With a number of foreign markets emerging with buying power and tech-aptitude, product managers are focusing more on adapting their products to those foreign markets. This is especially the case with the emergence of smart phones and social networks that are capable of providing a platform for games. The combination of these emerging markets and emerging game platforms has led to an emphasis on localization for game developers.
Game localization is the process of preparing a game for a new locale. It goes beyond simple translation to consider linguistic issues, hardware issues and cultural differences that each target locale requires. Like all forms of localization, game localization has become a paramount task for developers to undertake when creating a new game with so much of the game market coming from non-English speaking countries. From context for translation, to understanding cultural differences, ensuring quality is paramount to a successful international release.
“All your base are belong to us” – an infamous line from the 1991 video game Zero Wing that has become something of a cultural hit. Translating a video game’s dialogue is a tricky task. Translators need to work off of context, something that standalone video game text does not provide. With so many games now allowing users to make their own decisions, the context for each point of dialogue is different in each instant. Planning ahead and providing context to the translation team, instead of just a translation sheet, assures better quality, and better ease of translation.
Also take into consideration that different languages use a different amount of text to convey the same idea. Don’t overlook resizing of text boxes, and ensure that there is enough space available for the necessary text.
Like any product being prepared for a new locale, cultural aspects must be considered when localizing. Games are no different. Typically, gamers in Japan are drawn to younger game characters on a quest to find themselves while American gamers are drawn to older, more rugged ones. The perception of violence, blood and gore in video games will also affect public opinion on a localized game. Keeping track of where those aspects of the game are in your development process will save time when localizing. Do the necessary research to understand what your target market values in a game. Take care of this first, it will prove valuable in the long run.
Countries have different governing bodies that enforce ratings on games. Issues with violence, sex or foul language must be considered when preparing a game for a new locale. It is possible that a game can be banned if it does not meet the standards set in place by the governing body in a new territory.
Ensuring that all these steps are taken will grant a more successful international release. Taking note of where localization issues will arise, during the initial game development process, will save time and money when aiming for a simultaneous release in multiple markets.