EA Sports' FIFA, the highest selling and most popular sports video game in the entire world, this year enabled voice support through the Xbox 360's Kinect sensor, for features like changing formation, offensive and defensive strategy, and even cursing at the officiating. The feature's utility depends on the region in which the game was sold. Spanish speakers in Spain can issue commands to their side through FIFA in their language; Germans who buy a copy may do likewise. For UK consumers, multiple English dialects are supported.
It's in North America where the issue gets uncomfortable. FIFA 13's North American release—the sole version available on shelves in Canada, the United States and in Mexico—supports only two languages: French, and U.S. English (with seven offshore dialects: Cockney, Welsh, Scottish, Irish, Scouse, Mancunian and U.K. English Neutral).
There are more than 37 million Americans who speak Spanish as a primary tongue, and the vast majority of Mexico's 113 million citizens use the language. By contrast, French is the native tongue of about a quarter of Canada's population, or roughly 7 million in whole numbers. Granted, that does not represent the entire video game market—fragmented by language, nationality, console and even Kinect ownership—in the region.
But it does underline the exclusion of one of North America's predominant languages in a game sold across the entire continent. And it makes a joke of the blue-bannered, bilingual advisory across the game's box front: "Experiencia óptima con sensor Kinect," which truly has no meaning if the game's Kinect features are entirely voice related and cannot respond to any form of Spanish.
Kotaku asked EA Sports Canada, the game's developer, if the exclusion of Spanish from the North American release was due to disc space limitations, or because of any requirement under Canadian law that recognizes English and French as equivalent languages. According to a spokesperson:
If there is a French language version of our game available anywhere else in the world, we are obliged to make it available to consumers in Quebec. But the decision to include French did not come at the exclusion of Mexican Spanish. In Year 1 we had resources for a fixed number of languages.
Elsewhere in the world "there will be a few language options based on the primary languages spoken in those countries," said the spokesperson. "And for users selecting English, the dev team added the ability to select different accents."
Of course, Spanish is spoken in Europe, and Spanish gamers may speak commands in Xbox 360 versions of the game sold in Barcelona, Madrid and elsewhere in Spain. Importing those copies to Mexico may or may not work. Spain is a PAL territory, Mexico is NTSC, and region formatting in Xbox 360 is at the software level, not the console level. Still, EA Sports Canada recognizes Mexican Spanish as its own dialect for purposes of FIFA 13, which means speaking it to a Spanish form of the game still may not deliver the desired result.