In the expansive and interconnected world of gaming, game localisation stands as a crucial bridge between developers and audiences. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the basics of game localisation, exploring the why, what, and how that every developer and gaming enthusiast should know, so you can become a localisation pro in no time.
Understanding Game Localisation:
At its core, game localisation is the process of adapting a video game for different markets, ensuring that it resonates with diverse audiences. It goes beyond mere language translation, encompassing cultural, regional, and even legal considerations. The aim is to provide an authentic and immersive gaming experience, irrespective of the player’s location or language proficiency.
The WHY of Game Localisation:
1.1 Broadening Your Player Base: The primary goal of game localisation is to broaden the player base by making the game accessible to a global audience. While English is a widely spoken language, only a fraction of the world’s population considers it their native language, and gamers overwhelmingly prefer games in their own native language. By localising a game, developers ensure that it resonates with players worldwide, transcending linguistic and cultural barriers.
1.2 Maximising Revenue: Localisation isn’t merely an added expense; it’s an investment with a high return potential. By accessing more markets, engaging worldwide players and building loyalty, you will increase sales as well as widen revenue streams, whether it may be in-game purchases, subscriptions, or other monetisation models.
1.3 Cultural Relevance and Immersion: Games are not just about the mechanics; they are narratives, experiences, and, most importantly, art. Cultural relevance is paramount for players to connect with the storyline, characters, and settings. Localisation goes beyond language translation; it involves adapting content to align with cultural nuances, ensuring players feel immersed in a world that feels familiar and authentic.
New crops were added to Farmville for the Chinese market
The WHAT of Game Localisation:
2.1 In-game Text and Dialogue Translation: The most apparent aspect of game localisation is the translation of text and dialogues. This involves converting the in-game text and dialogues into the target language, including the use of subtitles if the game is not going to be dubbed or for accessibility reasons. However, it’s not a one-sise-fits-all process – nuances, idioms, and cultural references must be considered for an accurate and engaging translation.
2.2 User Interface (UI) Localisation: The user interface is the player’s gateway to the gaming world. UI localisation involves translating on-screen elements, buttons, menus, and instructions into the target language. The goal is to make the gaming experience seamless and intuitive for players, regardless of their language.
2.3 Audio Localisation: Games often include voiceovers and soundtracks that contribute significantly to the gaming experience. Audio localisation involves translating and recording voiceovers in the target language, also known as dubbing, ensuring that characters speak naturally and convincingly. Additionally, it could also include adapting background music and sound effects to suit cultural preferences and enhance the overall auditory experience.
2.4 Visual Adaptation: Visual elements play a crucial role in a game’s success. Localisation may involve adapting visuals, such as changing signs, symbols, or images that may carry cultural connotations or references unfamiliar to the target audience. Ensuring that visuals align with the cultural context is vital for maintaining immersion and preventing misunderstandings. This would be considered one step further from localisation and would fall under the umbrella of culturalisation.
2.5 Manual, Packaging and Marketing Material Localisation: Effective marketing is crucial for a game’s success, and this extends to localised marketing materials. This includes trailers, advertisements, website content and social media posts. For physical games, packaging can also be considered marketing material since it’s the first thing most players will see, whereas manuals are crucial components that provide players with essential information about the game, its mechanics, and its story. In all these, it’s crucial that the localisation is consistent with the game, easy to understand and grabs the player’s attention.
The HOW of Game Localisation:
3.1 Early Planning and Integration: Successful localisation starts with early planning. Developers should integrate localisation considerations into the initial stages of game development. This includes creating modular content, designing with localisation in mind, and using localisation-friendly coding practices. Early planning reduces the risk of overlooking critical elements during the localisation process.
3.2 Collaboration with Local Experts: Localising a game isn’t just about translating words; it’s about understanding cultural nuances. Collaborating with the right local partner, who is highly specialised in game localisation and can advise on linguistic and cultural issues, is essential. Their insights can help navigate language intricacies, adapt content appropriately, and ensure cultural relevance, ultimately contributing to a more authentic gaming experience.
