High-quality video game localization is key to their popularity and expansion in the global marketplace.
Although it might seem like one and the same thing, localization and translation are two rather different processes. Translation is a process of translating a certain text into a target language, in order to make the information written in one language understandable to the speakers of some other language. Localization is the process of completely customizing the product or service to the target market while taking into account the culture of the target market and the functionality of a product or service in that particular market.
Video games are an interactive medium that is constantly growing. The skyrocketing popularity of video games has made localization an inevitable step in the process of video game production and placement on the global market.
Video game localization is a specific service which ensures perfect functioning of a video game in the target language, providing gamers with an authentic experience of a game.
Video games are usually sold all over the world, which means they need to be adapted to a great number of languages and need to take into account cultural differences, ways of speaking and thinking. Even in the countries in which the same language is spoken (for example, Spanish), it is not recommended to use the same localized version of a video game because there are some linguistic and cultural differences between those countries as well.
Video game localization also presupposes adjustment to the legal and regional requirements of a target language and country, as well as to various cultural nuances that are specific to each language, country, and even its regions. It implies translation of video game texts, transcripts of audio materials and other video game components, as well as adjustment of settings, such as design, advertisements, colors, dates, currencies, keyboard features, and the like. Localization also has to take into consideration all cultural, historical, religious, ethnic and geopolitical characteristics.
The video game localization process:
Transcript – Video game transcript implies a text in a video game visible to the player (dialogs, descriptions, controls, menus, options, and more), but also a computer code that “remains invisible” but often has to be taken into account in order for translated text to perfectly fit into the context of a game.
Translation – All materials are then translated into the target language. According to our experience, if a project is large, with a tight deadline, the source material needs to be distributed to multiple translators. It is necessary to then assign a project manager who will coordinate the translators, but who will also make sure that the terminology used by the translators is consistent.
Adjustment – It is not enough for the translator only to review the text, correct possible mistakes, and customize the used terms. The translated material should be revised by someone who is deeply immersed in the world of video games, familiar with the common terms used in gaming, and who will, in the end, make sure that all of pieces of the translated material blend together flawlessly.
Once a translation is imported into a game, an additional and very useful service can be provided, namely quality assurance, which means testing of the video game in the target language. It that way, any possible remaining mistakes or inconsistencies can be found and that is when new ideas on how to improve localization and further adapt the game to the targeted market culture often emerge.
The benefits of having a professional
Developers often use translation and localization services provided by people or agencies that are not experts in video game localization. Some of them localize their video games on their own, hiring freelancers or even using the Google translate tool.
It is understandable that they try to save money on localization, since it may appear non-essential, but the results show that a well-localized game sells better. Today’s gamers are very demanding, as far as the gaming experience is concerned, and they want it to be as natural, as realistic and as accessible as possible. Since nowadays there are so many video games, people like to try out a lot of different ones and often do not spend too much time playing one game. The first impression and the very beginning of a game are crucial in deciding whether the gamer will continue to play and eventually buy the game.
Why is it important for a video game to be localized by experts?
- The language of video games is quite specific and requires plenty of industry-specific experience. Video game creators often hire professional writers who write unusual and creative scripts and adjust them to gaming context. Localization kits are permeated with source code. It is therefore essential for a translator not to impair the functionality of the game, to possess a certain amount of creativity and originality, but also to be well acquainted with the technology and have at least minimum knowledge of the programming language used.
- Translators are not always gamers themselves, so they often have no knowledge of the specific video game terminology. Likewise, developers are not translators, so they are not familiar with the specifics of translation services. Such restrictions may often lead to poor localization. The gamer/translator combo is ideal for good localization.
- Video game authors often collaborate with translators on matters of localization. That is why it is essential for a translator to have as much experience in playing video games as possible, as well as in working with developers, being acquainted with their work and way of thinking, in order to understand what they are looking for and what the final product should look like.
Some of the games we’ve localized are SpeedRunners, Shopping Tycoon, Pipe Push Paradise i Starpoint Gemini Warlords. So far we have localized video games from English into Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Brazilian Portuguese, German, Spanish, French, Italian and Russian.