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How to Ensure Your Game Succeeds Internationally Through Video Game Localization

Gaming has been an international endeavour since its earliest days. Video game localization dates back to the arcade games of the 1970s, with Japan’s Pac-Man, which made it overseas in 1980, being one of the most iconic examples. With the popularity of video games all over the world, it makes sense to invest in video game localization. Below we’ll look at how video game translation ties into game technology and how you can use localization to take video gaming technology abroad.

The Basics of Video Game Localization

How do I localize a video game? You’ll need video game translation if there is spoken language in your game. Gaming technology has many parts that need to be localized, with video game translation playing an important role in the overall localization process. Translation company Tomedes recently explored this in its video game localization guide, which looks at the technical side of translation and localization. The translation element of the work starts with the game script, which has to be translated line by line by an experienced video game translator, with close attention paid to how the dialogue will work with the new target audience.

Once the script is finalised, it’s time for voice actors to come in and record it in the new language. The voice actors are typically native speakers of the new language that the script has been translated into, in order to conform with the target audience’s expectations. Other noises such as character yell or crowd cheers may also be updated to meet local conventions. Below we’ll go into how video game localization handles all parts of the game.

Video Game Localization in Action

China sits as the top earner in-game revenue, at $40,854M. The United States is in second place, with Japan and South Korea in third and fourth places respectively. There’s serious money changing hands in the video game industry, so it pays to get the localization process right.

What does localization mean in video games? It is the process that makes sure every part of the game fits into the new culture in an organic way. Beyond the translation itself, video game localization can include many details, from small to large. 

For instance, programmers have to change the code of the game so that it plays in the new language. The layout of the game must be designed for the new language. Even the game packaging receives updates to match the new language and local consumer expectations.

Localization might also handle app store text and language selection drop-down menus. For mobile games, little details like updating currency symbols for in-game purchases might come into play. Mobile gaming is expected to have a compound annual growth rate of 14% from 2020 through 2025, so even little details in mobile games can be extremely important in such a rapidly expanding market.  

Games often make heavy use of figurative language, advanced storytelling and cultural references. These elements can be hard to translate, since many of them don’t have direct translations outside of a certain culture. Plus, part of the gaming experience comes from the exotic and original feel of the game. That can mean you have to use sound judgement in how much to localize gaming technology. One example is if a martial arts game is over-localized, and the main character refers to his teacher as something other than Sensei. You’d instantly lose some of the cultural flavour of the game.

Given localization nuances like how much to localize, the video game translation itself and all the myriad details that go into localization, it makes sense to hire a translation agency skilled in video game localization. Below we’ll cover how to find the best video game translation company for your needs.

How to Find a Video Game Localization Company

It’s fairly easy to find video game localization companies online. You might search for local terms to find one in your region, like translation agency UK. You could also try searching by the type of translation you need, like the term video game translation. If you know many people in the game development industry, you can also ask around your professional or personal network for translation companies that work with video gaming technology. 

When you have a list of companies that might look good to work with, make sure to properly review their background. They should have professional experience with gaming technology and the video game localization process for multiple audiences. Ask to see past work examples, such as a portfolio or featured work.

Also, make sure to ask about what the video game translation process looks like. A good translation process should have stages of review and testing to make sure that the game is well-translated and playing well. 

By taking the time to assess the translation agency, you can ensure a positive video game localization process that lays the foundations for your game’s global success.