Creating games for the global market: Localization and cultural considerations
- What is game localization
- Why is game localization important?
- Market expansion and revenue growth
- Providing better experience
- Avoiding law-related issues
- Building brand loyalty
- Meeting cultural expectations
- Challenges in game localization
- Challenge 1: Language barriers
- Challenge 2: Cultural differences
- Challenge 3: Technical issues
- Challenge 4: Time and cost constraints
- Challenge 5: Legal and regulatory requirements
- How to localize your game? A detailed algorithm
- Glossary and Style Guide Creation
- Voice-Over Production
- Linguistic and Regional Quality Assurance
- Master Up and Sign Off
- The impact of game localization
People play games all around the world more or less equally. The genres, platforms, and some game metrics may vary, but there are huge gaming communities more or less in every part of the globe. According to Imarc group research, the gaming market grew to US$ 202.7 Billion in 2022. And this growth didn’t happen in a single region.
With that being said, the importance of adapting games for regional languages and cultural peculiarities can’t be underestimated. If your game features at least some text, you’d better localize it for as many languages as you can. But it’s not an easy process, even for games with a little text. In this article, we will dive deep into the video game localization process, how long does video game localization take, try to figure out what is game localization for your particular game, and take a look at some of the best practices for game localization.
What is game localization
Game localization is the process of adapting video games for different regions and cultures by translating, modifying, and adapting content such as text, audio, and graphics.
The video game localization process involves many different aspects, like translating the game's dialogues, UI texts, and surrounding speeches, adapting graphics and art to fit the new market, and sometimes even modifying gameplay elements to suit the region better. Overall, the goal is to make the game feel as though it were developed specifically for that region or culture.
Why is game localization important?
It’s important to understand that the best practices for game localization are often bigger than just translating the text in the game. So, here are 5 reasons why localization is important.
Market expansion and revenue growth
Proper localization helps games reach a wider audience by making them accessible to speakers of various languages. And by expanding market reach with new gamers, localization can lead to increased sales and revenue.
Providing better experience
Games that are localized with decent quality are more engaging and immersive due to the fact that players can fully understand and relate to the content with no extra effort. Sometimes it changes the whole perspective of consuming the game. Take the example of Red Dead Redemption 2. If Rockstar cared to voice dialogues in more languages, non-English speaking players would pay more attention to the beauty of the world they developed instead of trying to catch on to the small-fronted subtitles.
Avoiding law-related issues
Various regions may have very different opinions about some things your game may feature, like violence, using some symbols, mentioning religious figures, etc. For example, Australia has pretty strict laws about reflecting violence in video games, so if companies want to reach the Australian gaming audience, which is 17+ million people, they have to censor the violence, which would be a part of localization.
Building brand loyalty
Gamers appreciate when games are localized for their region, which can lead to increased brand loyalty and positive reviews. A decent part of positive reviews on Steam include gratitude for localizing games for various languages.
Meeting cultural expectations
Localization allows games to be tailored to local cultures, which ensures that game content is appropriate and acceptable in different regions. For example, in order to maintain selling Wolfenstein: The New Order in Germany, Machine Games managed to change the nazi swastika symbol to another emblem in the German version of their game. Otherwise, the game would be banned, and Bethesda would have lost more than 32 000 sales in Germany.
Challenges in game localization
Making even a simple game fit many regions properly is not a walk in the park in most cases. Here are the 5 most common challenges publishers and game companies face while localizing games.
Challenge 1: Language barriers
Ensuring that the game is accurately translated into the target language can be challenging, particularly when dealing with idiomatic expressions, slang, or humor that may not translate well. We highly recommend involving people with philological and translational degrees and experience in your game localization process.
Challenge 2: Cultural differences
Adapting game content to suit local cultural norms and sensitivities requires careful consideration, as what is acceptable in one region may not be in another. If you have doubts about whether something from your game affects the representatives of some culture - make sure to find a consultant for this region.
Challenge 3: Technical issues
Text expansion and font compatibility can cause layout and spacing problems: Asian hieroglyphs take significantly less place than English words, while German may take much more. Also, make sure the game’s engine supports the special symbols that may occur in the language.
