Monday, March 30

Why Europe is a Bitch

Several times during my time at Gameamp I tried, without much success, to explain just why and how launching a game, especially an MMO in Europe is such a different beast from doing the same for the US.
People (in the US) just don't tend to grasp just how much cultural diversity there is in Europe.
THey tend to compare it to the cultural diversity in the US which, while not insignificant, just isn't in the same ballpark.
They'll grasp if you tell them that 25% of the gamers here speaks German, another 25% speak French and the rest is either British (20%) or told (in English) to suck it up and join an "International", meaning English server. But that just isn't everything. Europe is more than 3 big languages and a lot of people speaking (bad) English as a second language. Wonder why VOIP gaming is not so big here?

So I was happy to come across this post on T-Machine which I'll quote here in part.
It shows many different differences, between the various EU countries and the US.
Just read through them and consider how these things might affect how to go about making and launching a game, from taking into account not just different languages but different humor, laws and adopted billing systems:


  • france and germany tried to share broadcast TV content, didn’t work - french hated german humour, germans hated french humour
  • in the end, they settled on english humour, which happened to work in both territories


  • what are the conventions in dating/romantic relationships?
  • marriage?


  • do you eat as a family, or as indviduals?
  • do you eat and watch TV, or only as separate things


  • 3 main religions: catholic mostly eastern europe
  • protestant north europe germany etc
  • orthodox: greece, far eastern europe etc


  • Percentages of people that believe in god, by country
  • USA: 94%
  • most of europe: 20% to 60%


  • UK is like USA (common law)
  • most european countries use civil law, which is very different
  • lots of much stronger citizen-protection laws than the US - privacy / data protection, consumer protection / trade, etc
  • in some cases (more all the time as EU law unifies state laws) you only have to be compliant in one place, and you’re automatically compliant everywhere
  • in other cases, you have to be re-compliant in each different territory. e.g. cannabis use is legal in some countries, illegal in others


  • PEGI: 32 countries, voluntary system, mainly for retail, doesnt cover “alcohol, blood, or tobacco”, very quick approval process for games rated 12 years or older
    (i.e. only games aimed at younger audiences have longer rating times)
  • UK uses PEGI for under 16 year olds, separate system for over 16
  • Russia uses PEGI for consoles only
  • Germany is completely different

Germany ratings

  • PEGI is legally enforced
  • not allowed to even show a game in public (at a trade show) without a rating
  • many urban legends (like “must have green blood, not red blood”)
  • quick approval process
  • … except in summer, when there’s a mad rush to rate stuff so people can show it at the trade shows


  • 40+ different languages in Europe
  • 15 or so major languages spoken by millions of people each
  • 3 different alphabets: roman (english), greek, and cyrillic (russian)
  • +many letter and punctuation accents that aren’t used in english
  • even english vs american has big differences
  • e.g. Spaztic (mario party 8) and Short Shag (hairstyle in a kids game) are both very offensive / adult in UK

French keyboard

  • AZERTY requires pressing the shift key to EVER type a digit
  • so hotkeys are a horrible pain for french players if the keyboard mapping is naively handled by the game programmers

Big differences in playstyle

  • PVP more popular than in USA - across the board - but some countries especially really heavily into PvP

Payment systems

  • 107% mobile penetration on average across europe in 2006 vs 77% in USA
  • every single mobile network in europe gives vast amounts of free SMS’s and have done for many years
  • ELV: very common in germany (like CC, but with much higher rate of chargebacks)
  • pre-pay cards not as popular (yet) as in the USA
  • premium calls via landline to be billed via phone bill
  • direct ISP billing
  • VAT (sales tax) in europe is based on the country of operation. Average is 20%, but some have as low as 12.5% e.g. in luxembourg, so many companies route all EU payments through Luxembourg

Credit card penetartion

  • US 59% UK 58%
  • other european countries down as low as 15%

Broadband penetration

  • 25-35% UK
  • 15-20% italy, spain, etc
  • 10% or less in eastern europe
  • Europe and USA number of MMO subscribers are almost at parity already, with Europe set to overtake USA in next few years

**Dutch broadband penetration isn't anywhere near 25%, it's nearing 80%

Factoid: There are 5 different F2P games in europe outrank WoW in terms of active monthly users

Factoid: There are 173 online game studios in Europe [ADAM: included all the facebook developers etc in there by the looks of things]

Let me elaborate on Germany's PEGI rating a bit:
Germany is very sensitive about violence in games. Yes, because of collecitve guilt for that little episode in world history. It can come across nearly as 'stuck up' as US prudism in entertainment can be to us European degenerates.

Another way how all this adversely affects things can be best described by using Xbox Live as an example. Part of this is Microsoft's insisting on providing "localized" services. The drawback to this is that there's no video-rental option for me on Xbox Live. Simply because there isn't enough of a userbase for it here in the Netherlands. it works for France & Germany & England because on a national level there's (barely) enough customers to make it cost-effecitve. Within the Netherlands there currently aren't. the Dutch by and large are fully capable of following English movies. We've been doing that since when exactly did film come out? Whole hordes of us even prefer English subtitles over Dutch ones because A) the latter often suck and B) it's less distracting to spot that one word you didn't hear very well if it's in the same language.
Anyway, for a lot of us, piggy-riding on the UK version of Xbox Live's system would not pose any problem. Except, Great Brittain didn't join the rest of Europe in adopting the Euro as it's common currency...

Stuff like that, it makes living in this place interesting :-)

1 comment:

  1. I don't think PEGI is used in the US.
    I vastly prefer it over the other system used for movies, which is just an age indicator.
    PEGI has various symbols to show what the game/movie contains, allowing for an involved parent (i.e. one who has an inkling what his/her offspring can and can't handle) to make more intelligent choices.
    For an example, click here!