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Everything you need to know about video game localisation

video game localisation

In recent years we've witnessed the frenetic pace of technological development, and can see how it's made our day-to-day lives easier in so many ways. These technological advances have emerged across a number of fields, including the video games sector. As hardware has advanced, so too has the complexity and depth of video games, making them appealing products for any market across the world. In such a landscape, video game localisation is crucial to making sure they're a success in any of the markets they're going to be advertised and sold in. But are you aware of the pitfalls the process involves? Today we're going to look at everything you need to know about video game localisation.

What is video game localisation?

Video game localisation is a process involving modifying and adapting the original content so the resulting product can be sold in different markets. There's a growing demand for this type of translation, aligned with the current boom in the video games sector - a fully globalised sector that produces games that can be marketed in any country across the world.

What makes localisation so important in the current landscape?

When it comes to launching a product to market, a number of factors combine to make video game localisation an essential process, regardless of the scale. Firstly, the video games sector has experienced exponential growth over the last decade: it's no longer a solitary, occasional leisure activity - now it's a culture - one that connects people all over the world thanks to online gaming. This has prompted the development of global video games, ones that are much more sophisticated and marketed on an international scale. And they all need to be adapted to the language and culture of the target country. In the past it was standard practice to offer games solely in English - it being the universal language - but now this strategy could actually be seen as a competitive disadvantage.

And what's more, the boom in the industry and the sophistication of products being developed has given rise to some games becoming comparable with cinematographic works, with stories and dialogue worthy of major audiovisual products. And it all needs to be localised to ensure exactly the same message is transmitted in the new target language. If we look back to the past, the video games sector was one littered with translation mistakes. But now, thanks to social networks, we can see how far games developers have come in terms of leaving out this fundamental aspect when selling their products internationally.

What's the profile of the perfect video game localisation translator?

A bad localisation of a video game could lead to a bad reception in the gaming community, with critics pointing the finger at developers, and ultimately resulting in poor sales. This is why it's important to put the process in the hands of native professional translators who specialise in video game localisation. If not, the results could be disastrous. So what characteristics should the perfect translator for the task have? Some recommendations are:

  • They should have mastery of English, as a working language: this point is key, given that the vast majority of translations will be from English, either because it's the original language, or because the game has been first translated into English to then be translated into the main European languages.
  • They should have experience in the world of video games: it's important that the translator has experience of different types of video games (RPG, strategy, action, platform) so they're familiar with the type of language used and know how to recognise the pitfalls they might come across.
  • They should be creative: translators could face challenges like having to rename elements of the game (weapons, attacks, etc.) or adapting jokes and tricks which could completely lose their meaning with a literal translation.
  • They should be faithful to their audience: it needs to be absolutely clear to the translator that they're creating a new work, aimed at a new audience, so sometimes they might need to move away from the source texts to stop them contaminating the end result. The translation needs to be fresh, and it needs to be something the new audience will identify with.
  • They should know about the technical side of localisation: that localising is not the same as translating. They need to think about things like the character limit of a dialogue, or the use of variables and special coding within text content. Technically speaking, localising software has a lot in common with video games translation.

What elements need to be localised?

Video game localisation is a complex process, but exactly how complex it is will depend on the type of video game being localised. If a video game is being launched internationally, the elements that need to be localised are:

  • Menus and interface: this is what stands between the player and the game itself, and enables interaction between the two. Localising the menus and interface is key to ensuring total immersion in the game. A bad translation can ruin the user experience and make the game unplayable.
  • Dialogue: this is probably the most sensitive part in terms of localisation, where expressions which don't necessarily have a direct translation need to be adapted. It's also where culture comes into play - dialogue needs to be translated in such a way as to not offend the new user's feelings or beliefs.
  • Names of game elements: it's also important to localise the name of the various elements in a video game where necessary - names of characters, weapons, attacks, or terminology unique to the game. This is important when localisation is being carried out into languages from countries with particularly different cultures.

And when it comes to launching the game, there are a number of important aspects to consider, such as the various promotional channels:

  • Websites: if a developer decides to create a website in the language of the new target market, to promote their product, they should make sure it's fully localised. SEGA omitted to do this when they set up website for the launch of Judgement.
  • Social networks: the message, as well as any accompanying graphics, should be adapted in all communications on social networks. Similarly, you need to promote interactions from foreign users, as when people see opinions in their own language it can have a real impact when it comes to buying.
  • Graphics.

All in all, the video game localisation process is more complicated than it might seem at first sight, and developers need to give it much more consideration than before when launching their products on international markets. So if you need video game translation and localisation services don't hesitate to get in touch. With our help you can make sure any of your projects are a great success.