Speaking of audio and video, the files may require reformatting for different regions. And also, many games suffer from poor lipsync while voicing games.
Challenge 4: Time and cost constraints
Localization can be time-consuming and costly, particularly for larger games with extensive content. Development companies must balance the costs of localization against the potential revenue.
Challenge 5: Legal and regulatory requirements
Different regions may have different legal and regulatory requirements that must be met, such as age ratings, content restrictions, and licensing agreements. Make sure to consult lawyers for regions you want to localize your game to.
How to localize your game? A detailed algorithm
OK, you’ve defined a list of languages and a set of regional laws and other details you should take into account during your video game localization process. But how exactly should you do it? What is game localization for your exact game?
Well, it depends. But here’s the formula that’s very likely not to fail you.
These are the stages you’ll almost definitely face during the video game localization process:
- Glossary and Style Guide Creation
- Voice-Over Production
- Linguistic Quality Assurance
- Master Up and Sign Off
The number one mistake of a lazy localizer is translating the bare text, with no bothering about the context. You should NOT translate the game without playing through it and you should NOT ignore its atmosphere and creative ideas behind it. Please, take your time and go through the game, see the context behind its mechanics and storytelling, and only then start adapting it for other audiences.
Glossary and Style Guide Creation
No matter the chosen style of your game, its atmosphere is very likely to be influenced by the way you localize your game's key points. Losing some context and key meanings is so easy when you put too little effort into the video game localization process.
Make sure to put an effort into adapting at least the key parts of your game: mechanics, key gameplay moments, and the terms that are important for the correct understanding of your game’s purpose.
Creating a glossary with the set of the key moments of your game may save you a lot of effort while localizing your game. Also, make sure your localization efforts follow the style guide. It’s too easy to ruin the atmosphere of the game due to a lack of attention to the chosen stylistics.
Obviously, high-quality translation is essential in any kind of localization. We also recommend involving native-speaking editors and proofreaders or at least the ones with corresponding education for a certain region. Cross-checking between translators is also a great and useful thing to do for maintaining the high quality of text localization.
There are three key elements to a successful voicing for your game:
- The translation. No matter how great of a voice actor you hire for your game, they will definitely sound dumb and irrelevant if you put a little effort into the source text translation;
- The voice. No matter how well you adapt your game’s text to the atmosphere of your game, the wrong voice picking can ruin it all. Imagine Geralt sounding like Steve Buscemi or Ellie sounding like Greta Thurnderg. See, it ruins the whole effort and atmosphere.
- The lipsync. So many great gaming moments were completely destroyed by the improper lipsync, even with the best adapting and voice work. Make sure the characters of your game at least don’t speak with their mouth shut, or their mimics aren’t stable when they speak.
Linguistic and Regional Quality Assurance
With all due respect to your language skills and the effort you put into making your game feel better for the international audience, doing great localization often requires something more than that.
The audiences of other languages may have so many great and beautiful things about their language or culture you have no idea about. It’s not your fault - you can’t be a part of every culture on our planet. But if you’re up to bringing your game to the audiences of other countries, nations, or cultures, paying extra attention to details regarding how they see the world has the potential to bring their expressions of your game even better.
Master Up and Sign Off
Here’s when you put extra effort into the details. Law and cultural issues, accents, font parameters, regional stuff - any o it can both ruin or bring your game higher than heaven. Paying poor attention here might get your game into either a bad impression by some regions, or law-related problems you surely want to avoid. If you’re bothering to localize your game to some extra market, make sure to put some effort into polishing it.
The impact of game localization
When considering buying a game, it’s often the first question players bother to ask: does it support the language I speak? From a gamer’s perspective, playing the game in your language makes the first steps much easier. Help them with the first steps, and the chance they drop it will be lower.
Also, imagine playing more complex games, like hardcore RPGs or economic strategies, without fully understanding the language of the game. How much harder is it to enjoy a game, and how much higher are the chances of your player giving up on your game? Help them stay with your game and introduce it to more people - localize your game.
In case you need development, creative, or quality assurance support with your multi-language game - make sure to consider Pingle Studio as your development partner. Contact us, and let’s see how we can make your game attractive for more players!