Subs or Dubs? Which Does Japan Prefer For Western Games

By Spencer . February 22, 2010 . 12:56pm


In addition to publishing Shiren the Wanderer games, Spike handles a ton of Western developed titles such as BioShock, NBA 2K10, and Sacred 2. They act like an Atlus, NIS America or Xseed for Japan. Finding out what their fans want from overseas titles is important for their business plan.


Many Western games in Japan aren’t dubbed. Even some Japanese developed games made for primarily for the West such as Madworld, Last Rebellion, and No More Heroes are sold with only English voice acting and Japanese text. However, this trend is starting to change with titles such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 receiving a full localization.


Spike wanted to find out whether gamers in Japan prefer English voiceovers with subtitles or Japanese dubs. From April 2007 to December 2009, Spike has been polling website surfers and people who sent in survey cards to get an answer.


Subtitled games won by a small margin. 49% of respondents are inclined to English voice acting with subtitles compared to 47% that like dubs more. 4% out of the 6,656 responses mind bogglingly picked “other”.


Spike has more detailed results broken down by genre and platform. According to the results, players prefer dubs for first person shooters, like subtitles for RPGs, and PlayStation 3 owners are partial to dubbed games.


Subtitles – 31.9%
Dubbed – 59%
Other – 9.1%

Action Adventure
Subtitles – 37.4%
Dubbed – 46.5%
Other – 16.1%

Subtitles – 54.4%
Dubbed – 45.6%


image PlayStation 3
Subtitles – 45%
Dubbed – 52%
Other – 3%


Xbox 360
Subtitles – 54.4%
Dubbed – 45.6%
Other – 1%

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  • That makes sense, it’s much more distracting to have subtitles in an FPS I’d assume. For most RPGs, you’re reading text anyways.

  • bobhoskins

    I once caught a bloke here who imported a Japanese copy of Uncharted 2 – just because of Japanese voice acting.

    No, he isn’t Japanese. And no, he can’t read, write, speak, or understand Japanese.

    What’s more scary, his “species” is becoming more and more rampant.

    But all that aside, I’m gonna guess as to the reason why dubbing is preferred 47% in Japan lately: George Nakata. He’s in everything these days.

    • Ereek

      Or the Japanese might prefer dubbing because they’re extremely xenophobic.

      • Stereotyping FTL

        • Ereek

          As someone who speaks Japanese fluently (for over 10 years) and visits Japan regularly on business trips, it’s not a stereotype. Certainly, not everything is like that, but the vast majority of Japanese will look at you differently if you’re a foreigner. Disdainfully, even.

    • Dark_Sage

      Yeah. I hate it when people enjoy things that I don’t. Fucking weirdos.

      • bobhoskins

        You may come out of the closet any time now. I’ll be gentle. =3

        • Dark_Sage



    • Aoshi00

      But the Jpn Uncharted 2 has dual track, so your friend can play it in Eng. OR Jpn, or is it because of the better cover (subjective)? I also imported it but I understand Jpn. Otherwise yea, if you say he doesn’t, then there really isn’t much of a point of getting the Jpn copy, since the Eng. voice acting is top notch w/ the VAs practically acting out all the sequences, it’s pretty hard to top Nolan North. I don’t like Touchi Hiroki’s Drake (his voice is too deep, but he’s good as Rosch in FFXIII though). One reason I imported it was Katsuki Masako (Tsunade in Naruto), been a fan of hers for a long time and she sounds sexy, of course the Eng. accent was too as well.

      Too bad the US ver. of Heavy Rain didn’t have Jpn as usual, I wish I would have a copy that has Eng, French (the Quantic Dream people), Spanish, and Jpn all in one, alas, I picked the Jpn ver since I don’t understand French or other languages.

      • bobhoskins

        T_____T Ugh…speaking of French…..was there ever a french dub of Le Chevalier d’Eon?

        • Aoshi00

          Hm… I’m sure there’s one, maybe in a French or Candian release, other than Hollywood movies I don’t think they have French/spanish dub for US anime DVDs.I heard some people say the French dub of Heavy Rain is pretty good. Norman Jayden’s accent is kind of weird, it’s like Boston or something.. I can’t wait for this game.

          You know Jeanne D’arc w/ French dub would be pretty cool. I loved that movie “The Messenger” w/ Milla Jovovich.

  • nyoron

    Interesting results, especially the genre/console breakdowns.

    What the hell is “other” though? No voice acting at all?

    Also, sub/dub flamewar incoming.

    • Ereek

      I’d assume it represents “No preference,” “no voice acting at all,” “it depends on the game” or “both (being able to choose between the languages).” Maybe all of the above.

      • nyoron

        Makes sense. This seems to be such a polarizing topic in certain places that the possibility that people might not really care either way didn’t cross my mind at first!

  • thaKingRocka

    these results are good either way. they show that there is a market for each, and giving the audience the option of dub or subs is the best way to go. it may not always be feasible, but the numbers show that if you want all of the consumers, that’s the way. nearly every movie does this. i don’t see why it’s been such an issue in gaming other than data capacity limitations.

    naruto on 360 had that free DLC of the japanese audio. i had no interest prior to that DLC.

  • Darren M

    I usually prefer Japanese voice acting when it comes to RPGs. I can’t tell if the acting is really awful or not, whereas in English it’s blatantly obvious…

  • Hraesvelgr

    So pretty much the same as in the US. Except most first-person shooters are already dubbed into the native language…

  • Aoshi00

    It’s a trade off, whether you want the authentic feel (game dubbed in its native language), or the convenience of listening instead of reading to make you feel more immersive and forget yourself in the narrative.

    For example, like Bioshock. I can’t imagine people would like to play Bioshock listening to a language they don’t understand, the “voice” leads you in the game. But I understand why Jpn or other non-English speaking players would like to play in English because the retro art deco setting was certainly 1950, 60’s America, it’s like the game brings you back thru time. But it is also important you should lose yourself in the game, I would say reading sub would be a negative for that. It’s the same for other FPSs like MW2, on the one hand, US soldiers should speak English, but it would be hard to concentrate to read since you’re too busy following direction, shooting things and dodging incoming fire.

  • lolwtfbbq

    for rpg’s i prefer undub versions. why? the personality of the characters in game and the one who voice acting it is definitely good match, rather than english dubs that you will say, “wtf? english dubs make me funny” and like they relying hard to mimicry the voice of the original voice actress.. (small voices? wtf? dont do it, it makes my stomach hurts…)

    incase of fps… i prefer english, cause you wont going to read some subtitles on it right? unlike rpg that generically have subtitles even there is a voice playing on it.

    and as of ps3… if im not mistaken, almost jrpg games that i played have 2 different audios…. japanese and english.. thats why i love that dual audio ftw!!

    • “and as of ps3… if im not mistaken, almost jrpg games that i played have 2 different audios…. japanese and english.. thats why i love that dual audio ftw!!”

      YES! now why does WKC lack it ? , its even a game published by sony for games sake «« ….. im soo pissed , not that the english dubs are that bad , but its not evne synced T__T …. sadness «« and the game looks animeish, just like SO4 did , (ence the wating for The PS3 version XD yay japanese voices!) I have WKC preordered ( i dont care what people say i love level 5 games) BUT im still very inclined to import the EX version ………

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