Best Practices to Achieve High-quality Video Game Translation
By: Shahzad Bashir
The video game industry is a vast and rapidly developing one, holding millions of game players in its folds. With the increase in internet usage and greater knowledge concerning video games, it is hardly surprising that there are more than 3.09 billion active video game players in the world today. This figure is likely to shoot up to 3.32 billion players by the end of 2024. Consequently, as the number of video game players increases, so does the need for video game localization and translation.
Have you ever stopped to ponder what video game translation really is? Localization and translation of video games are an integral part of the success of many digital companies across the globe. Before we dwell on the steps for achieving global video game success, let us take a look at what video game localization and translation is.
Video Game Localization and Translation–a Brief Look
Video game translation refers to the conversion of a game’s text or dialogue from the original language to a new one. This translation requires deep linguistic knowledge and expertise that is possible only through the services of certified and professional video game translators and localization experts.
In order to provide a gratifying and immersive experience to game players, it is essential that the video games are localized and translated properly and with acute precision. Translation and localization are important elements of the whole video game globalization journey as it needs to be right in terms of dialogue and packaging language. This is the reason why the video game industry relies on localization and translation to make their globalization journey easy in the highly competitive game market.
Why You Should Translate Video Games?
Video game translation involves more than just the literal translation of video game elements and content. According to Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2022-26, the game industry could be worth $321 billion by the end of 2026. This means that a game developer company that chooses to localize its games has a greater chance of capturing the market share than a company that chooses not to translate its games.
Some of the main reasons why a game developer should opt for translating and localizing his games are:
The global market and the growth of the internet provide a horde of opportunities for game-developing companies that choose to localize their games. For example, China houses approximately 900.6 million internet users and generates around USD 36,540 million annually
The United States has some 273.7 million internet users, and consequently, produces a game revenue of USD 35,510 million annually
Some regions of the world, particularly the Republic of Korea, Germany, and the UK all generate more than 5,000 million in gaming revenue individually, which is why it is fruitful to target these regions.
The biggest benefits of translating and localizing games are maximization of returns, a chance to connect with new audiences, generating new opportunities for revenue, and an opportunity to build a reputation that supports cross-platform demand.
Best Practices for Video Game Translation and Localization
Video game developers should opt to follow these translation and localization best practices to ensure their games exert the desired impact on the global market
Consider cultural norms
Before diving into the international game market, it is important to remember that your game will have to find its place among the global audience across different regions which are diverse in language, belief systems, religions, and traditions. A video game localization process, therefore, should consider cultural references such as currencies, date and time formats, salutations, and the careful use of colloquial language.
History and cultural symbols need to be taken into account during the video game translation process. For example, video games that are based on Norse mythology are popular in the United States. However, these video games are unlikely to be popular in the Asian market. Likewise, a good name for a video game in one region can be totally unacceptable in another market, which is why game translation services should carry out thorough research before providing translation and localization services.
Establish communication with translation experts
Some of the major problems that game-developing companies across the world face when they choose to step out of their native markets concern problems with resizing, grammatical issues, truncating, interpretation issues, and breaching of character limits. Many times, such mistakes are a result of a failure of proper communication between the game developers and their translation partners. This is why it is essential that translation experts as well as marketing analysts be consulted first to advise on which languages a particular game should be translated into.
Additionally, ensuring the availability of professional and certified translation experts ensures the production of high-quality translations of video games. In some cases, games may be published by different companies than the developers. When this occurs, it is still important to collaborate and communicate with professional translation experts in order to avoid wasting potentially valuable resources such as time and costs.
Arrange formatting correctly
One of the mistakes that video game developers and companies make is incorrect formatting of video games during the translation process. This formatting needs to be addressed correctly during the early localization stages. For example, video games that are present in the English language need to be formatted correctly when translate into French or Spanish language. The reason is that English is a concise language, while languages such as French, German, and Spanish take up approximately 30% or more space than English does. In addition, while formatting, translation companies need to leave more room for time formats, dialogues, symbols, and characters. Any discrepancies in these elements can have a huge impact on a game’s interface and appearance. The rule of thumb is to have a flexible design that helps to avoid any problems with game formatting. This involves ensuring that all localizable game assets should be separate from the code and should have well-defined places for expansion. It is also imperative to keep in mind that some languages read from right to left and some languages contain more characters than letters, which will require formatting accordingly for proper translation.
Be aware of local regulations and laws
A major challenge that video game developing companies face during the globalization process is the threat of their games getting banned. Different countries have different laws and policies governing video and game content. Likewise, the age rating also varies from region to region. The video game content must be modified according to these age ratings, as some content that may be acceptable in a region for a 12-year-old may be given an 18 rating in another region. For example, the game-rating system in Japan varies from other countries’ ratings, depending on whether a PC or a console is used. Likewise, rules about violence and nudity are much more strict for PC content. A game translation services company also needs to be aware of the cultural symbols in different countries. For example, the “swastika” symbol is illegal in many Western countries like Germany, which entails that these localization companies should be aware of the laws and regulations concerning video games and graphics.
Keep proper documentation
After determining which languages should be chosen for executing the translation of video games, the next step that game-developing countries must keep into consideration is ensuring essential preparatory steps for localization and translation. It is imperative to assemble the important and critical documents before the translation process can start properly. These necessary documents that should be submitted to video game translation and localization companies include various checklists, workflows, test plans, project budgets, LSP agreements, style guides, glossary of key terms, and other important documentation. Submitting all these documents to translation agencies ensures that they are on the same page as the video game developing companies regarding the localization of video games.
Ensure proper budgeting
Last, but not least, before embarking on the mission to translate and localize your video games for international game players, it is important to take a look at the budgeting. Many companies fail to make an impact on the target market, simply because they have failed to manage and plan localization budgets properly. This budgeting and planning should ideally start in the pre-translation phase of the video game translation process. A failure to properly plan the budget can result in misunderstandings and confusion, which will ultimately have a detrimental effect on the translation quality of games.
To ensure problems with budgeting do not occur, video game developers should communicate with game translation companies in advance to calculate the budget for the entire project. These companies should additionally reserve some additional funds for unforeseen additional costs and should adhere to any legal restrictions that may be applicable to systems for payment transactions for global vendors.
Video games are all the rage in these recent times, thanks to the high internet penetration and widespread popularity of global games. This offers a lucrative opportunity for game developers who can localize their games for these international game players. Of course, this localization and translation can best be handled by translation experts and agencies proficient in game localization, but these game developers should have proper planning and research in place to avoid falling into any localization trap and getting eliminated from the international video games market.
Learn More: Top 20 Language Games and Activities for Fun