Do you know of someone who has not played video games? Maybe you can think of a few friends, but you are most likely aware these games are extremely popular. They captivate people of all ages, genders, social statuses, personalities, and nationalities. The video game industry is booming especially given the ubiquity of mobile devices, beguiling advancements in gaming consoles, and increasing internet penetration.
To clarify, the term video game refers to all electronic games that involve a video feedback (presented by a monitor or display) and a control system (joystick, gamepad, keyboard, mouse, motion sensor, or touchscreen controls). As such, the games played on mobile devices are also classified as video games. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) games are likewise video games.
Video games have such a universal appeal that, if you are a developer, it would be a waste not offering your games to the world. Why make them only available locally when you can generate more revenues by introducing them to a global audience?
Video game facts to convince developers to expand overseas
Do you know that China has a bigger video game market compared to that of the United States? According to the Newzoo, based on consumer (player) spending estimates for 2018 excluding tax, sales of hardware, B2B services, and revenues from online gambling, the Chinese are the top spender for video games with gaming revenues at around $34.4 billion. The United States is only second with $31.5 billion. Third in the ranking is Japan with gaming revenues of approximately $17.7 billion while South Korea is fourth with $5.7 billion. The rest of the countries making up the top 10 are Germany ($4.9 billion), United Kingdom ($4.7 billion), France ($3.4 billion), Canada ($2.4 billion), Spain ($2.2 billion), and Italy ($2.2 billion).
With these numbers, it’s obvious that video games shouldn’t only be made in English, Chinese, Japanese, German, or some other specific languages. There are large markets for video games overseas. It does not make sense ignoring them especially when countries like Japan have clearly demonstrated how their homegrown games can also be enjoyed and patronized by players in other countries. In fact, 5 of Metacritic’s top 10 best-rated video games of all time are from Japan.
Playing by the rules
To start discussing the main point of this post, here’s a question:
What does playing by the rules here mean?
The phrase basically entails following the traditional or conventional way of doing things. It means complying with established rules to avoid attracting bad publicity and getting penalized or banned.
For example, if you plan to have your mobile game listed on the Google Play Store to reach international players, there’s a set of rules and requirements you need to take into account, some of which are as follows:
- Ascertain that your game is free from viruses and other malware
- See to it that your game is within the established app size limit (100MB for apps created for Android 2.3 and newer, 50MB for apps intended for Android 2.2 or older)
- Make sure that your app is digitally signed with a certificate before it is allowed to proceed with an installation.
- Ensure that the game does not include content that promotes terrorism and self-harm, goes against laws or facilitates the commission of crimes, violates privacy, or features obscenity or pornography.
- Add and manage translations. Since you are targeting prospective players for your game who may not use the same language you created your game with, you have to insert translations. To do this in the Google Play Store, you have to go to the Play Console, click on All Applications, choose the app you want to set translations for, and examine the languages provided under Product Details. You can purchase translations, add your own translation, or add nothing (and let automated translation take over).
Take note that the “add and manage translations” requirement above refers to the translations for the text used in the Google Play listing. It does not mean providing translations for the game itself. Also, as far as Google is concerned, it’s up to the game developers to decide on how to optimize their Google Play listing to reach more potential international players.
Adding translations is not really a necessity for a mobile game listing on Google Play intended for users in different parts of the world. After all, Google has its own famous automated translation service. If you don’t add any translation, users can just view the page with the help of Google Translate. The same applies for game websites. There are no language transition requirements for the companion website you put up for your video game.
In other words, there are no rules that dictate how you should go about with the core task (translation) in making your game more accessible to players in different countries that use different languages. You can introduce your game as is to a foreign market without translations, let alone localization. Some countries may require translations and a review of your game, but for the most part there are no such requirements especially when it comes to mobile games.
Doing more than playing by the rules
Creative marketing and aggressive sales strategies are not going to suffice if you want to succeed in expanding your game to a foreign market. If you want to boost your game’s competitiveness, you need to do more than playing by the rules. You need more than translations – you need localization.
This is not to say that you should violate or ignore the rules. You can’t resort to deceptive marketing. It’s unacceptable to exploit the privacy vulnerabilities of players so you can use their data in promoting your game. Also, you need to submit your game for regulatory scrutiny. Video games, at least the ones developed for consoles and PCs, are regulated in many parts of the world. They are reviewed for potential issues not only on the technical side (bugs and privacy problems) but also when it comes to the theme and content.
Putting emphasis on localization
Going back to the example above on listing a mobile game on Google Play, it bears pointing out that Google encourages localization but does not make it a requirement. That’s why you, as a game developer who wants to reach out to as many players as possible, need to pay attention to how your game can become more enticing to players who use different languages and come from different cultural backgrounds.
Localization is not only for the contents in the Google Play Store or iTunes page for your game, or its website. More importantly, the game itself should be localized. The following parts of the game, in particular, need to be subjected to localization.
