Jumping head-first into a localization project without a fully-fledged localization strategy is a foolhardy and risky move. Not just because a 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 with 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.
Step 1: What is localization? Define what it means to you Let's start with the 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 suits your game and what they do before you start because these decisions will impact the project’s speed and quality.Step 2: Identify your target regions
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. Here’s a rough outline of the size, costs, and reach of some languages:
Now finding the perfect market isn’t as simple as targeting a region that has a large player base, 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 upfront. The way a project runs will differ greatly depending on whether you’re working with freelancers or an inhouse team.
On the whole, freelancers tend to be cheaper but come with fewer services -- like language quality assurance which checks the translation’s quality.
Additionally, larger providers (like *ahem* 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 really messy if you’re working with multiple independent freelancers.Step 4: Start early
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.
Step 5: Track your successA 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 translation 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 -- numbers like sales 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’ve built a robust video game localization strategy that will put you on the right track to a successful localization.
But these steps are 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 outsource partner. It’s why we’ve created Every question you need to ask before localizing a game, an eBook that answers all of the important questions, from basics to financial and strategic considerations.