If you are on this page, I am sure you are familiar with the term “localization”. Maybe you are a game developer who wants to try out game localization or maybe you are a language enthusiast who wants to learn more about game localization.
What is localization? What is video game localization? Why do we not say game translation? What makes game localization different? Why should I localize my games? Why is game localization important? If these are the questions you have in your mind, well, you are in the right place!
What is localization?
Localization is adapting all aspects of a product or content to a specific location, culture, market, or region. The main objective of localization is for the content to feel like it has originally been made for the target audience, and in order to capture that feeling, adapting everything is a must.
Although localization is a term we might be acquainted with, many people don’t know what it actually means because there is a misconception that localization equals translation. Yet this is not the case at all. Of course, translation is involved in the process of localization, but there is so much more to it than just translating words. Furthermore, there are different kinds of localization, and each kind has its own specificities and difficulties. Today, we will be mostly focusing on perhaps the most fun type of localization: video game localization!
What is video game localization?
Most of us love playing video games whether on our phones, laptops, or game consoles. It is quite enjoyable, but there is one big problem that frustrates us: the language barrier. We live in a world where English is the lingua franca. Most game developers and publishers release their games in English regardless of where they are based. They think that by releasing them in English, they will be able to generate more income since the majority of the world can understand English. If I had to pick one language for my game, it would probably be English. But why choose only one language? Video game localization to the rescue!
Game localization is adapting your game to the target audience’s language and culture so that you can present your game as if it were made for that market. Game localization encompasses textual content such as user interfaces, subtitles, captions, and in-game texts, and creative content such as artwork and in-game graphics. Even by localizing your game into just one language, you can open your game world to millions of people.
What makes video game localization different?
So, we talked about localization and video game localization, but what really makes game localization different? All types of localization possess the same basics, yet there are some elements that make game localization a bit more challenging. To dive deeper, let’s take a brief look at two other types of localization: software localization and app localization. Software localization is adapting software to a target locale. App localization is quite similar; it is adapting your app to a target locale. The end goal here is to reach more people by getting rid of linguistic and cultural barriers. These two types of localization are not too different from game localization. After all, games are also apps and there is software involved. However, when it comes to game localization, there are some features that need special attention.
Creativity is a must!
Creativity is always important while translating a text that has room for it. But it is a must for game localization since we are trying to recreate the game in a way that feels natural to the target audience. This means that idioms, slang, audio, plotlines, character names, and event names should all be adapted creatively.
Consistency, consistency, consistency!
No dedicated gamer wants to see a sloppy and inconsistent localization. If one thing is translated as one thing, it shouldn’t be translated as some other thing in a different sequence. This is especially crucial when it comes to story-driven games where the player lives through a story where he might meet different enemies and allies. When terms are not translated consistently, players get confused and this might have an adverse effect on the game itself.
Culture is the keyword!
During the localization process, we must always keep culture in mind. A character’s name could be totally harmless in one culture while it can be offensive in another. A plotline could be entertaining in one culture but irritating in another. There might be specific guidelines, and nudity and violence may need to be censored. These issues should be discussed with the developer or publisher team of the game.
Since game localization is an extensive and long process, you might wonder why you should even bother with it. Although it might seem exhausting, it is rewarding in the end.
Why is game localization important?
Video game localization is especially important when it comes to generating more income, raising brand awareness, building a good reputation, increasing the playing time, and eventually growing your business.
Of course not everything is money, but game developers want to generate more income by selling more. In order to sell more, they should be able to reach more people. This becomes much easier if the game is localized into multiple languages. According to a survey conducted by CSA Research, 76% of the participants would choose to buy a product with information in their own language. Yes, many people do understand English, but they wouldn’t choose it over their mother tongue. By localizing your game, you reach new markets and make your game global.
Localization is also a great way to raise brand awareness. Localizing into multiple languages shows that you care about your players and that you are trying to be more inclusive. As a result, this builds a good reputation and makes the game much more attractive. Localization could also increase the playing time of your game. In the end, localization equals growing your business.
How to ensure high-quality game localization
I think we have established why you should localize your games. Let’s move on to how you should localize. Localization should be conducted professionally. Bad localizations can affect the reputation of your game, which leads to a loss of money. Choosing a professional agency with a dedicated professional game localization team is the safest way to go.
Also, as stated before, localization is not just translation. If you want a smooth localization process, there are other elements to consider, such as LQA, voice-over, and testing. By handing your game to a professional team, you can rest assured that you won’t have to worry about the quality of the localization or the hassle of finding different teams to handle the previously mentioned aspects of localization.
Expanding into new markets can be scary and tricky, but if you can find the right team to help you every step of the way, that process can go seamlessly. It may seem costly to choose a professional game localization team with linguists who are native speakers of the target language, but it will all be worth it in the end. Your target audience gets the language support they need (in a way that speaks to them), and you earn revenue and the trust of your gamers. It’s a win-win!
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