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Getting started with gaming translation and gaming translation services

Gaming has gone global, meaning that if you want your game to be successful, it’s time to localize. 

Worth more than $300 billion and with an estimated 2.7 billion gamers worldwide, to say the gaming industry is big is a slight understatement. With the increased means of online gaming and the ability to play with others from various regions across the globe, companies have had to step up and improve their customer experience and look towards multilingual translation services and player support.

Gaming localization, however, isn’t as straightforward as a website localization strategy. The interactive and visual aspect of gaming makes the translation process of games much more complicated. While gaming localization and multilingual player support may be more extensive, it is necessary to have a game reach the global market.

Why gaming localization and translation are important and why it’s different

Candy crush

Gamers and the gaming industry vary vastly depending on what part of the world you’re in. – Photo by Beata Dudová from Pexels

Expanding a game globally is essential to ensure the game’s success and longevity but knowing this aspect is just one of many challenges with gaming localization. A game that is poorly localized will feel the wrath of the gamers that have played it and can demolish all the hard work that has gone into the game’s creation.  

The video game market is expansive and widely different depending on what part of the world you’re in. For example, the popularity of different video game platforms, such as PC, console or mobile, varies by region. Currently, the top three video game markets worldwide are China ($40.95 billion), the US ($36.92 billion) and Japan (18.68 billion), but each of these regions tends to favour different platforms. Consoles are popular within English-speaking countries like the US, but they are harder to attain in other markets, whereas in China, mobile games rank at the top of the most played. These differences make cracking into these gaming markets challenging as release strategies and various localization strategies and support are needed.

Once you’ve decided where to expand, you need to consider all of the aspects of the game that need to be catered to for that market so that your gamers get the best experience. Gamer engagement is key to keeping people playing, spending money, and coming back for more, so any blunders in the localization process change the experience for your gamers and potentially result in poor sales and retention. 

Examples of successful and unsuccessful game localizations

Geralt of Rivia figurine

Geralt and his story are recognised worldwide. Can your game have the same impact? – Photo by Kasun Asanka on Unsplash

Translation blunders have brought failure for even the biggest companies, and the gaming market is no exception. With the direction that gaming is going, especially with most games having some online aspect to them, gaming translation and localization and refinement are quickly becoming tied to a game’s success.

Related: Words that altered history – translation blunders in international relations

The Witcher 3: Wild HuntAn example of how gaming localization should be done.

CD Project Red did such a masterful job of localizing the Witcher 3 that this 2015 game still holds sway today and is one of the company’s selling games with many active players. Its effective localization was executed so well that it could pass for a locally-made game. Gaming translation services and proper translation management were used for each specific market that the game was released. The production crews even temporarily moved to where the game was being localized to create a truly authentic local experience. The game’s voice-over local accuracy has been one of its most highly regarded features. 

The success of this game is a testament to the power of an organized and properly executed localization strategy.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2Gaming translation at its weakest.

For a gaming series as large as Call of Duty, Activision should have known better. There was a massively controversial translation error in this game that became so notorious that it’s still held up as a standard of what not to do with gaming localization. 

When Modern Warfare 2 came out in 2009, there was a mission in which one of the characters said, “Remember, no Russian” this was to remind the character not to speak the language. In the Japanese version of the game, however, this quote was translated to “Kill them. They’re Russians”. This translation was so controversial that Sony Russia decided not to release the game in its Playstation store. While this quote was the most notorious, the game was, overall, so poorly translated that gamers often had to ask for additional assistance to get through missions. The game has since been remastered to fix these mistakes, but the errors of the initial release are not likely to be forgotten.  

Taking the time to find the right translation solutions for your game will help to avoid disasters like this one.   

Common aspects involved in gaming translation

Knowing what translation aspects are needed for your game is essential, as gaming is an immersive, interactive, and media-rich experience that requires much more than a mere translation to be understood and appreciated by a new audience. Will your game’s story carry the same meaning or impact in a new culture or region? Does that culturally-specific joke mean the same thing in another country? Will the game’s imagery create the same atmosphere for a different culture? Do you require foreign language voice-over talent or foreign language transcription services? What about customer service access in multiple languages? 

Here is a brief list of the most common aspects of gaming translation to consider,

  • Visuals: All graphics, images, videos, artwork, and advertisements.
  • Text: Subtitles, the user interface menus, captions.
  • Audio: Multilingual voice-over recordings or dubbing for all speech and narratives.

Related: How to find the perfect voice for your multilingual voice over

It’s also easy to miss items such as the game’s social media pages and forums, customer service pages and contacts, marketing materials and advertising (digital and print), product packaging such as instruction manuals and user guides, localized product pricing, and website localization for the game.

Even with this short list, it’s obvious how much work is needed to ensure a quality translation and localization of a game.

Steps to prepare for gaming localization

PC Gamer

From PC to console gaming, a solid global strategy and setup should be considered. – Photo by Sean Do on Unsplash

If you’re ready to localize your game and don’t know where to get started, here are a few ways you can prepare for gaming localization,

  • Decide your gaming market and language: This is a big decision and should be based on the type of game you have and the amount of translation you require. For example, if you have a mobile game, the Chinese market would be a great place to look at localizing. Still, then you need to decide if you’re going to localize in Hong Kong or the Mainland, as each of these regions uses a different form of written Chinese.
  • Choosing a content translation services partner: Like it or not, proper translation management is essential. A translation partner is the key to getting the most authentically localized game possible. Partner with a translation agency that knows your region and goals and let them help you manage the process to get the best results.
  • Documentation preparation: Consider all aspects of the game. There may be legal agreements needing legal translation, so it’s important to gather all essential documents for the translation process. Prepare a translation kit that includes LSP agreements, workflows, test plans, style guides, glossary key terms etc.
  • Budget for misunderstandings and extra quality assurance: Have an established budget and guide that includes extra for gaming localization services, any potential misunderstandings, and extra quality assurance testing. International translation companies can help you develop a realistic budget for your localization goals.
  • Get gamer feedback: If your game is already on the market, reach out to your players and see what features they would like to have or what they feel is missing so that you can consider that when localizing. 

At Into23, we offer gaming translation services and expertise for any language and region. Make us a part of your game’s global success with our high-quality translations and expert translation management to help make your game the next big thing. Ready player one? Contact us today to get started.