game localization
game localization mistakes

7 Mistakes You Should Avoid in Game Localization

Localization, as it appears in the name, is the process of adapting any kind of product’s translation to a specific country or region. Localization makes the sound of anything heard in the target market as if it’s originally made in that language. It’s a worldwide known technique to increase the recognition and sales of a product or service globally.

Gaming industry, especially after the 21st century, has massively grown. With the contribution of technological advancements, which create dazzling visibility, there is a tremendous demand all over the world for games of all sorts. Billions of dollars are spent each year to either produce or update a game and sell it worldwide. For the players of that local language, there may not be any problems since the only difficulty would be getting used to the gaming language and expressions but for a non-native consumer, it may become a huge problem.

Game localization has a core impact on the gaming industry. Game producers spend thousands of dollars localizing a game before launching it. The quality of the localized version of a game is almost as important as its other elements; graphics, sounds, game-play etc.

Best practices for game localization include; wide market research, in-game translation for headlines & instructions and dubbing. Low quality or a mistake may make the game look less attractive, or simply lead to loss of its consumers. That’s why delivering high-quality translation is a must while localizing it.

Have you ever wondered what may be the most challenging mistakes that one should avoid while localizing a game? Well, we’ve listed some of them for you.

Don’t Embed Text Into Core Files

You may be curious about the game localization process in general. If you are not familiar with how to translate video games, the most comprehensive and yet simple way to instruct is to "externalize your text/strings from your code”.

Using embedded text directly in the code will not only slow down the translation process since the translator has to scan the whole code to find the text parts that need to be translated but also it makes software maintenance difficult because of the fact that the same string can be used in different places of the code and for every change in the string, developers need to change all of the occurrences.

Thus, the most crucial matter: do not embed your strings into the code. Almost every programming language supports externalization. For instance, in Python using ".po" files for string localization is a common choice, meanwhile, in Java, you can use ".properties" resource files.

Localization is Not the Last Step

A simple question of "how long does it take to localize a game?" certainly arises while making research on game localization in general. In case you’re wondering how to translate video games, oftentimes developers decide to localize their games in the late stages of their development process. Localization should not be the last step, in fact, it should be considered a part of the development cycle, so that the soul of the game can be preserved for different languages. To capture the soul of the game, it is important to work with the same translators from the beginning. It is also important to provide notes to translators for specific texts that need more attention, and this takes time.

Don’t Make Budget Cuts in the Translation/Localization Process

To reach out to a wider audience, localization of your game, as well as the quality of that localization is a vital part. There are various ways to localize your game, and each of them comes with different pricing. Some of them are free but the quality is questionable. Making a budget cut may seem profitable in the short term but it will cost much more in the long run. The gamers instantly get a sense of the quality of your game just by examining the first dialogue or text that they encounter. Working with an experienced game translation agency like MotaWord will provide better localization and lead to much more profit.

The cost of localization of a game depends not only on the game localization services but also on the content that needs to be translated. If you wonder how much localization will cost you, you can get an instant quote from our site.

Don’t Ignore the Different Cultural Factors Between the Source Culture and the Target Culture

The video game production has an amazing universe, it is also a broadly unconsidered appendage in video game localization. In the video game industry, success and longevity come with the existence in the global market. With the new technologies being used in the industry, the number of gamers that are savvier and open-minded with their purchases is increasing. The power of word-of-mouth is advancing significantly, which means high-quality translation can boost or diminish a game's reputation and its sales. Let’s check the below video game translation fails as an example of Japanese game localization.

A well-known game series had a critical problem with the cultural localization of their game (No, we’re not talking about the Big Car Robbery). To avoid a potential tension it may create because of the nuclear bombing that occurred in Hiroshima during World War II, a side quest and an NPC (Non-Player Character) have been deleted from the game’s Japanese version.

For those game developers, who are about to begin on their own game translation journeys, we highly encourage you to work with a well-established translation company that has a proven track record of consistently delivering excellent results for both game creators and players. We wish you luck in your adventure, Dovahkiins! Hope you encounter the MotaWord experience one day...

Don’t Work With Non-Gamer Translators

After talking about the cultural localization of the games, another significant point is choosing the right translation companies and translators.

During the translation process of the game “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” from English to Japanese, translators have made a major mistake which has led to voice-over or sound localization confusion in certain audio lines in the game.

In the Japanese version of the game, we can find a character saying “Kill them, they are Russians!”. However, in the English/original version of the game, it is written as “Remember, no Russian.”, which means you shouldn’t kill them. So, Japanese translators would have understood that the Russians are not the people that players should target if they had read the context carefully. Consequently, the gamers got confused and started shooting the wrong targets.

This is an example of game localization problems to avoid. It’s important to choose the companies that work with people experienced in the gaming industry or are established in video game localization services.

Always Run a Final Check

The video game localization process is very sensitive. As we mentioned before, the localization mistake can create confusion in the storyline of a game which will lead to dissatisfied users. Even worse, it can create cultural tension between the developer company and the country that the game is published. Both of these factors will have a bad influence on the sales of the game and the reputation of the developer company. To avoid bad video game translations, testers should consist of a good combination of powerful linguists in the target language and it would be better if some of them are game players as well.

Another example of localization process mistakes can be found in the U.S. version of the game Fire Emblem Fates. The original dialogue between the two characters of the game exists in the Japanese version. However, “…” is the only thing that we can read in the US version. The localization team probably forgot to add the dialogue. Which makes it easier to understand the importance of “do not underestimate the game localization” and “choose your vendor wisely. The first success in the game localization comes with choosing the right (established, who has gamer translators in the team) localization partner.

Give Enough Context to the Translators

Every game has its own storyline and it is essential for the player to understand it fully to enjoy the game. If anything gets lost in translation, the game may not make sense in the other language. So, one of the most important things to do in game localization is to give the translators enough information on the game. The localization company you use also must receive a style guide, a description of the scenes, characters, and other important elements. In addition, preparing a glossary list for terminology will make the whole game consistent and the translation a success.

A very good example in this matter is; in one of the first versions of Zelda, there is a scene where one of the guys says “ I am Error”. This line is thought to be one of the biggest translation mistakes in the game localization industry. In the original version, the Japanese text can be really translated as “My name is Error”. It was supposed to be an intentional joke written by Takashi Tezuka, that got lost in the translation somehow.

What Can You Do More?

To avoid all of these mentioned mistakes in game localization, the most sound option is to work with a translation platform that understands the needs of the company in every way, from content to target culture, from consistency to meeting the deadlines, etc. Localization should be kept in mind before starting coding the game. Not doing so, would make you realize later that your code is not suitable for localization and this might cause time and budget constraints.

While going through all the processes in game localization, it is pivotal that you choose a translation platform that works with translators experienced in the game industry. It is also important to work with one that sees this more than a transactional vendor relationship.

MotaWord has been working with the biggest game companies in the world. With our experience in the industry, we are here to help with your game localization needs. Click here to get a quote now!

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