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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.

The history of translation and translation marketing

Marketing translation and translation, in general, have a long and robust history. How did the modern translation industry become what it is today?

What is translation? In its simple form, it means to turn symbols from one set to another, such as words from a body of text in one language to that of another. Translation and its emergence have played a very important role throughout history in bridging cultural and linguistic divides that have evolved through trade as well as a means of spreading traditions and religious beliefs. 

Where and how did translation evolve? How has translation changed today, and how will it be used in the future? 

Translation Origins

Sumerian bilingual text tablet

Sumerian bilingual text – Photo from Wikimedia Caption – “This is the first known Sumerian-Akkadian bilingual tablet which dates back to around 2270 BC. The practice of translation is believed to have begun in Mesopotamia.”

Scholars believe that writing began to emerge in humans some 5,550 years ago. First, with early pictorial signs in early Mesopotamian and Egypt, we have evidence of fully-formed writing platforms as early as 1300 BC in China. With the development of written communication, translation became a necessary means of communication for the growth of populations and trade. While translation started within the trade as a business translation for financial means, translation eventually found its way into culture, art, and religion as it proved to be an effective means of spreading your beliefs, values, and traditions to other people. 

The word “translation” and it’s meaning come from two different languages.  The word itself comes from Latin and means “to bring or carry across”, but its meaning is also derived from the Ancient Greek word metaphrasis, which means “to speak across”, which then led to the word metaphrase, which means “word for word”. While the meaning of translation comes from these ancient languages, it is believed that those in the Mesopotamian region were the first to practice the art of translation. 

St. Jerome Writing

“St. Jerome Writing” by the famous painter Caravaggio, painted in 1606.” – Image from Wikimedia.

One of the earliest known pieces to be translated is the Sumerian poem, the Epic of Gilgamesh, which was translated into Asian languages in 2100 BC. From there, one of the first known significant translations is that of the Old Testament in the 3rd century, as the bible was translated from Hebrew to Greek. Between A.D. 383 and 404, a man named Eusebius Hieronymus, or St. Jerome as he would become known, translated the bible from Greek to Latin. What made St. Jerome’s translation so innovative is that he first translated the text from Greek. Still, he then went back and checked his newly translated Latin text against the original Hebrew version (since he was fluent in all three languages) to increase the translation accuracy. St. Jerome also endorsed the transcreation method rather than the traditional word-for-word translation. In a letter St. Jerome wrote to his friend on the best methods of translation, he said,

For I myself not only admit but freely proclaim that in translating from the Greek, I render sense for sense and not word for word, except in the case of the Holy Scriptures, where even the order of the words is a mystery.”

With his masterful translation of the bible and the concepts that he created, St. Jerome became one of the most prominent translators in history. St. Jerome died on September 30th, 420, and since then, St. Jerome has become the patron saint of translators. September 30th is also officially recognised as International Translation Day. 

The evolution of translation

The earliest days of translation required the work of educated polyglots or at least bilinguals who would painstakingly translate passages of text by hand. This work would take translators months and sometimes even years to complete. The advent of the printing press made things somewhat easier as the translations became more consistent. 

With the printing press, documents only needed to be translated once before being typeset and then run repeatedly. While this method was more efficient in producing copies, if there were any errors in the translation, they too were also reproduced, and there wasn’t a quick method to fix this. As a result, any translations with errors used as foundational pieces for translation into other languages meant that further errors followed and compounded into the next translation. 

It wasn’t until the late 20th century, with the emergence of machine translation and machine translation post-editing, that made the translation process became more consistent.

Modern-day translation

Woman sitting at computer program

Machine translation has changed the translation industry forever. Machine translation post-editing has resulted in quality translations that are reliable and accurate.

With the emergence of machine translation and platforms like Google translate, anyone can get a quick and immediate translation of nearly any text. However, just like in the early days of translation, machine translation alone is prone to many translation errors, especially since machines can’t translate the cultural concepts, idioms, etc., that make human language so robust. Machine translations are decent at finding concordances at the sentence level but fall flat when making suggestions at a morphological level. This is why international translation companies now use machine and human translations in a process called machine translation post-editing.

Even with current technology, machine translation doesn’t compare to human translation, which is what makes machine translation post-editing the most effective means of translation. Translators use a machine to translate the text first, a process that helps expedite the translation process, and then once the content has gone through a machine, the translator will then go through it and edit and compare it to the original text. This results in an accurate, reliable, fast, and quality translation for the client or business.

Related: How to be a translator in 2022

Regarding translation management, translators today don’t need to be polyglots anymore. Still, most translation companies want translators who are experts in language pair translation, meaning a translator needs complete mastery of two languages, as well as subject-specific expertise (i.e. English-Chinese legal translation). Language pair translations ensure you get the most accurate and quality translation

Future of translation

iPad and world map

It’s easier than ever to take your business global- Photo by Geralt on Pixabay

While machines have made things easier in the translation industry, and I’m sure even St. Jerome would be impressed with the progress that has been made, as of yet, machine translation cannot operate alone and still requires the handy work of a professional translator. Using a professional translator is especially important in business as businesses today are not afforded the same luxuries of making translation errors as the early pioneers were. Companies today now use business translation services to ensure that they’re getting the best quality translation possible to represent and expand their brand. These companies use machine translation post-editing with qualified translation professionals to produce consistent results.

Related: Why Google Translate Isn’t Enough for Business

That is not to say that machine-alone translation isn’t being worked on, however. The Semantic Web or Web 3.0 is an extension of our current internet that is being worked on that aims to create instant translations of any language online, which would include any semantic or cultural content, and make the searches and the retrieval of this information universal. Web 3.0 aims to analyze every piece of data that is available on the internet and have it make sense in every language. This would create interactive pages that are no longer just text translations but include audio/voice and all other forms of media. While the Semantic Web sounds impressive, the fact that there are over 6,800 languages worldwide and that we are still confined to our current means of machine translation means that this idea is a very long way from becoming reality. 

In the meantime, quality translations are best left to the professionals at international translation companies like Into23. Into23 offers localization and translation services in any language with professional translators from all over the globe. Into23 can help your brand or business reach new markets in other languages and offer translation solutions for every industry. Check out our services today and get a free quote.