Take a moment to think about what you look for when you’re browsing video games on digital stores. If you’re looking for a multiplayer game, it’s listed, isn’t it? Want to know if a game supports a controller? It’s listed. Is the game localised in a specific language? That’s usually noted down. What about whether a game is optimised for the Xbox Series X|S? That’s listed as well. But for accessibility features, there are no listings on these digital stores when really, there should be.
Well, tell a lie. Google Stadia actually lists accessibility settings in a really nifty way. It does this by highlighting a range of basic features that are available within the game; from subtitles, volume controls, button remapping, difficulty levels, and more — all tucked under an “Accessibility” section. This is a remarkably handy way for users to browse the store, see that information, and willingly choose to play a game feeling confident that it will be somewhat accessible to them.
However, this feature on Stadia’s store isn’t that widely known because, for some reason, Google decided to only make the wider store information available to those who are signed up and are members of the streaming service. As someone without a Stadia account, I’m not even able to browse the games except a few showcased titles on the Games page of the website. And even then, it’s not a full list of information.
Regardless of this odd choice, Google Stadia stands to show what every digital storefront should be doing. Implementing accessibility information directly on the store page themselves.
I recently wrote an article on GamesIndustry.biz about how the marketing of video games needs to also include sharing accessibility features. It goes into how this keeps disabled audiences not only informed but also keeps them a part of a studio’s pre-release campaigns. However, while this is still important for studios to do, it is still putting the responsibility of sharing this information on those marketing and social teams. When really, listing accessibility information shouldn’t be specifically tied to a blog post that will one day end up lost in the ether.
Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo, Steam, Epic Games Store, Ubisoft, EA Origin and other digital stores all need to offer a section that specifically lists accessibility features. Even if that list is just basic and easily readable such as it is on Stadia. All studios wanting to have their games on those storefronts should also be required to provide the information so that disabled players are informed about making a potential purchase.
Let’s look at it this way. The video games industry is huge, last year being reportedly bigger than movies and North American sports combined. And with movies, potential audiences are able to see whether a film or show has features such as subtitles and audio description as they’re usually listed on the digital store pages. That information is even available printed on the back of physical boxes with icons and text.
So why not video games as well? Why deny the disabled audiences access to important information that can make or break a sale? Having this information shared prior to release through marketing as mentioned earlier is all well and good for locking potential customers interests down, but it requires them to be present in that moment. Having accessibility information available on store pages means that they can make an informed purchase by seeing what’s available before hitting that buy/download button.
Returnal for example, a PS5 exclusive due to become available in April 2021 lists no accessibility information on its store page. But after looking at it, our CIPT preview on Returnal found that the game has a range of accessibility features that are important to know about. While players can turn to sites such as us to read reviews and previews and learn more about the features and how well they’re implemented, there’s many that may not know about us. So being able to see a basic list of what’s available at all helps.
With the way accessibility in video games is progressing over these last few years, I would really hope to see these digital stores implement these additions or similar, and see these hopes become a reality. The result would be that many more players would feel more comfortable when digitally browsing. And that would be a win in itself.