not gigantic, surely it’s enough to make money?
I don’t know, it just strikes me as weird. I would think translating Policenauts would be cheaper and less risky to Konami than most of the stuff they put out.
Cheaper, yes, but not by much; it’s not like I rake in hundreds of thousands a year doing localization. It would be risky, though. Policenauts is a niche game, with a dedicated fanbase but not a large fanbase. There is not a “consumer demand” being demonstrated with this release; there’s a free-download demand. The US anime distribution industry failed to understand the difference between the two things and that’s why the US anime distribution industry is about a squillionth the size it was in 2004.
All right, you say, but why not release Policenauts on PSN and sell it for $15 or something? Surely it could compete with the new Monkey Island or whatever, right? Maybe, but — and everything I write from here on in is speculation, I don’t know anybody who makes these decisions at Konami — you’re asking a publisher working in an industry that is even more megahit-driven than movies in many ways to try selling a product with very little profit potential that’s already been heavily pirated on the Internet. I call it “free download”; they’d call it “piracy.” Unfair, I know. (I like both the work of Corey Doctorow and his theory that free eBooks help, not hinder, physical book sales. But you try convincing an enormous Japanese multi-national corporation that there’s merit to that theory. While you’re doing that, I’ll be flapping my arms. Let’s see if I can fly to the moon before you win them over.)
That’s my supposition, and it’d be nice if I were proved wrong. I spent my New Year’s vacation in 1999 playing the Saturn Policenauts and it’s still a fond memory. Looking back, I’d say it’s still my favorite Kojima game after all these years. And not just because of that girl’s ass, either.