by Evelyn Stefani
Gaming Localization: Why It’s More Essential Than Ever
Localization for the gaming industry has become increasingly important. Gaming has become a juggernaut as large as the film industry, with projections indicating that it will surpass $138 billion in revenue by the end of this year.
Gaming’s audience is truly global, with over 2.8 billion gamers worldwide. While the Asian Pacific region boasts the largest share of gamers, North America remains a stronghold of game consumption.
Gaming’s massive scope presents significant revenue potential and a series of complex challenges when it comes to localizing content.
(As a reminder, “translation” in the traditional sense refers to the conversion from one language to another. “Localization” is the comprehensive adaptation of content to the local audience, considering the target region’s culture, values, traditions, and habits.)
Video games appeal to users by promising an immersive, interactive player experience. Nothing dims that promise faster than sloppy localization. As Edge Magazine put it:
At best, a good localization enables us to enthuse and empathize with the characters we are interacting with, making the alien recognizable and understandable. At worst, it turns an otherwise brilliantly realized game world into a soulless shell of confusion and lost potential.
Reaching the Maximum Audience
To reach a game’s maximum potential audience, its makers must prioritize quality localization from the beginning of the development process. Failure to do so can mean alienating millions within the global audience, limiting profit potential and stalling brand growth.
LEARN MORE: What Is Localization, and When Do You Need It?
Meanwhile successful localization efforts can transform a niche regional hit into an international phenomenon. Look no further than modern Nintendo games, which boast some of the most impressive localization in the industry, leading Nintendo’s characters to become household names across Japan and the U.S.
Fortunately, you don’t need to be as big as Nintendo to benefit from a globalized approach. At LanguageLine, we work with companies of all shapes and sizes to localize gaming experiences. This results in games that can be enjoyed equally by players of any background.
Why Gaming Localization is So Challenging
The gaming medium brings with it a range of distinct challenges that require specialized attention:
- Technical: Some games have hard-coded text fragments that are limited to a certain length. This is rarely a problem moving from English to Japanese since Japanese takes up approximately half the on-screen space as English. However, moving in reverse from Japanese to English or from English to an even lengthier language like German may force localizers to rewrite content to fit.
- Linguistic: The text used in games typically changes depending on a player’s choices and actions. To accommodate this variety, scripts are written in terms of interchangeable fragments rather than continuous narratives. While this grants writers more narrative flexibility, it also means that a localizer often must work with less contextual information than would be ideal.
- Reliance on Cultural Reference: Games often lean heavily on specific cultural expectations, whether to orient the player, to make jokes, or to further the narrative. Linguists must understand which references will be understood in the target market and which should be translated and localized. Capturing the original game’s spirit while incorporating local references is a difficult balance that can make or break a game’s reception in a new market.
- Multimedia Elements: Games often include text as part of the game’s art to improve the ambiance and orient players to the environment. Examples include in-game signposts, advertisements, graffiti, artwork, and more. Additionally, soundtracks and background conversations can significantly impact a game’s sense of place. In localization, teams must determine which elements to localize and implement those translations, given technological limitations.
- Referenceable Terminology: Many games invent new names for people, places, and things that don’t already exist. As such, there is no existing terminology for a linguist to reference when converting from one language to another. This means the linguist often must create new words in the target language as well.
- Trademarks: When linguists have to create new words or names in another language there is a risk that they might infringe on terms used in another game.
- Massive Scope: It is not just dialogue translation in a video game—it’s names for characters, weapons, enemies, and locations, as well as quest descriptions, UI elements, and more. Outside of the game itself, marketing materials, inserts, and guides must also be accessible in every target language. Taken together, these elements make translating a game into a single language challenging, let alone localizing for multiple markets.
How LanguageLine Can Help
LanguageLine’s translation and localization experts have a unique approach when working on immersive gaming. We combine our passion for language with an in-depth understanding of gaming trends to create end-to-end solutions in over 480 language pairs. From dialogue to end credits, we translate and localize games in a way that stays true to the original vision while inviting a broad new market to enjoy them.
LEARN MORE: The Six Most Important Assets to Ensure Translation Quality
Here’s how LanguageLine can help gaming companies:
- Extensive experience: For more than two decades, we’ve translated and localized thousands of projects, including games with millions of installs.
- Refined process: We will take the time to understand your development process, design the right localization method for you from scratch, and seamlessly integrate it into your existing workflows.
- More than 480 language pairs: We help you connect with local markets by localizing your game no matter what language combination you need.
- Tech savvy: We help integrate translation and localization into your development process by working with APIs and designing on-demand integrations.
- Versatility: We translate and localize strings sources, voiceovers, video clips, ads, screenshots, and App Store descriptions.
We invite you to contact us so that we can learn more about the opportunities that lie within your organization.
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