Video Game Localization: A Quick Start Guide
Video game localization requires a higher-tech approach than other forms because of its challenges.

One great way to boost video game adoption is to expand to international markets. Many developers overestimate the expense and effort of offering their game in different languages. However, the cost is surprisingly low when compared to the return. Video game localization doesn’t have to be hard, provided you prepare for the challenges and work with a firm that addresses them.

Many creators make their games available worldwide but stick to their source language. However, this initial phase can give them early access to metrics that can help them determine where most of their product’s interest lies. They can then boost that engagement by translating their games for that country’s market. With the right video game global launch strategy, it’s a relatively seamless transition. However, there are some challenges to consider.

Challenges to Video Game Localization

Video game localization may not be as difficult as most would assume, but there are some challenges worth mentioning. As these games tend to be light on text and high on graphics, it takes a few extra steps to preserve the user experience. Specifically, there are four different things to consider.

#1: High degree of adaptation

Code is the product in the video game. You have to consider adaptability on both a linguistic and architectural level. There are a ton of variables that require attention. Consider something simple, like a message that says, “Congratulations, you made X shots!” The variable can’t just be tied to the “X” because some languages will require numerical value movement. Proper variables are necessary to ensure the message displays accurately for the audience.

#2: Contextual dependence

Context is vital because it informs the linguist what the string means. Without it, the translation could be nonsensical. Consider the example from above: “Congratulations; you made X shots!” In English, that could refer to gunshots, like in a first-person shooter game, or baskets, like in a sports game. However, in translating it to its German counterpart, “schuss,” the word refers specifically to a projectile.

#3: Niche talent requirements

Video game localization—more than any other translation type—requires explicit subject matter expertise. Without it, it would be like trying to play chess without knowing the game’s rules. If you don’t know the goals, objectives, standard moves, and strategies, translating them into another language may not work. Even if you get every word right, the lack of contextual understanding will likely damage the user experience.

#4: Heavy quality assurance (QA) needs

A translated game is rarely successful on its first pass. First, the code must pass the linguistic review and apply to the game-playing experience. Then, engineers will need to review it to ensure it functions as expected. Testing and review can occur over and over again. When you consider how often games are updated, it is a virtually-endless process.

A standard translation agency may not know how to manage code or provide expertise specific to the video game industry. Their linguists may only receive strings without context, and QA may solely focus on linguistics. To eliminate these issues, creators should target an end-to-end experience.

Using an Integrated Approach to Video Game Translation

Video game localization requires a higher-tech approach than other forms because of its challenges. It’s important to work with a firm capable of providing translation technology services in a consolidated space, ideally directly connecting to your code repository. Otherwise, you’ll have to manage a lot of moving parts that make it challenging to keep it updated.

Specifically, it’s wise to automate video game localization. As soon as the developer submits a new build or update, it triggers a translation project. Translators work on a consolidated localization management platform that provides them with detailed context and code comments that help them make the right writing decisions. Strings go directly to QA and then to a final review before upload. All this occurs in a single, centralized space where it’s easy to keep track of projects in all their phases. Using this integrated approach provides a number of benefits. Just a few include:

  • Time savings: Project management steps like following up on content, hiring linguists, sending files back and forth, and coordinating between engineers and managers are all time sinks. Using a single space eliminates many of these steps and facilitates work.
  • Lower overhead: With a platform, linguists and clients are in direct contact. This removes intermediaries—either internal or external—who require payments simply for managing those connections.
  • Consistent updates: The automated process ensures updated translation every time there’s a change to the source code. All languages operate on the most recent version.
  • Multi-language accessibility: Many game developers choose to continue expanding into new markets. A multi-language approach is an excellent strategic move but challenging to manage through old, manual project management methods. The integrated strategy is far more effective when connecting with many different markets.

Video game localization is a smart way to reach new users, though there are some barriers. An integrated strategy where the content translation is automated helps to overcome these challenges. Working with an agency that combines powerful technology with expert linguists is the best possible way to take advantage of the high ROI found in translating games.

Bureau Works can help you manage your video game localization with our powerful platform. To discover how our services can boost your ROI, contact our team.

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