The adaptation of video games for particular locales, languages, and cultures is known as localization. When done right without any significant game localization problems, gamers from various places will feel like the game was made just for them. It is more challenging to translate languages accurately than to simply translate them word for word. There are thousands of games available, many of which have excellent localization and translation.
What are the best practices for game localization?
Use suitable language indications
Different languages are frequently represented in video games by flags. Although easy to use, this is not recommended because it can offend others. Use language locales in place of flags to reduce confusion. Language codes and variations like en-US, en-UK, fr-FR, and fr-BE make up these.
Understand the context of games
A key component of game localization is context. Since it is impossible to translate video games word-for-word, skills for a translator and a thorough understanding of the game’s context are all necessary. They need a general understanding of the virtual world’s time and place, the primary characters’ identities, their objectives, how they act, move, and communicate, and what their surroundings are like. Knowing enough context will reduce the likelihood of committing any game localization problems. Give background information through textual or visual storyboards, briefs, or a playable game version. The finished translation will be more accurate the clearer the original language is.
Prepare a proper format
The formatting needs to be fixed in the initial stages of localization. However, suppose you’re localizing for French, German, or Spanish markets. In that case, you’ll find that these languages use up to 30% or more space than English does. English is a concise language. Additionally, you might need to provide more space for characters, symbols, time formats, and conversation. These differences might significantly affect your game’s interface and visual style. These game translation issues can be avoided with a flexible design that separates all localizable game components from the game’s code and gives each piece a precise location. Remember that some languages use characters rather than letters and that some read from right to left.
Carefully localize on multimedia platforms
Someone might start playing your game on a PC or laptop before switching to a tablet or smartphone because many devices are available today. They’ll want the game to go wherever they do. When localizing a video game, ensuring device compatibility should be a top priority, especially when considering the target audience’s preferred devices. Different cultures could favor consoles over PC gaming. Test a prototype thoroughly in the early phases of localization to ascertain the prerequisites for the game to function. Of course, this device compatibility issue is less significant if it is only intended for a particular console.
Get ready with gaming code
Game creators should write their codes from the beginning to make all content and strings exportable. Additionally, it’s crucial to avoid hard-coding any portions of the game that require skills for a translator. If you do, the translation will be put back into the game with strings of nonsense, which can cause expensive delays. It would be more secure to pre-empt any game localization problems rather than repair them. Making further game upgrades or editions is significantly more straightforward when the coding is done correctly at the start of the development process.
Keep track of localization consistency
Successful localization is an ongoing process. Video games are updated frequently. Large teams that often collaborate remotely are involved in the localization and update operations. This results in names, phrases, sentences, or terms being translated or written differently every time they are used because there is no consistent technique. The regularity gets in the way of having fun with the game. Creating style guides and glossaries for translators can avoid this game translation issue to the greatest extent possible. Glossaries should include accepted terms that must be used consistently across all game content, and a style guide can help you establish and uphold the linguistic tone you want to utilize.
Gain a profound knowledge of cultures
A sizable global audience understands the universal “language” of gaming. Your game should ideally find a home within the international gaming community across diverse linguistic, philosophical, religious, and cultural regions. Localization should consider cultural references such as salutations, currencies, date and time formats, and the cautious use of colloquial language from the beginning of the design process.
Even characters’ names can be a problem because what sounds fine in one place might be offensive in another. Be sure to conduct your homework and speak with local experts. Consideration should also be given to history and cultural symbols.
Take regulations and laws from different countries into consideration
Having your game banned is the worst outcome due to various game localization problems! The majority of nations have various regulations and legislation governing video games and content. Ratings for age also vary widely. What might be suitable for 12-year-olds in one place may be rated 18 in another, necessitating the modification of your material. It’s interesting to note that Japan has different game ratings for consoles and PCs. For PC content, the laws governing violence and nudity are substantially tougher. Use symbols with caution as well.
Make a thorough overview before the release
Test localized versions of your game before publishing it to ensure that no bugs have been missed. Overflowing text, strings that haven’t been translated, interface elements that don’t appear correct, and inconsistent translations are a few examples. Even the slightest problem can ruin a gamer’s enjoyment, which could result in a negative forum review. The world of gaming is one of rivalry. Don’t let game localization problems ruin your chances.
