At first sight, translation and localization may seem indistinguishable from one another, but the latter is an even more complex and extensive process. Localization seeks to completely adapt products and/or services to the target market so as to give the impression that they originated from there. The culture of the target market should be considered, as well as the functionality of the product or service in that area.
This service involves, among other, adaptation to the legal or regional requirements of the target language or country, as well as to numerous cultural nuances specific to each language, country, even religions thereof. It includes text translation, transcript of audio materials and other components, but also adaptation of different elements such as design, marketing messages, colors used, dates, currencies, keyboard layout, etc.
When localizing, all cultural features, historical, religious, ethnic and geopolitical features of the target area must be kept in mind. Even in cases where seemingly the same language is used in multiple countries, using the same localized version of a text in all countries is not recommended because there are significant linguistic and cultural differences between them.
Take Spanish, for example. There are approximately 300 million Spanish language speakers in 22 countries today. A single Spanish version of a game won't necessarily satisfy all players from the Spanish speaking world. Hence, people from Spain very likely won't be happy with Mexican Spanish localization because it will not sound convincing to them. Such was the case with the video game Halo 2. Microsoft released the version localized for the Latin American market in the Spanish market as well, then withdrew it due to a flood of negative comments. After that, the English version without Spanish subtitles was released in the Spanish market, and – you've guessed it – the comments were disastrous once again.
Besides colloquial expressions and same names for different things, good localization takes into consideration whether people are more "polite" in a given country or region and whether they address each other more formally or informally, whether they use word "please" frequently or do their requests sound more like commands, when and where do they use formal language, what are their preferred date formats and many other "little things" that have a major impact on how users experience a product or service.
Many clients have recognized us precisely in the area of software and video game localization.
The video game industry is currently worth approximately 75 billion USD, and it is estimated that this figure will grow to 90 billion USD by the end of 2020. A video game translated into English will reach only 27% of the market, which means that the remaining 73% remains untapped.
Many video game players won't even download a game unless it's available in their mother language. Localization not only ensures that a video game performs flawlessly in the translated language, but it offers the best user experience for players who can then enjoy the full experience the game has to offer.
Video game localization process:
ESTABLISHING TERMINOLOGY – Just like the translator needs to get to know the text before translating, see what terminology is used and gather as much information as possible on the topic, the person localizing the video game need to become familiar with it first. This includes getting to know the content, communicating with the developers on specific terms, learning about the game and its target audience.
TRANSLATION – After getting to know the material and establishing the terminology, the so-called localization kit containing the source files is translated to the target language. If it is a large project with a short deadline, the materials have to be split and assigned to several translators, while taking care not to jeopardize the quality of the work done. A project manager, who will coordinate the translators, make sure the terminology is used consistently and the job done well and on time, is appointed for the project. All materials are translated to the target language and the translated text must be fully compatible with the context of the game.
ADAPTATION – It is not enough for the translator to go over the text, correct errors that may have occurred and adapt certain expressions. The translated material should be revised by a person who is familiar with the world of video games and the established terminology used, a person who will adapt the entire translated material accordingly.
QUALITY ASSURANCE – In certain cases, developers may require the localization company to playtest the localized versions of the game in order to find any remaining errors or omissions.
PROFESSIONAL LOCALIZATION BENEFITS:
For the uninitiated or developers/publishers on tight budgets, localization may not seem essential to the success of a video game or an application, so the allowance for it may be a bit skinny, but today's gamers are extremely demanding. They need the gameplay experience to be as natural, as realistic and as accessible as possible. Since the number of games today is immense, people want to try as many as possible and often don't take the time to get to know a game before hopping off to the next best thing. The first impression and the very beginning of the game is crucial in deciding on whether the player will keep playing, that is, spend money on the game.
A video game that does great on one market can completely flop in another if not localized. In-app payment methods, key words, even swear words – all these are details that make the difference between a professionally localized game and a merely translated one.
If you try to localize your video game on your own after all, or if you hire a freelance translator with no experience in localization, please don't make Google Translate your main translation source, use proper, human gaming translators, or else you’ll end up like Zero Wing.
Some of the games we've localized are Starpoint Gemini: Warlords, Shopping Tycoon, Pipe Push Paradise and the huge indie hit SpeedRunners. Our job was to localize these games from English to Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Brazilian Portuguese, German, French, Italian and Russian.
Whether you want to increase your download count, stay competitive in a tough market, get ahead in app store rankings or make your international users feel important – localization is the key to success.