Video game localization is the process of adapting the product and content of a game to a specific market through translation and transcreation. It may seem like an obvious step in game development, but often times the benefits of the process are overlooked. These benefits include reaching new markets, a better game experience and player engagement, positive brand image, development of local partnerships, and increased exposure.
After all, why wouldn’t a gamer want to play certain games in their preferred language that reflects their culture?
How Game Localization is Done
In the past, localization was a tedious process that required extracting all of a game’s text from the source code. But with today’s technology, developers can code games in a way that consolidates the text so it can be exported and re-imported in a more streamlined manner. Once all of the text is extracted, it can then be localized.
The localization of a game includes a few key aspects. They are:
- Translation is the first and most obvious facet of localization. A game needs to be translated into the language of its target market. This can be done by hiring in-house translators or by outsourcing the work to a professional gaming localization company.
- Transcreation is another essential element of the localization process. Simply translating a game into another language will not provide players with the intended experience. The transcreation process requires developers to choose between foreignization and domestication depending on the narrative of the game and the demographic. Domestication will alter the game to appeal to the culture and world of the target markets, whereas foreignization will maintain aspects of the initial world creating a more foreign narrative for players.
- Testing comes after a game has been translated and culturized. The game is tested to ensure that everything works as intended, which includes functional testing (checking that the game plays properly after localization) and linguistic testing (checking for localization accuracy and quality).
- Art Services may be tasked with changing the characteristics of a character or world design so that it is adapted for the intended countries or cultures.
As well as adapting the game itself, localization can also involve changing the marketing campaign, such as trailers and website copy, to better speak to the target market. This helps increase the uptake and understanding of the game in new markets, thereby boosting sales.
Why Localize Your Game?
As mentioned, localization is essential if a game is to be successful as it ventures into new markets. But he benefits of localization goes beyond finding success in new markets. Here are some other benefits that come from the process:
- It helps to protect a company’s reputation.
Failing to understand a target audience properly and not localizing a game can lead to cultural mishaps that could severely damage a company’s reputation. Culture-specific references or norms may not always comply with something in the game creation. To expand into those markets, it can be immeasurably helpful to have native experts who understand the intricacies of both the language and culture.
- It can improve player engagement and retention rates.
In some cases, if a player can’t understand a game, they may not stick around for long. Taking the time to make the game feel like it was made specifically for the world they know, they’re more likely to keep playing.
- It can lead to new markets and player base growth.
Localizing a game makes it accessible to players in new markets who may not have been able to play it beforehand. This creates an invaluable opportunity to expand a game’s player base and increase business.
- It can help optimize marketing campaigns.
Once the game is localized, the next step can be to develop targeted marketing campaigns specifically for each market, which can lead to more effective advertising. The campaign will not only be seen by people who are actually interested in playing the game, but it will reach them in a way that feels more personalized and specific to them.
Current State of the Industry
The global video game marketing was worth an impressive USD 195.65 billion in 2021, and it shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. A large part of this growth can be credited to the increasing popularity of mobile gaming combined with the huge interest in gaming that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The growth in gaming created a substantial uptick in the demand for localized games. With that in mind, the video game localization industry has been rapidly growing in response. With the industry expected to be worth over USD 268 billion by 2025, there has been a better time to get involved with game localization.
Possible Future Developments
It is safe to say that the video game localization industry will continue to grow into 2024 and beyond. Here are possible developments that may occur in the future:
- The quality of game localization services will continue to improve as a gaming localization companies strive to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
- New technologies will emerge that make it easier to localize games. With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), there may be a rise in neural machine translation technology to translate text quickly and accurately. The use of this technology could allow game localization provers to offer services at a faster rate.
The Challenges of Game Localization
While video game localization is a great opportunity for companies to bolster their reputation and grow their businesses, it is not without its shortcomings. Here are some of the biggest challenges companies may face:
- Different languages have different levels of difficulty.
Some languages are innately more difficult to localize than others. As one example, languages that use a lot of idiomatic expressions or have specialized formatting, like right-to-left alignment, accurate translation can become more challenging. With increased difficulty, the risk of errors and mistranslations becomes higher creating a threat to a company’s reputation.
- A balance needs to be found between accuracy and fluency.
Finding the sweet spot between accuracy and fluency while localizing video games is essential to creating a final product that players can truly enjoy. On one hand, the localization should be accurate so players can understand the game and avoid frustration. On the other hand, the localization shouldn’t become so literal that it is difficult to read or feels unnatural. This can become a challenge for game localizers and should be considered when choosing a provider.
- It can be difficult to keep up with the latest trends.
The world of video games is constantly changing, which means new trends are always emerging. This can make it difficult to keep translations accurate and up-to-date when localizing.
When done right, game localization opens up multiple areas of opportunity for companies. However, the potential challenges associated with video game localization should not be underestimated when choosing a provider. A quality localization provider should be experienced and have a good understanding of these challenges to ensure beneficial localization.
Get Quality Game Localization Services with TransPerfect Gaming
Put simply, video game localization is vital to creating and marketing a successful game in global markets. At TransPerfect Gaming, we understand that every game is different, which is why we offer a tailor-made approach to localization to meet company specific needs. Whether you’re looking to localize a mobile game, PC game, or anything in between, TransPerfect Gaming has the skills and experience to get the job done right.
Our network of translators is comprised of the best of the best, ensuring accurate and reliable localization in every situation. Contact us today to learn more about how TransPerfect Gaming’s localization services can help you.