Microsoft’s previously promised sign language support for Forza Horizon 5 is about to arrive in a huge step forward for accessibility in games. The Xbox giant partnered with Forza developer Playground Games and the Deaf and hard of hearing community to create video subtitles for players.
The free updates arrives March 1 and includes American Sign Language (ASL) and British Sign Language (BSL) support for over 300 in-game cinematics. While accessibility options and resources have become more common in AAA games in recent years, sign language support is still very rare.
An extended blog post on Microsoft’s website detailed the development of the update. The company worked with the Deaf and hard of hearing community the entire way, from running actions through a company run by deaf people to hiring consultants to ensure that the sign language translations are accurate. Playground Games then needed to test the features and ensure that there were no bugs and that the content was accessible and approved by the community.
Speaking to IGN, accessibility consultant and teacher Cameron Akitt, who is hard of hearing, said that he didn’t think his suggestion to add ASL and BSL to Playground’s titles would ever get traction. “We should be able to access the same story beats and narrative components,” Akitt told Microsoft. “Otherwise, we’re only getting half the picture and not getting the full experience.”
This is not the first time an Xbox title has received additional accessibility features, but it’s a major step in the right direction. Sign language support is unusual in games, but Playground’s additions to Forza paint a hopeful picture for the future. “It’s very much like new territory because if a company like Playground can do this, why can’t other big studios go to the same lengths?” Akitt told Microsoft.
The free update launches tomorrow. Players can activate the feature in the game’s accessibility settings.