With over 89 million game console owners in the USA, it’s no wonder that gaming has become such a popular niche. What’s more, as an industry it’s worth over 18 billion dollars! With an increase in games, comes an increase in global business as gaming isn’t something that can be confined to the borders (and languages) of the US. But how do we make sure that English-speaking games are accessible to everyone the world over? And how do we give American gamers the chance to play awesome games that are designed abroad? The answer to that is game localization!
What is game localization?
To put it simply, game localization is a fancy way of saying game translation. The reason it’s referred to as localization and not game translation is that it takes into account more than just the words. Localization covers other things that could impact cultural suitability, like images, dates, numbers, etc. If something won’t work in another market, it’ll get changed.
It’s also important to mention that game localization is never a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. There are loads of different types of games out there, and each one needs a slightly different approach. So, let’s touch on that next.
What goes on behind the scenes in game localization?
You’ve probably heard that user experience is vital when it comes to websites? Well, it’s exactly the same for games, too. This is why UX is one of the major things that goes on behind the scenes before the game design process has even started. Different games need different consoles, which could mean PC, Xbox, Playstation, Mobile games, or other types of game consoles etc.
Plus, it all comes down to money, so are these games going to be a one-off payment? Are they going to be free, freemium or on a subscription basis? It doesn’t really matter what type of style you go for, as long as the game is consistent, immersive, and just the right amount of addictive!
Next, the storyline is a major factor, and this is why localization is so important, as every single player needs to follow the story, no matter what language they speak. It’s the storyline that compels you to play the game, meaning that simple graphics like they have in PokemonGo are totally OK as long as it gets players returning. Of course, the amazing quality of Spiderman’s release on PS4 included stunning graphics, but the creation of its own take on Spiderman universe was what really won over the audience.
Developers also have to think of game mechanics, and how easy the game is to play. If you make a mistake, like what happened in the original Doom (where a shot would count even if it was obvious you missed!), it could have a real impact on your game’s profitability. This is why you need to keep everything easy to understand, and then localize the instructions, of course, so that everyone can make the most of the cheats and shortcuts!
Finally, it’s important not to be repetitive (because let’s face it, World of Warcraft has a bit of a reputation for not being all that interesting!). Game designers have to think about extra plots after the player has completed the game, and if they’re going to try and encourage gamers to replay the game or not. And this is important in-game localization, too, as the language used needs to be varied and reflect the energy and atmosphere of the game.
Our top language tips
Now we’ve covered what goes on behind the scenes, let’s take a trip back to game localization and how to handle the whole process. The first tip we can give you is to use a team who’s experienced in dealing with localization. A simple linguistic mishap could damage the success of your game, so using professional really pays off.
Next, you need to keep UX in mind. Some languages (like Asian languages) are shorter than others, and the likes of German take up more room than English, so you need to make sure there’s enough room for the text in your text boxes. If not, you’ll need to make sure you’re OK with your team adapting the translation so that it fits.
And that’s where testing can be really handy. Multilingual game testers will test both the technical functionality of the new language version of the game, but language aspects, too. They’ll make sure that the text fits, it makes sense, and there are no minor errors that slipped through before you’re ready to launch. Plus, are you going to be providing voice-over for spoken text? Or go for subtitling instead?
While game localization may seem like an easy process, it’s really worth doing it properly as there’s a lot that could go wrong. Here at USTC, we’ve got a great team of passionate gamers who can help adapt your language to wherever you’re looking at targeting. So, get in touch and we’ll be more than happy to have a chat with you.