The world of video game playing is growing in popularity. Chances are you know several people who play video games. But why do people enjoy playing video games? Studies have shown that playing video games can boost mood, help a person relax, and relieve stress. Plus, the games are fun to play!
Do you know what the very first video game was? Many people answer, “Pong.” This was like a game of video tennis for two people, played on the TV. However, the first-ever video game goes back much further. The very first video game was invented by Thomas T. Goldsmith, Jr., and Estle R. Mann. They patented a device called a Cathode-Ray Tube Amusement Device. This was an electronic device that had screen overlays, which allowed users to play basic games. The device didn’t look like modern video games, but it was the first video game.
Video games today are more sophisticated and increasing in popularity. According to Statista, about 2.7 billion people are currently playing video games in 2023. That number is expected to increase to 3.2 billion by 2027! As the number of players continues to increase, there’s a growing need for video game localization.
Video Game Localization vs. Translation
Video game localization is the process of adapting content to the intended target audience. It’s easy to mistake localization for translation, but they’re entirely different. While translation is a part of the localization of a video game, all elements of the game must be localized.
On the other hand, video game translation is involved with ensuring the language aspects of the game match the target language. While the translation of video games can be pretty involved, the process is focused only on the linguistics of the game.
From the list above, you can see that video game localization includes translation; the process is more in-depth and complex than dealing only with the linguistics of the game.
Localization of Video Game Elements
Successful video game localization means all elements of the game are translated and adapted to the target audience’s language and culture. The process ensures the game fits the culture and language to create an authentic experience for players around the world.
The following elements are changed during video game localization:
- UI, such as player stats, location names, item names, and more
- In-game dialogue
- Quest text and other information for players
- References to culture need to be matched to the target audience’s expectations
- In-game announcements
- Names for characters, weapons, and enemies
- Prompts and instructions
- Subtitles for dialogue
- Adapting music by changing songs to the target language, etc.
- Jokes, idioms, and more
- And more
Video game localization can be an arduous process involving all game aspects. Yet, the process is necessary to ensure that the video games meet the specific cultural expectations of the target audience. It’s essential to capture the game’s original spirit while using local references; balancing these aspects is difficult.
The goal of video game localization is to connect with new audiences in their own language and culture, generate new revenue opportunities, and build cross-platform demand.
Why Should You Localize Your Video Game?
Companies that choose to localize their video games can enjoy many benefits, including the following:
Generate More Downloads
Research has shown that those who play video games are more likely to pay for a game download if it offers an immersive experience.
Successful video game localization can result in more downloads than games that could have been localized better.
Increase Highly Rated Reviews
A localized game also leads to an increase in positive reviews than for a game that’s not been localized. A high number of positive ratings can also lead to increased publicity, sales, and more.
Create New Fanbases
Successful video game localization can also lead to the creation of new fanbases around the world. These gaming communities not only offer user feedback but also generate publicity for the game and other games created by the same developer.
Increase Launch Impact
Companies that launch new games into multiple languages at the same time may enjoy greater launch impact. The result can be additional opportunities for the game to succeed in the gaming industry, which is highly competitive. The result is an increase in fan awareness, which can lead to increased sales.
Gain Foothold in New Markets
Successful video game localization can also lead help a game developer gain a foothold in new markets.
The Challenges of Video Game Localization
There’s no question that video game localization is a complex process. Successful localization can mean huge benefits for the game developer; however, some challenges also go with the video game localization process.
Not Keeping Text Brief
One problem is that some translators forget to keep their translations as brief as possible. Why is this important? The message boxes within the game are often relatively small due to the small screens on gaming devices. With such a small space, it’s necessary to keep translations as short as possible while ensuring the information is clear.
Language and Style
Various cultures use a polite form of address even within their video games. The expectation may be that the game should address the player with this polite form. Otherwise, the player’s gaming experience may not be as enjoyable.
For this reason, translators must ensure that the game’s interface, instructions, notifications, and more are delivered in the appropriate manner for each culture and language.
Incorrect Use of Slang & Idioms
Players may also experience lower enjoyment if they find incorrect use of slang, idioms, or jokes during gameplay. The problem can result from translators who need to become more familiar with the culture of the target audience.
