Earlier this month the Toronto Star and the French-language site Jouez.com reported on a new piece of legislation passed in Quebec that effectively bans English language video games if a French version is available. Well, as it turns out that's not exactly correct, and Jouez.com has posted two updates on their site to further clarify this new law.
Before we get into the clarifications, let's back up for a minute and explain the history behind this legislation. Back in September 2007 the Office quebecois de la langue francaise and the Entertainment Software Association of Canada signed an agreement for the gradual francization of video games over the following 18 months.
You see, historically game publishers have not put a lot of effort into the translation of video games into french and many games still are packaged with English content and English packaging. Game developers often cite the extra time and effort associated with translation as a financial barrier. Not only would developers need to translate the in-game text, but often times the game has to be re-programmed because the French text doesn't fit in the same text boxes of the English version. When you add-in audio voiceover and cut scene translation, you've got a lot of work on your hands.
So that's the past, and now 18 months later, the changeover took effect on April 1, 2009. According to the clarifications on Jouez.com, English versions of video games will continue to be available in Quebec. Furthermore, the legislation provides that when a video game is produced in France (in PAL format), it must now be available in Quebec (NTSC format) at the same time as the English version, or within a reasonable amount of time due to technical reasons.
There you have it, not nearly as dreadful as many news sites had originally reported. It looks like all those panicking retailers, and day-one-must-play Quebec gamers have little, or nothing at all to worry about.