Games usually come with instructions and notes for players contained in Pagemaker or Word file. The game manual file may also feature promotional copy as well as creative writing, which can be quite challenging to appropriately translate.
Usually a WordPad or Rich text file, the Readme file contains notes for players detailing last-minute changes that have not been covered by the game manual. It may also present corrections for typos and other errors in the game documentation and packaging. The content of the Readme file is largely technical and straightforward, so it’s easy to translate.
This refers to the physical game box as well as the printed documentation that provide various information about the game. It’s important to make sure that everything here is accurately translated since the packaging is the very first thing game buyers see.
This is what players see on-screen as they interact with the game. It presents the menus, buttons for accessing or activating functions and features, tabs, and other interactive elements. What needs to be translated here are the labels for the different on-screen elements as well as tooltips, notes, dialog boxes, error messages, notifications, messages in pop-up windows, and the menus and texts in modal windows.
Written dialogs or subtitles, annotations, and in-game notes
Various textual messages shown in the game must be translated. This task can be challenging since the translator needs to make sure that the resulting translation is synchronize with what is happening on-screen. Also, the translations should fit in the space allocated for the original text.
The localization of a video game is not just about the written texts. Dialogs by the characters, interjections, as well as narrations also need to be translated. As such, the localization service provider must also hire voice talents to provide the new audio for the localized version of the game.
Graphics with words
There are video games with images that contain texts relevant to certain scenes. These should be translated accordingly or given the correct equivalent local term, idiom, or signage. Translations are not necessary if the images are random or irrelevant to the game scenarios.
Sensitive images, animations, gifs, or videos
Localization is not just about language translation. A competent and experienced localization service provider should be able to identity culturally or politically sensitive visual elements in a game so they can be replaced with something inoffensive or unlikely to stir controversy. They may also be removed altogether.
The process of video game localization
The localization of a video game is comparable to the process of software translation. It starts with content analysis and management, followed by the actual translation process, then the implementation of quality analysis, back conversion, desktop publishing, and the finalization of the project output.
Before any of the steps mentioned above starts, though, the client and localization service provider carefully discuss expectations for the project, including the projected timeline of the project. The client may already have a list of the things that should be translated, but the localization specialists should provide inputs to make sure that everything that needs to be localized is adequately covered. There may also be discussions on the tone of the resulting translations.
It is preferable for updates on the localization project to be given regularly. This is to promptly catch and rectify errors or deviations from the expected output, something that benefits both the client and the localization service provider. Also, it’s imperative to have a solid quality control system. The output should be carefully examined by a highly experienced QA supervisor.
The goals and importance of localization
The main goals of video game localization are the following:
- To reach out to players who use different languages
- To increase downloads, thereby raising sales and revenues
- To avoid cultural and political issues that may arise from some sections or elements of the game
These goals are interrelated. Video games that have been properly localized become more attractive to prospective players in a new market as localization takes away the confusion stemming from the language barrier. They also become more relatable, hence more enjoyable. These lead to increase purchases or downloads of the video games, which means increased sales and revenues. Moreover, localization is one way of optimizing video games for a new target market as it can take out or replace dialogs, imagery, or sequences that may be deemed offensive in certain cultures or countries. It prevents issues or criticisms that can adversely affect the marketability of the game.
Needless to emphasize, localized games are more competitive compared to those that have only been internationalized or offered in their original form. Thoughtfully localized games tend to rank higher in app stores (for mobile games) and general video game lists. They are also more engaging because they are presented in the language of players in certain regions and made compatible with local cultures, pop culture references, and idioms.
It’s important to emphasize, however, that localization should be done properly and meticulously. It must not alter the plot, stories, scenarios, and thoughts in the dialogs within the games. Controversy once marred the “localization” of Japanese games for English-speaking markets, especially for Nintendo games. Fans of Japanese games complained how the translations resulted in major plot and characterization changes. These modifications were viewed as an affront to the original artistic vision of the game developers.
While the “broken English” translations for many Japanese video games from the ‘80s and ‘90s spawned memes that serve up good humor at present, it’s unacceptable for new games to have poor translations or localization. Globalization and the deeper penetration of the internet have produced well-informed contemporary video game fans who are quick to spot grammar errors, mistranslations, and other mistakes in localized video games. If you are ar game developer or publisher, you don’t want your product to attract attention for the wrong reasons, especially for embarrassing localization fails.
Want to attract more players for your game? We can help you!
Optimize your video game’s overseas expansion by ensuring appropriate localization. Don’t settle with the conventional strategies that are more focused on marketing and distribution. Even the best marketing tactics are bound to fail if a product is not relatable or incompatible with the local market’s language and culture. Appeal to the interest and emotions of prospective players in your target foreign markets by having the best possible localized version of your video games with our help at Day Translations, Inc. Call us at 1-800-969-6853 or send us an email through our Contact Us page. Our support team are available 24/7, eager to discuss the language solutions you need.
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