Video game localization has become a growing trend in the recent few years, especially as gaming is becoming a more popular industry that is not limited to a certain age group anymore. With the rise in the number of casual gamers, thanks to games like Fortnite and Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG), video game developers and publishers have grown more aware of the necessity of hiring a game localization company to extend their business to new regions.
What Is Video Game Localization?
So what is video game localization exactly? For those who are not familiar with the term; localization in general means the adaptation of content to better suit a specific local audience’s needs and tastes. It pays close attention to the culture and the traditions of a certain local market. It is different from translation, whose main target is to convert a text from a source language (SL) to a target language (TL).
While this process is commonly known to be directed towards textual contents like website localization, which also includes visual localization, there is no rule against making use of localization in other mediums, such as the field of video games.
However, since video games are audio-visual products, a video game localization process takes more than simply translating scripts of story campaigns. It can also entail the following:
- Changes to art pieces included in the game
- Modifications to cinematics shown throughout the playthrough
- Recording entirely new audio packages in the target language
- Cutting certain parts of the game and replacing them with another
Take the FIFA franchise published by Electronic Arts Inc. (EA) for example. Starting from 2011, every version of FIFA has been localized into 18 different languages and released in 51 countries. In the Middle Eastern version, there is always Arabic voice commentary by the most famous commentators in the area to give the players a lifelike experience.
Ever since, the company has paid more attention to localization, releasing fully-localized menus in modern standard Arabic, in addition to adopting website localization as a means of marketing, which is also available in multiple languages.
Why Do You Need Video Game Localization?
While the video game localization process can be a daunting, taxing endeavour, it is one that is surely worth your while, since it will be reflected in your sales revenues, in addition to other pivotal reasons that we will be summing up for you in the following sections.
- Video Game Localization Can Spare You a Ban
At this point, it is known to everyone that each country has its set of rules and traditions that not only outsiders who visit those countries for pleasure should respect, but also, and most importantly, video game developers who aspire to make a profit and a name in any of these countries’ markets.
Many video game publishers have come to a dead end with countries that impose strict rules on what goes and what doesn’t go on their markets. One of those companies was Sony. The Last of Us Part II, published by Sony Interactive Entertainment was banned in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia for mature content that doesn’t conform to the state’s conservative traditions and religious beliefs.
As a game developer, you might think that being an industry giant can exempt you from the rule, but it surely didn’t with Take-Two Interactive’s Rockstar Games. Grand Theft Auto (GTA) is a very popular franchise published by the company, with its fifth instalment GTA V being the second highest-grossing game of all time. However, the franchise has a history of bans across multiple countries including Thailand, Venezuela, Pakistan, South Africa and Argentina, due to its gory and explicit mature content.
Video game localization is surely to save you time and money, since you will be working with the people’s best interests at heart from the beginning, making sure that they are comfortable playing your game.
- Vision Precise Deliverance
A number of video games are met with unforgiving criticism or lack of interest on release in some local markets because of the complex nature of the topics discussed and a language barrier is the first factor to blame.
Even if your game is a Game of the Year (GOTY) worthy nominee, it can be denied that title by the majority of players who don’t speak English as a first language if they fail to understand what you are trying to say.
Remember, not everyone is willing to go the extra mile to meet you halfway. In most cases as a game developer, you need to be where the player wants you to be, especially casual players, while at the same time making sure that your creative vision is not spoiled, and video game localization is the best method to solve this problem.
- Video Game Localization Contributes to Brand Awareness
Brand awareness is a marketing term that refers to how well-known your name is by the audience. In the Middle East, some of the gaming industry goliaths have managed to make a name for themselves in the area by employing video game translation as a primary element to ensure brand awareness.
Many players in the Middle East will remember Ubisoft Entertainment, the French publisher and developer, as one of the pioneering companies that recognized the importance of localizing their content to cater to the Arab players.
Almost every game developed by the company now is released with a Middle Eastern version that has menus, subtitles, social media pages, websites, and dubbing in modern standard Arabic.
This decision managed to gain the already-popular company more recognition in the Arab world as many fans wait for their releases on a yearly basis.
- Video Game Localization Can Show Originality
Some video games draw inspiration from cultural diversity, which means their events take place in a foreign culture or the game world has the capacity to include more than one culture. In this case, you will need to show authenticity by making each culture within the game distinct in its own right.
If you are making a game in the Middle East, you will need your non-player characters (NPCs) to speak in either flawless modern standard Arabic, or better by making them speak with a dialect, depending on where the game world is established.
One of the great examples is a game called Dragon Quest 11, which allows the player to navigate through a number of cities based on real-life countries. Each area in the game is completely different from the other, and some even speak different dialects to give the player a sense of immersion.
Video Game Localization Process: How Much Time Does It Take?
As we already mentioned, video game localization is a taxing journey, so to answer this question, we need to go through the steps of a video game localization process to have a better understanding of it. Here are some of the strategies you should exploit for a refined product:
Before taking any step, you first need to identify your goals and get thorough information about your game.
Knowing your target audience is a vital key to ensuring the quality of your localized game will appeal to them. In this light, a video game translation team along with quality assurance and your marketing teams should be tasked with playing through the game to determine which parts need localization and which can pass untouched, since some cultures can share common traditions and mindsets.
This step can take over a week and even more if your game is an open-world game like GTA. An open-world game will need delicacy and precision because it is the closest kind there is to real life, in which players are allowed to explore almost every part of the game map freely and interact with NPCs.
- Choosing Software Tools for Video Game Localization
Once you are comfortable and know what needs to be done, you should choose a set of software localization tools to help ease your process.
A software localization tool will guide you through a video game translation process and help the translation team choose terms that should seem original in the target language for your menus, settings, in-game legal details, and the actual content of the story campaign. This can also be used for website localization for marketing purposes and communication.
Relying on machine translation can save you time, but it is not wise to count on it alone. After putting your in-game data through localization software check, the translation team should revise to make sure that there aren’t any problems or awkward translation.
This can occur due to plot-related unique terms used in the source material that the tool is not yet familiar with, or translates them in an unintended way that doesn’t align with your vision as a developer.
As an example, if you are making a fantasy role-playing game (RPG), unique terms are liable to exist to give a unique experience to players. In this case, a human factor must interfere to avoid confusion.
- Localization Phase
After preparing everything you need, the localization phase comes as your main event. In this phase, you start putting all the gathered data into use.
This includes translating the texts, changing some in-game visual elements to be culturally accurate for your audience, and recording new audio packages like songs or background music as well as voice acting material.
These should all be done while bearing in mind the compatibility of localization with your game and your creative vision.
Briefly, a video game localization process can take months of hardworking, a year, or even more to guarantee quality. It all depends on the developer’s vision and the game localization company hired to undertake the mission. Luckily, with the Translation Gate agency, you don’t have to wait for too long to have your game localized.
At the Translation Gate agency, as one of the main game localization companies, we provide unparalleled video game translation services in over 160 languages and 12 years of experience. This includes computer games, online games, console games, and mobile games, so don’t hesitate to contact us and request your quote for video game localization.