Let’s Talk About Video Game Localisation
The global gaming industry earned $184.4 billion (£148.7 billion) in 2022, according to estimates from NewZoo. With major markets spanning Asia, Europe, the Americas and practically every corner of the world, the industry relies heavily on game localisation to maximise growth.
When done properly, game localisation can help turn titles into global hits, but as we have discussed in our blog, cracking international markets is easier said than done.
Video game localisation vs video game translation
Translation is a key aspect of video game localisation – the most important one, too – but localisation looks beyond translating text and audio from one language into another. A complete localisation strategy optimises every aspect of a game to ensure that each language version is relevant to the target audience.
For example, when translating user interfaces from English into another language, the resulting text tends to be longer than the original (depending on the target language). This can break the layout of UIs unless you have previously planned to leave enough space in order to accommodate for text expansion in every target language.
Likewise, coding translation into the core files of a game requires a specific approach to game development.
Outside of the development cycle, video game localisation may also consider the (re)design of characters for each target market. What you need to make sure of is that each character is relevant to your local gamers and avoids anything potentially offensive or culturally insensitive.
This could mean: rethinking a character’s clothing for certain markets, adapting weapons or other items to make them more suitable – or even changing certain aspects and elements of your storyline for local regulations.
The role of law & regulations in game localisation
Each market has its own laws and regulations that can impact aspects of your game and the marketing campaigns around it. For example, censorship laws can vary across territories and this can include age restrictions for certain types of content – especially when it comes to violence, anything of a sexualised nature or the inclusion of criminalised activities, such as drug use.
In some cases, there will be the need to adapt elements of your game to reach target audiences in certain markets. For example, a cut scene showing a mob boss taking drugs or killing someone in a particularly violent manner could be removed or changed to show something less extreme for markets with stronger regulations around games.
Developing native experiences with game localisation
The core role of game localisation is to build experiences that feel native for every audience – or, as close to it as possible. This primarily starts with quality translation, but gameplay is also, obviously, another important aspect for this. However, you also have to localise the user experience outside of gameplay.
Earlier (and in other articles we have shared on this blog) we touched on the importance of localising user interfaces for text expansion to prevent layout issues. A language selection menu also needs to be implemented for players so they have the freedom to switch to their preferred language.
Moreover, evaluating the use of icons and other symbols that could confuse or offend certain audiences is essential.
The format of numerical values differs across markets too. Currencies are the obvious example but dates, large numbers, units of measure and a variety of other values may need localising for each language audience.
Take a look at this article for more localisation essentials developers need to know:
Adapting games for cultural relevance
Cultural understanding plays a key role in game localisation. When making major changes to a title for cultural reasons, this ventures into a specific service, often referred to as game adaptation.
Let’s say you’re releasing a game in Japan and the story is set during the French Revolution. Using Japanese signs all over 18th Century France or referring to the ill-fated King Louis XVI as the French Emperor would feel odd. So there are different aspects to think of and assess here.
Many localisation strategies will focus on making smaller changes to make a game more relevant to the cultural backgrounds of specific audiences.
For instance, this type of strategy can entail making visual design tweaks to a character because the original version resembles a historical figure. This can be easily fixed by removing small visual elements such as a moustache for example, or by changing the colour of their outfit and giving them a different haircut – so overall, nothing too extreme.
When making significant changes to the core storyline, you are venturing into game adaptation. Either way, good game localisation and adaptation aim to preserve the authentic gaming experience and make it feel as native as possible to gamers. That is why these two services cannot be overlooked when taking your games into new territories.
To talk more about video game localisation and how it can help you to reach new markets, get in touch with the team here at Jackpot Translation.
- Posted by Alexandra Kravariti
- On 2nd February 2023
- 0 Comments