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Why Indie Game Developers Should Know About Video Game Localization

Are you an indie game developer? If so, it’s time we talked about localization. What does localization mean in video games? It means connecting with international gaming markets.  It means making gamers feel like they are truly part of something. It means greater success. Want to know more? Thought so.

What is video game localization?

Let’s start with the basics. What is game localization? Well, the localization definition is, “the process of making something local in character or restricting it to a particular place.” With video games, that means adopting a game to players in different countries or regions in a way that makes them feel as though the game was created for them in the first place.

How do you translate a game? Simple. You translate a video game by extracting the text and giving it to a professional translator. Video game localization is much more complex. Localization can relate to the imagery, dialogue, in-game text, coding and much more – it’s a detailed process that involves working with professional localization services. Experienced game localization experts will consider a game’s design, linguistic nuances, and aesthetics, as well as practical details such as the date and time format, currency, measurement systems, etc. They will also be able to advise of local laws that regulate the display of certain imagery, modes of dress, symbolism and more.

How do I get into game localization?

To get started on your game localization journey, you’ll need to find a decent translation agency. As part of this process, it’s essential to press potential translation companies on their gaming translation and localization experience. Don’t accept a company that says it only has experience of website localization but “will manage.” You need experts in software localization – human ones who are used to providing app localization services, not some kind of video translation software that will leave you with poorly worded dialogue and absolutely no advice on localization!

When considering translation agencies, grill them on their network of translators, as well as their app localization abilities. You might want to start with a Japanese to English translation (for example), but an agency that can only translate Japanese to English won’t help you achieve global success. What help will your Japanese translator be when you need a Mandarin version of your game? And a French version? And a Spanish one?

The best video game localization can be achieved through using specialist translation and localization services with solid, global networks of native translators.

How much does it cost to localize a game?

This is an incredibly tough question to answer without some specifics about the size of the game and the type of content. What we can do is look at the global video games market and see what the payoff is for forking out for localization services.

The market has grown enormously over the past decade, according to Statista. Its value stood at US$52.8 billion in 2012. By 2021, it is projected to nearly treble that, rising to $138.4 billion. 

NewZoo has kindly ranked countries by the size of their video game markets, providing some handy hints for indie game developers looking to maximize their income. China is home to the world’s largest gaming market by revenue, with a value of $36,540 million. That’s followed by the USA ($35,510 million), Japan ($18,683 million), the Republic of Korea ($6,194 million) and Germany ($5,721 million). This provides a shopping list for those looking to line up translation services for the most profitable languages for their video game localization project.

How long does it take to localize a game?

This is another tough question to answer, as again so much depends on the size and complexity of the game itself. However, the absolute minimum timeframe to allow should be around four months, which allows for:

  • one week to play and become familiar with the game
  • one week for localization
  • four weeks for programming
  • five weeks for quality assurance
  • three weeks for internal testing (by the game’s developer)
  • three weeks for manufacturing in the new language

Each of these stages may take much longer. The localization experience, for example, could take as long as two months, while programming could easily take six weeks instead of four.  Each stage requires careful planning ahead of time, as well. For example, the quality assurance process includes finding native beta testers in order to ensure that the localized game meets their expectations and to iron out any bugs and kinks. These can relate to anything from the game’s functionality and playability to the aspects of the game that need to be changed so that it will resonate well with the target audience.

What is localization going to do for your video game?

The right localization process can open up the global video game market to indie developers like never before. Localization works on many levels, at once providing players with the ability to play a game and to fully engage with it. It’s essential to use the right translation and localization tools and services in order to do this. Once you’ve done so, you can sit back and enjoy the amplified success (and wealth!) that your use of video game localization has created.

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