3.3 Testing and Quality Assurance: Testing involves more than checking for language accuracy; it includes evaluating the overall user experience in the target language. Testing ensures that the game functions seamlessly, that all localised elements display correctly, and that there are no cultural or linguistic hiccups that might detract from the gaming experience.
3.4 Post-Launch Support: Game localisation doesn’t end with the game’s release. Post-launch support is crucial for addressing any issues that may arise after the game is in the hands of players. This includes addressing feedback, fixing bugs related to localisation, and potentially releasing updates with additional localised content. Ongoing support demonstrates a commitment to the global gaming community.
Here is a breakdown of the key steps of the localisation process:
- Pre-Development Planning:
- Identify Target Markets: Determine the regions and languages you want to target.
- Cultural Research: Understand the cultural nuances and preferences of the target audience.
- Design with Localisation in Mind: Develop a game with scalability for diverse languages and regions.
- Localisation During Development:
- Text and Dialogue Translation: Translate in-game text and dialogues, adapting them to linguistic and cultural norms.
- Audio Localisation: If needed, record voiceovers in multiple languages, ensuring linguistic and emotional resonance.
- Graphics and UI Adaptation: Adjust visuals, icons, and user interfaces to suit the preferences of different regions.
- Testing and Quality Assurance:
- Linguistic Testing: Verify the accuracy and appropriateness of translations.
- Cultural Testing: Ensure that localised content aligns with cultural expectations and sensitivities.
- Functional Testing: Check for technical issues arising from language or cultural adaptations.
- Post-Launch Support:
- Address Player Feedback: Be responsive to player feedback regarding localisation issues.
- Updates and Patches: Release updates or patches to rectify any localisation-related issues.
Some Common Challenges in Game Localisation:
4.1 Technical Limitations: Technical limitations can pose challenges during the localisation process. Some languages may require more space on the screen and, while localisers are experts at working with limited space, there is only so much the text can be shortened whilst still being intelligible, so this could potentially impact the layout and design of a game. Additionally, different alphabets, character encodings, font styles, and text expansion or contraction must be taken into account to avoid visual and technical glitches. Not to mention the problems that the frequent use of tags can cause in many languages due to differences in syntax, grammar, gender and number word endings.
4.2 Cultural References and Humour: Navigating cultural sensitivities can be challenging. What may be acceptable or even celebrated in one culture might be offensive or inappropriate in another. Localising content to respect cultural norms without compromising the game’s integrity requires careful consideration and cultural expertise. Similarly, humour can be very challenging to localise. Different cultures vary in what they consider funny (or not funny at all), and things like puns and other types of wordplay won’t work in other languages. In these cases, localisers need to find culturally appropriate equivalents to maintain the intended impact. For example, in Chrono Trigger: the original “drinking contest” was turned into a soda guzzling contest due to cultural sensitivities and laws.
4.3 Consistency Across Platforms: Maintaining consistency across different gaming platforms can be challenging, especially when dealing with multiple versions of a game. Developers must ensure that the localised content remains consistent in terms of translation, voiceovers, and visual elements across platforms to provide a cohesive experience for players.
4.4 Legal and Regulatory Compliance: Different regions have specific legal and regulatory requirements regarding content, age ratings, naming conventions and more. Adhering to these standards not only prevents legal issues but also demonstrates respect for local laws and societal norms.
4.5 Simultaneous Release: Coordinating simultaneous global releases can be logistically complex. Balancing the need for quality assurance across multiple languages while meeting release deadlines demands meticulous planning and efficient workflows. It pays to plan efficiently and avoid things like constant changes to the source that will undoubtedly delay the other languages.
By now you should know a lot more about localisation and how it can be a powerful tool for reaching global audiences and maximising revenue potential. As the gaming community continues to evolve, mastering the art of these essential aspects of localisation is an investment that pays dividends and an integral part of a successful global gaming strategy. But, if you still need any more information, the Localise My Game team will be here to help you, just give us a shout!