HTML Code Issues
There are also times when problems may develop from small pieces of code that may have become corrupted or are missing. This mistake, while small, can have a dramatic effect on the user’s experience.
Source Text & File Issues
Additional common problems with video game localization can include issues with the source text and files. The source text may include errors, such as misspelled words, missing words, and more. The file may also include errors such as incorrect names for game configuration and more. These issues also decrease user experience.
These are a few of the most common problems that can crop up during the game localization process. Many errors can be eliminated through the use of knowledgeable, experienced translators and an exceptional quality assurance process.
Avoiding these errors not only improves the gaming experience for users but can mean the difference between a successful game launch and one that fails.
Additional Tips for Video Game Localization
Here are some ways to ensure a successful video game localization process:
Pay Attention to the Target Audience’s Culture
Right from the very start, it’s essential to consider the cultural references of the intended target audience. Every aspect of the game must fit the target market’s culture, including currency, date/time formats, and more.
Another issue to watch during video game localization is formatting. The formatting for each language must be determined in the very early stages of a game’s development.
Formatting includes dialogue, time format, symbols, characters, and the direction a language is read.
Know the Local Laws & Regulations
One of the worst problems a game developer can encounter is failing to know the local laws and regulations of the target market. Each country has its own laws and regulations regarding video game content, such as age ratings and more.
Work with Native Translators & Localizers
Game developers also need to ensure they’re working with native translators and localizers. Translators and localizers will not be effective if they’re not familiar with the local culture and language. The result will be a failed video game.
As a game developer, it’s essential to make sure you’re working with a professional translation agency that offers the right people for the job. This is where Pollion can help.
How Pollion Can Help Video Game Localization
At Pollion, we offer professional translation and video game localization services. We regularly work with video game developers to localize their games and build a global fan base. Our linguists are highly experienced and knowledgeable in gaming and offer a high level of cultural and linguistic knowledge.
We can provide high-quality localized versions of games for various markets, so your game can launch across multiple markets at the same time. When you work with us, you can rest assured that our translators use the latest translation and localization technology, including Plunet and SmartCat.
Our video game localization process keeps you in the loop at all times. If there’s a question or an issue, we will let you know. And we strive to get your project done on time.
Case Studies: Successful and Unsuccessful Game Localization
In this section, we’ll review some successful and unsuccessful video game localization examples. We’ll start with “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.”
Successful Video Game Localization
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
This is an amazing example of a highly successful video game localization process. For instance, the localization producer translated the game’s content into various languages. To do this, they temporarily moved to each country where the game was being developed. Their goal was to develop a more authentic localization.
What’s more, this game is an RPG video game that requires more translation. Yet, the game has become readily accepted in each market due to the attention the localization provider paid to localization.
Uncharted Series is a series that’s also considered a great example of video game localization. The localization provider in this project planned for localization at the start of the project. The result was a more successful rate of localization than is commonly found in many video games.
Moreover, with each new release, the game has become recognized as having high-quality translations and voiceovers.
Ratchet and Clank Series
The Ratchet and Clank series is recognized as one of the best-localized video games across different markets. The high-quality translation allowed the game to become intensely competitive, so much so that it has become a favorite video game around the world.
The translated versions of the game have left gamers feeling it is very authentic to their cultures and languages.
Unsuccessful Video Game Localization
Skyrim is a large open-world RPG video game that comes with a high level of language challenges. Most gamers remind one another not to become too stressed if they don’t understand the meaning of text at first. The reason for all the frustration is the high number of translation mistakes in the text.
The mistakes were so bad that some players who don’t speak English as their native tongue bought the game in English!
Fallout 4 is another RPG video game that has a lot of audio and text. It required large amounts of translation work, too. However, the translations lack quality due to the many errors made throughout the series.
The translation quality was so bad that it has become a significant topic in the gaming community. Even so, this has become a very popular video game.
Video game localization brings many benefits, including reaching new markets, increased revenue, and creating a larger fan base for the game developer. However, proper localization requires hiring the right agency to do the work.
A translation agency must have linguists who have in-depth knowledge of the culture and language of each specific game market. In addition, the agency must have project managers who understand the development process, the language, game operations, and player preferences. A lack of knowledge and experience in these areas is sure to result in a video game failing to reach its target audience successfully.
The right translation agency, such as Pollion, can help ensure a successful video game localization process.