head-first into a localization project without a fully-fledged localization
strategy is a foolhardy and risky move. Not just because poor localization
turns players off your game (though it really does), but because it actively
damages your organization’s reputation. And that makes players second-guess
buying another game from you. In other words, a bad localization actively loses
future revenue (or worse, puts you in the bad game translation hall of fame).
And this makes a game localization strategy critical, because the right strategy acts as a guide to what you’re trying to achieve and how you’ll get there.
So here it is: a five-step guide to building a video game localization strategy.
Let's start with a seemingly easy, but actually quite complex question: what is localization?
At its simplest, video game localization is the act of transforming a game’s content from one language into another.
But in reality, it means many things to many people. For some, it’s a simple translation of the game’s text from one language to another. To others, it’s a process that involves writing, voice recording, visual changes, and more. To most developers and publishers, a typical localization is a multi-step process that involves
It’s important to define which of these services best suit your game before you start, because these decisions will impact the project’s speed and quality.
A localization strategy is critical if you want to reach more people and, in turn, make more money. Localization from English into Simplified Chinese, for example, opens up a potential audience of 619.5 million new players.
Understanding which regions offer the greatest opportunity will help nail down which languages to target. For example, Simplified Chinese is relatively inexpensive and can open up a huge potential audience (in fact, here’s a whole guide on breaking into the Asian market), whereas French opens up to another 32 million potential players. And it’s not just for France, but also for Canada and other former French colonies.
But finding the perfect market isn’t as simple as targeting a region that has a large player base, as a series of other considerations must be factored in. Existing data from similar games released in a particular region will give a steer on which genres and styles are more or less likely to succeed in certain territories. Here are a few areas outside of audience size worth looking at:
If you’re outsourcing, it’s important to know what you’re getting into up front. The way a project runs will differ greatly depending on whether you’re working with freelancers or an in-house team.
On the whole, freelancers tend to be cheaper but come with fewer services—for instance, omitting localization QA, which checks the translation’s quality.
Additionally, larger providers (as is the case for PTW’s game localization services) will appoint a single point of contact for all languages who will liaise with the wider translation and localization quality assurance teams. This can significantly reduce the amount of project management on your end—something that can get messy if you’re working with multiple independent freelancers.
The sooner you consider localization in a game’s development cycle, the better. For instance, if you know which languages you’re translating into before development starts, developers can factor in language-specific changes like noun/gender issues, special characters, and non-breaking spaces, so they don’t become issues down the line.
A game’s localization success can be
measured in two parts: critical user feedback, and return on investment.
Critical user feedback includes things like reviews that let you know how the audience responded to the translated game. If, for example, your game gets lower reviews in a country you localized into, it might be worth looking into the quality of that localization.
Similarly, financial success in selected regions—represented by sales numbers and return on investment—are a significant indicator of whether a localization was worth it.
Understanding how your localization went over, both financially and critically, builds a clear picture of whether it was a worthwhile investment and acts as a guide on future projects.
Follow these five steps and you’ll have a robust video game localization strategy that will put you on the right track to a successful localization.
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Before
you take on a full-scale localization project, there are some serious questions
you need to ask of your team or service partner. That’s why we created “Every
Question You Need to Ask Before Localizing a Game,” an eBook that answers
all of the important localization questions, from the basics to financial and