Video game localisation is the process of producing a video game for a different market than the one it originated in.
Everything to do with the game is changed to suit the new market, from the name to the artwork on the packaging, the language in the game and instructional manuals, and so on. The aim is to do this so successfully that the game appears to have been made for that market originally, a process that requires a lot of work, attention to detail, and inherent knowledge of the country into which the game is being introduced.
Video game localisation is an exciting and rapidly growing sector, so it can make for an exciting career choice. Read on for the fundamental elements of the process and best practices to be aware of.
Why do video games need to be localised?
Localising video games is essential for delivering a high-quality user experience. The better the UX and gameplay is, the more units will sell, resulting in increased revenue.
The video game market value worldwide is expected to reach over $200 billion over the next few years, and companies that invest in localisation will have an edge over competitors that don’t.
Strategies to localise a video game
Localisation is a complex process that involves the project owner, game developer team, project managers, linguists, LQA specialists, translators, editors, UX and sound experts all working seamlessly together.
According to Mette Clark, head of Alpha Games, the key is that “linguists must have a close connection to the game…not only do they need to understand it, but they also need to truly feel it.”
Some of the most important elements of the localisation process include:
Before you start the process of localising the game, it’s important to make sure that its coding, architecture and user interfaces are ready to accommodate new languages.
This is referred to as internationalisation, and the aim is to make the video game as easy to localise as possible.
Here are the main elements that you need to consider when internationalising a video game:
- Text encoding that supports multiple languages
- Fonts that are appropriate for the languages you want to support
- Avoid using graphics, audio, regional dialects or colloquialisms that are very specific to a certain culture or region
2. Setting up the video game localisation workflow
The workflow needs to be as smooth as possible to avoid delays or missed deadlines. Here are three things that should be decided on early in the process:
- What stages are going to be included in the process and who is responsible for each stage?
- Will the localisation be done parallel to the game’s development or after the strings are tested?
- What tools will be used in the localisation process? To achieve the highest quality result, you’ll need access to things like comprehensive style guides, reference materials, glossaries and a Translation Management System (TMS).
3. Translation Management Systems
A TMS is a tool that enables the project manager to oversee and manage every aspect of the project. It keeps all the vendor information in one easily accessible place and allows real-time monitoring and progress tracking. This offers valuable insights into running costs and any issues that may arise along the way.
Other uses of a TMS include the following:
- A terminology management system that stores glossaries, style guides and reference materials — this helps to ensure consistency in the translation.
- Translation memory database that stores previously translated content and automatically matches it to your game’s resource files, saving time and money.
- Quality assurance (QA) system that automatically checks your translations for errors and inconsistencies in spelling, grammar, formatting, etc.
4. Cultural adaptation and transcreation
Cultural adaptation is one of the most crucial parts of the localisation process to get right. If you get it wrong, you risk offending or alienating an entire section of your target market. And not just for that one game either, but for future releases as well.
You are most likely to run into issues when it comes to cultural, political or religious references and anything to do with gender and sexuality. You also need to be mindful of ‘vulgar’ language — remember, a phrase that is perfectly acceptable and widely used in one country may be particularly offensive in another.
Some games, and even gaming genres, typically need such a high level of cultural adaptation that simply translating the language is not enough to make them appropriate for the target market. In cases such as this, transcreation can often be considered the best option. This is when you write entirely new content (based on the source material) that is more culturally appropriate.
5. Localisation testing & quality assurance
Localisation testing and quality assurance are some of the most crucial elements of the process. This involves ironing out linguistic, functional or visual errors, as well as making sure the game is free from bugs.
The best practices for video game localisation
- Allow plenty of time for localisation to ensure it is done right
- Use a TMS to keep everything running smoothly
- Conduct extensive research into the cultural norms and sensitivities of the target market
- Don’t hard code the game’s strings
- Use a glossary to ensure consistency in the translation
- Factor in time for recording and post-production of audio and voice-overs
- Make sure you understand fully the local laws and regulations of the target market to avoid running into legal issues
- Only work with vendors that specialise in video game localisation and have a great reputation
- Before the game is released, test, test, and test some more!
Begin a career in video game localisation
Video game localisation is an exciting field that is only going to continue growing as more and more companies seek to expand and reach new audiences around the world.
Here at International Achievers Group, we have built relationships with many of the world’s leading localisation companies so that we can provide exclusive opportunities for exceptional talent.