Introduction to Video Game Localization
In this article we offer an introduction into the topic of video game localization from a multitude of standpoints.
Video Game Localization: How it’s played
In the current heavily digitalized world, gaming has become a gripping domain, sought after beyond linguistic and cultural barriers, both as a means of entertainment and as a profitable business outlet.
In this article we offer insight into the topic of video game localization from a multitude of standpoints, from internationalization to multilingual video game content adaptation, highlighting the individual market trends for the language choices in video game localization for major contenders on the global scale, taking into account the cultural framework and market specific regulations.
Video Games: Internationalization vs. Localization
Let's discuss video games in the context of Internationalization and Multilingual Localization.
In "The Game Localization Handbook" (2011), Heather Chandler makes a very clear distinction between the concept of internationalization (namely, how a game product can be adapted internationally without design and content alterations) and localization (the actual process of translating/adapting the linguistic assets of a game product into a multitude of different target languages).
The internationalization of a game product is inextricably linked to strict UI designs in order to support enough space for the game content, plots, character arcs and customization strategies to be adapted to any cultural frame or ethnicity.
As Chandler proposes in her handbook, game products also feature a full localization arsenal, which includes translation, editing, proofreading and quality checking of the actual game code content and adjacent voice-over, instructional set lists and final packaging, resulting in quite the valuable endeavor for any business interest.
Video Game Localization in US and Asia Pacific
According to Newzoo, one of the world’s leading market intelligence companies specializing in games, e-sports, and mobile content, the consumer trends for the video game market for 2019 inclines towards a predominance of Asian Pacific countries with 47%, followed by North America at 26% and Europe, Middle East and Africa with 23% and Latin America at 4%.
USA Video Game Market
English is the most international language on Earth. When it comes to the US video game market, the process of adapting video game content and code
originating in a non-English speaking country into American English is as straightforward as it can get.
Asia-Pacific: China, Japan and South Korea
The video game localization approach in China involves complete video game translation and localization, including names of game characters, dialogues and story arcs, sometimes also involving the creation of completely new character styles or plots from scratch to match the expectations of the Chinese video game audience comprised mainly of young to middle-aged individuals.
China is also famous for its rigid censorship of video game content, not allowing sexual connotations or overly graphical content. The process of video game localization should undergo thorough management and filtering by certified and experienced translation and localization specialists who can adhere to these absolute rules.
Apart from the state-of-the-art animation and localization technology harnessed, one aspect that sets the Japanese and South Korean video game localization markets aside from the Chinese is that not all the content necessarily has to be localized into Japanese or Korean, due to the intense internationalization and globalization trends in both countries.
Japanese and South-Korean video gamers are well-versed and exposed to foreign video games and, inherently, expect to see content in English, thus enhancing and authenticating their user experience.
On the other hand, the overall tone of the localized video game content should adhere to the rigors of politeness in Japanese and Korean cultures and should also avoid touching upon taboo topics, such as religion or nudity.
European Video Game Localization Trends
In Europe, the West is a stronghold in the game industry, boasting a long-established market and major competitors for North America and Asia.
Let’s drill down the highest-ranking countries across Europe’s gaming platform in order of influence, according to Newzoo’s 2019 country ranking report:
Most commonly, in these leading European countries the game content needs to be localized into the respective languages to such an extent that the language clusters have become commonly known as EFIGS or FIGS (referring to English, French, Italian, German and Spanish, specifically).
According to the latest report by Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE), the leading German gaming audience prefers immersive and engaging fully localized content, not settling for anything less than the output ensured by German native experts who can render the video game content into an authentically German version that caters to their expectations.
Benefits of Video Game Localization
Bulletproof video game localization spans beyond the fascinating shifting scenarios of the gameplay, covering a variety of adjacent texts, manuals, subtitles and voice-over scripts which need to be fully processed and localized for use in a wide range of utility software, based on a principle of interactivity.
These also represent the assets of gaming localization which, if done well, will certainly ensure that your message resonates with the global target audience from their very first interaction, broadening the reach of the in-game content and marketing strategies and catalyzing sales.
The following is a summary of the benefits of a successful video game localization effort from the point of view of a business and overall end-user experience:
Increase of sales for game products through multilingual exposure to different markets.
Improvement of user experience through a variety of scenarios and cultural frameworks exhibited by full content localization in an array of languages.
User immersion and client satisfaction resulting in long-term profitability, increasing the chances for positive review and feedback.
Expansion of the global fanbase for game products.
Strengthened interaction of players globally.
Penetration into new global markets through linguistic and cultural adaptation and internationalization of software.
In this article we reviewed a series of crucial aspects regarding video game localization and internationalization. These facts and parameters demonstrate that game content cannot just simply be translated literally, but must be adapted and catered to the cultural frameworks of the target audience.
In this regard, when it comes to successful video game localization and its accompanying materials, at AD VERBUM we are consistently working towards delivering the right linguistic message which caters to your need to culturally adapt your product and fully immerse your users into its gameplay.
For more information on how we can assist you in your game localization quest, check out our Services page.
Chandler, H. and Deming, S. (2011). The game localization handbook. Sudbury: Jones and Bartlett.
Game World Observer. (2019). EU video games industry: 2018 stats - Game World Observer. [online] Available at: https://gameworldobserver.com/2019/08/26/eu-video-games-industry-2018-stats/
Newzoo. (2019). Newzoo Global Games Market Report 2019 | Light Version | Newzoo. [online] Available at: https://newzoo.com/insights/trend-reports/newzoo-global-games-market-report-2019-light-version/
Newzoo. (2019). Top Countries & Markets by Game Revenues | Newzoo. [online] Available at: https://newzoo.com/insights/rankings/top-10-countries-by-game-revenues/