Top 10 best localization in video games
Here are 10 instances of video games that effectively used localization to appeal to audiences around the world.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Developer: CD Projekt, CD Projekt RED
This video game’s localization is so outstanding that in some areas it might pass for a locally developed game rather than one that was adopted. For a more accurate localization outcome, the localization producer should relocate to the nation where the game was being created. The Witcher demands additional translation because it’s an RPG featuring voice-overs. Each translated version has received praise for the quality of its voice acting.
Developer: Naughty Dog, Bend Studio, Bluepoint Games
Because localization was anticipated early on rather than being added after the English version was finished, this series is regarded as a model for video game localization. Despite some minor translation errors in the series’ early releases, localization has improved with each successive release. It is currently regarded as having top-notch translations and voice-overs for a more authentic gaming experience.
Ratchet and Clank Series
Developer: Insomniac Games, Handheld Games, High Impact Games, Sanzaru Games, Idol Minds, Tin Giant
Ratchet and Clank is considered one of the best-localized video games in many markets. It was competitive enough thanks to the translation quality to win over fans worldwide. Translating the numerous English terms and phrases into localized versions protected their original meaning. It made them more relatable to the target markets. Even though it was created in California, two years after the first release of the video game, it was adapted as a Japanese manga because players perceived the translated versions as authentic.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Developer: Nintendo Entertainment Planning & Development
Ocarina of Time has its fair share of supporters, but Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is regarded as the series’ best game. The 2017 game’s dearth of dialogue is pervasive, and many characters have no dialogue. Even though this may initially seem like a simple project, it adds a lot more pressure to get the existing dialogue correct and tell the story to gamers worldwide! It suffices to claim that the translated meanings remain loyal to the original text. We can regard it as effective localization for video games.
Developer: 2K, Irrational Games, 2K Marin, 2K Australia
Three games make up the Bioshock series, which is renowned for its superb localization. Even though the first game was released in 2007, when the translation and localization sector of the video game industry was still in its infancy, it had perfect localization. The dystopian environment of the series has been accurately depicted with excellent video game localization to avoid confusion or annoyance and to provide an immersive experience.
Developer: Gearbox Software, Aspyr
Although the Borderlands series comprises four distinct games, Borderlands 2’s video game localization is remarkable and has won many accolades. People are overjoyed with the excellent voice-overs. Additionally, the game reads and sounds quite naturally throughout.
Developer: Ubisoft, Gameloft, Ubisoft Montreal, Ubisoft Quebec
Ubisoft acknowledged the significance of the Arabic market even though Assassin’s Creed was created in English and French for the Canadian market. There are a lot of gamers who speak Arabic in more than 20 different nations. However, there are more than 50 distinct Arabic dialects. In order to solve this problem and ensure that Assassin’s Creed fans could understand and enjoy the game, Ubisoft employed contemporary standard Arabic.
Arena of Valor
Developer: Timi Studio Group, Tencent Games
Tencent Games created and released the online multiplayer battle arena known as Arena of Valor (AoV) for iOS, Android, and Nintendo Switch. AoV is actually the translation of Honor of Kings, the Chinese version of the game. Tencent was able to distribute AoV outside of mainland China with careful localization and attention to detail for international success. Over 13 million players were daily active users of AoV as of May 2019.
Superman and Batman were introduced in AoV’s localizations for the United States and Europe in order to better connect with Western consumers and target regional audiences. Tencent became a worldwide success by granting regional managers the freedom to customize in-game material for their local audiences.
Developer: Namco, Namco Networks, Atari, Interactive Brains, Gremlin Industries, BANDAI NAMCO Studios
One of the very first localizations of a game was Pac-Man. The name “Puck-Man,” which Pac-Man originally went by, was modified for North American distribution to prevent any confusion with a specific English obscenity. Pac-Man is a video game classic that has endured the test of time because of its recognizable characters and gameplay.
Developer: miHoYo, Shanghai Miha Touring Film Technology Co., Ltd
Genshin Impact, a game that was created in Chinese, is accessible in 13 other written languages and 4 voice-over languages. Genshin Impact has the most significant first-year revenue of any computer game ever, with more than $3 billion in sales during its first year. Genshin Impact has generated more than $4 billion in international revenue as of March 2022.