Today’s video game releases are more sophisticated compared to what were available in the 1970s. Many are comparable to animated films already. The Internet has made video games a phenomenon worldwide and some users who used to play games to pass the time have discovered that they can compete using their skills against other players on a professional level, not just for entertainment.
Indeed, video games have come a long way. The games, the players and the developers have become more advanced, with entire professions and fields being created to face the challenges presented by video game marketing and sales worldwide.
Should Video Games Adapt to Different Cultures?
Definitely YES, because users are more aware of what they want from video games. They prefer games that are in their own language as they can easily understand the mechanics of the game. It is also a excellent option for enterprises. You can check out our Expanding Your Game Overseas Guide to learn more about the importance of video game localization and adaptation.
Classic Examples of Cultural Adaptation of Video Games
Here are some classic examples where video games were adapted to other cultures.
It was the iconic game in the early 1980s. The Japanese creators called it Puck Man because it looks like a simple representation of a hockey puck. The Japanese pronounce the game as pakuhuman.
When the game publishers wanted to market the game to the United States, they considered that there might be cultural connotations and mispronunciations of the original name. Therefore, they decided to adapt the name of the game to the U.S. market, changing the name to Pac Man. They made a wise decision in this case and Pac Man became an international hit.
Another example of localization is also about a Japanese game. Bionic Commando‘s original title as released in Japan was Hitler’s Revival: Top Secret. The game’s villain resembled Hitler. For the international release the publisher changed the title and replaced the swastikas in the game with eagles. The game’s mission and story was also modified and they changed the villain’s name to Mr. Badd. Generalissimo Weitzmann became Generalissimo Killt.
When doing cultural adaptation, it is crucial to consider the appropriateness of that adaptation to the target culture to ensure success. This includes the careful handling of sensitive topics such as politics and religion, which is why it is vital to hire a professional translation company with extensive experience in video game localization.
Another example of cultural adaptation is the popular Mortal Kombat. In the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) version of the game, the blood was replaced with sweat and the fatalities during the game were given finishing moves that were less violent. In the version for Sega Genesis however, players can use a cheat code to access the uncensored fatalities and the blood.
Final Fantasy Legend II
The same was done in Final Fantasy Legend II. In the Japanese version the players have to stop the opium smugglers. In the U.S. version, the opium was replaced by bananas.
Localization and Cultural Adaption of Video Games
These involve changing the characters’ appearance as well. In some cultures, specific body types have to be considered. Features of the characters may need to be changed as well. Eyes, hair, clothing are just some of the things that need redesigning. In some cultures, characters should be quite attractive. The gore and violence may need to be tamed, as well.
The most important thing that should be considered before localization is the age rating, since other countries have different regulations on video game ratings for player age appropriateness.
Another vital thing to consider is the target countries’ acceptance of how the game is translated. Some countries are used to subtitles, while others prefer dubbing. It is essential to know the preferences of the audience. If they like to watch foreign movies with subtitles, use the same approach when localizing the video game. If they prefer to watch dubbed movies, then follow the trend.
Finding the Right Balance
The decision to localize and culturally adapt video games needs a lot of thought. You have to fully understand the target markets and the preferences of the users so your game could be a big hit.
It is not enough to translate the dialogue. You need to understand the local culture. People are sensitive to language, tones of voices, appearances, formality/informality, respect, religion, politics, even the environment. Thus these things should be researched beforehand.
You have to understand when to do your own censorship. Because of wider Internet access, core gamers specifically, like to know more about the games and may not take too kindly when their expectations about the game are not met.
You also have to decide whether you want to cater to a wider audience to improve your ROI. This many result in an uproar from core gamers who are not too fond of censorship, which they think prevents them from fully enjoying the game as it was originally created.
It is inevitable that conflicts will arise between the core gamers and the enterprise. The core gamers are after their personal experience and enjoyment of the game. The enterprise has to contend with rules and regulations pertaining to technical and legal issues.
It is time for the translation industry to find better ways to localize and adapt video games to different audiences.
Marketing and Sales Support
Video games are big business and the critical step to enter the international arena is localization. The process adapts the game to different audiences. The localization process can be done simply or thoroughly.
Simple localization may involve the translation and redesign of the packaging. It could likewise be extensive, which means that the scenes within the game may need changes or the characters’ appearance may have to be recreated to fit the preferences of the target markets.
Localization ensures that the video game will not have cultural barriers so players in the target markets can fully appreciate the games without offensive materials. In the process of localization, the language is translated to the appropriate language in consideration of the culture of the new markets.
Localization ensures that your video game will be easier to market and sell, because it has been adapted to the culture of the target users.
The process of localizing a video game is complex and may require extensive work. It involves a team of translators as well as the game developers. With the amount of work and corresponding expenses, it has to be done right the first time.
The extent of the localization depends on the client’s budget and the time they have before the launch of the game.
In some cases, it is possible to do a partial localization, where the text within the game can be translated into the desired language. However, with partial localization, the voiceover will not be updated, so the dialogue will still be in the original language.
When the client desires full localization, it means everything in the game will be translated, including the game manual, the packaging, and the text within the game as the voiceovers.
The localization process requires detailed planning. The team should be selected. When selecting the localization team, choose a translation company experienced with video game localization, that can also provide you with the voiceover talents, director, and project manager to ensure that the team can work together better. The timeline should be defined and the scope of the work should be established. After the translation work is complete, the game should be tested to ensure that the game functions are maintained and there are no loose ends like misinterpretations, missing texts, untranslated texts or error in the voiceovers.
Challenges in Video Game Localization
Video game localization is part of the scope of translation work. As such, the challenges in complex translation projects are also present when translating video games. For one thing, slang and double meanings of words have to be carefully considered. The slang used by Americans may not work if the video game is translated into Spanish for example.
The informality in the dialogue between characters may not be accepted in other cultures and puns and word plays used in some games as clues for players may not be understood by other players speaking other languages.
Humor is also very difficult to translate because what may be accepted as humorous by others may be offensive to other cultures. Moreover, even if the target markets speak Spanish, for example, the Spanish spoken in Spain is different from the Spanish spoken in Mexico. These are just a few of the things that make video game localization very challenging.
Ready to Localize Your Video Game? Call Us!
Video game localization should be handled by experts who have the right experience in how the process works. Localizing a video game takes time and money, so it should be done right the first time. This means forming the right team of game designers, developers, project manager and the group to handle the localization, which include translation and voiceovers. Day Translations, Inc. is a professional translation company that offers a full suite of language services. You get a one-stop shop offering you native translators, subject matter experts, voiceover talents and more. Give us a call at 1-800-969-6853 or send us an email at Contact us so we can discuss your video game localization requirements. Our translators live in-country so it is very easy to connect you with our translators wherever you are located. Contact Day Translations anytime, as we are open 24/7, every day of the year.