Why Video Game Developers Need Professional Translation and Localization Services


In 2018, consumer spending for the video game industry in the United States alone was more than forty-three billion US dollars according to Statista. This pales in comparison when standing next to the 2019 global figures that put the video gaming industry in its entirety at closer to one hundred and fifty billion US dollars.

For the game developers, this means the world is at your doorstep as a potential customer base, but only if the players have something that they can both understand and relate to. Localization and translation services are imperative for video game developers these days. Localization is important so that video game players will have something that they can relate to.

A big part of localization revolves around the video game translation, but this can be made especially difficult as much of what is made up by video game writers will have no literal translation, and more notably, video games aimed at younger children will also be full of the current idioms, unique to each generation, and all of which is best translated by someone with an intimate knowledge of the local culture and the current vernacular.

Whether for video game apps or full-fledged game developers, video game translation is imperative if the game developers are to have any hopes of capturing a larger portion of the video game markets. You can find out about translation services from one of the global leaders in the translation market here if you want to know more. These professional translation and localization services are especially important for the modern video game developers who are going to be using the Freemium Model in order to make their video game more profitable for the developers.

What is the Freemium Model of Video Game Development

The “Freemium Model” of video game development is one of the most popular methods used to get widespread global gameplay on new video games. This is perhaps most well demonstrated by looking at the Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games commonly referred to as MMORPGs. In this video game business model, the games are given away for free, thus allowing for a vastly larger audience than a more restrictive video game that can easily cost more than many people in the world can reasonably afford.

However, premium items can then be purchased through online stores run by video game developers. While some video game players will take great pride in earning everything that they possess within the game itself, other players will be more than happy to plop down five or ten dollars in order to purchase rare or even unique items only available from the video game store online.

Global video game developers such as Garena, RAN Online, E-Games all have their own online currencies where people can purchase “in-game” funds to be used at exclusive stores and shops for the video games. These types of in-game purchases have become so popular that they are now even common among players of Nintendo and X-Box and purchasers of video games by Blizzard Entertainment and of course, on sites like Google Play where video game apps are among the most popular downloads for cell phones. The other thing that all of these successful game developers have in common is localization including professional video game translation as part of the actual game development, and not merely as some afterthought for marketing.

What is Video Game Localization and Why is it Important?

What does localization mean in video games? Japan and South Korea are among the top nations in the world for professional game developers. However, to capture a larger section of the global markets, many game developers integrate video game localization into their actual game development.

Localization strategies for video games are often much more involved and complex than app localization for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the complexity of many video games and even video game apps. Rather than risk alienating any of their potential audience, they focus on making the game as appealing as possible to as many people around the world as they can through the use of professional localization strategies.

It should be noted, however, that as more and more game developers focus on video games for mobile apps, this too will eventually change. As more and more gamers switch to mobile apps, the need for app localization will increase accordingly. Even many of the major game developers are now focusing more on video game applications for mobile devices, due to the increased demand in mobile video games specifically focused on game apps as opposed to full, computer-restricted video games.

In its most base form, localization does center around professional video game translations. Whether the game developers need to translate from Japanese to English or from English to Japanese or to and from any other language, this is certainly central to providing a video game that more people will be able to enjoy. Professional video game localization is also focused on issues of cultural sensitivities including little things that many people would not necessarily recognize without a good deal of experience living within the local culture.

An MMORPG where the characters had to catch pigs for sustenance would probably not fare so well in nations where pigs are considered to be dirty. Eating beef is taboo in other locations. Would this fare be better established as existing animals or with animals unique to the game world online? Names can easily be made up but what if the name of the villain or boss is the same as the name of a national hero? Conversely, what if the hero of a game realm has the same name as an infamous character in the real world?

Video game localization strategies must take into consideration any and all of the local variables in order to avoid insulting anyone and driving away players who may also become cash-paying customers buying rare or unique game items online. From the way the character sits to the foes, they will face to the places they may spend their “leisure time” online, all the way down to the smallest of details. None of this would be possible without the use of professional video game localization services.

While all of that is certainly challenging in its own right, again, video game localization focuses largely on translation, but translation services for video game developers will have their own concerns due to the complexities associated with video game translation strategies.

Why Are Professional Translation Services so Important for Video Game Development?

Video game translation services may seem overly simple at first glance. There is only so much language used in any video game right? Video game scripts are highly specialized and most definitively an integral part of the video gaming experience. According to the Gamicus, there are many games with well over one hundred thousand words. Among these are such popular games as Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn, Star Wars, Knights of the Old Republic, and many of the Final Fantasy video games.

Bear in mind also that translation is not only about a literal translation, translating word for word. Video game translations must also focus on conveying the feelings and meanings behind the words being spoken. While it may sound easy, there are additional features to some video games that make professional translations exceptionally difficult.

Many of the video games of today are focused on a younger demographic. This presents a unique problem as each generation will have their own slang terms. The vernacular and lexical meaning of the words may differ from the original meaning of the words. In such cases, any attempt at a literal translation could very well leave the game developers with a very expensive failure that, depending on the level of the errors in the video game translation, may translate to lost sales, lost profits and more importantly still, a loss in reputation that can never be overcome.

Moreover, in a great many nations around the world, the exact same word may very well have a different meaning depending on what part of the country the player is located within. As just one example of this, in some portions of the US, asking someone to “fetch my pop” may mean to get them their soda pop or cola, wherein other portions of the nation would be asking someone to get their father for them.

As if all of that were not difficult enough, even for the professional translator or interpreter working on video game development, there is the added bonus of new words that really do not exist outside of the game realm. Add into this that many other placeholders or “discourse markers” as they are more properly called, will be prevalent in virtually every video game.

If Winnie The Pooh were to be translated for a video game, how would one translate Ephalumps and Woozles? Dr. Seuss was in fact well known (as was Shakespeare) for creating many of the words used in his books. How does one translate such quaint little ditties as “spazzim” or “glikker” or “sneedle”? There is definitely a good reason that most video game developers will create strategies for these processes during the game development phase.

However, even once the video games have been completed, the video game translations and even the localization strategies must undergo linguistic validation and further QA testing by native QA testers who can provide the developers with nuanced feedback and verdict on whether or not the game resonates well with their native market.

Video Game Beta Testing – Ensure the Quality of the Video Game Translation

Video game beta testing may seem like a dream job but it is, in fact, a very important part of the validation process for video games and part of the overall development process. It is during beta testing that the veracity and efficacy of the linguistic translations and video game localization strategies can be tested by native speakers living in their own lands. Only by using these techniques can the video game developers establish a means to fix small problems in the video game translation and localization before they become bigger, more costly, and have a chance to cause irreparable harm.

All of the new video games coming out have probably already gone through their phase of beta testing, else they would not yet be ready for release. Thus, it may take some work to discover which games are coming out and when there will be opening spots for beta testers, but this is not a chore that should be undertaken lightly, especially for the more avid video game fans. Potential bugs in the software are one of the primary reasons for this phase of video game development, but not by any means the only one. Someone who catches a potentially embarrassing faux pas before the video game is released to the general public may still find themselves enjoying more than just an honorable mention from the game developers.

Video game developers have a very expensive and long process between the formulation of the latest video game spectacular and its beginning into the gaming markets online. In terms of both video game translation and video game localization strategies, game developers should not be so quick to dismiss the utilization of professional translation and localization services. The more people the game developers have on staff, the more costs will be incurred. Hiring professional translation services allows for the game developers to rest assured that their work will be accomplished efficiently, accurately, and most importantly all, on time and on budget.




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