The Challenges of Video Game Localization: Breaking Barriers for Global Reach
The gaming industry is experiencing massive growth worldwide, driven by factors such as improved accessibility, innovative storytelling, and internationalization. In order to appeal to a wider audience, developers are increasingly focusing on localizing their games for multiple regions.
Games that are only released in a single locality often struggle to succeed, unless that particular region is a major player in the industry, such as China, which contributes one-third of the world’s gaming revenue. This is why video game localization has become crucial for developers worldwide. By developing games in multiple languages, developers can open up their games to a larger community, expanding their reach and increasing revenue.
Why is Video Game Localization So Challenging?
Video game translation and localization present unique challenges compared to translating other commodities. As dynamic products, video games require extensive cultural adaptation and translation to meet global industry standards.
Modern video games act as storytelling mediums, with in-game texts and dialogues playing a crucial role. Maintaining consistency, stylistic accuracy, and cultural relevance are among the most common issues developers face when localizing video games. Many puns and artistic touches can be lost in poor translation, leading to a loss of immersion.
These challenges are not limited to indie or low-budget games. Even major industry giants can make mistakes from time to time, and these mistakes can result in community backlash, particularly when it comes to cultural adaptation issues.
Common Challenges in Video Game Localization
Video game translation is a multidimensional task that requires expertise in various disciplines. Translating game content involves considering the cultural and regional context, and linguistic expertise alone is not sufficient to complete this task.
There are several recurring challenges in multilingual game development. Here are a few examples:
Consistency is a crucial aspect of language translation. Every game has its own unique linguistic style, often derived from the local culture depicted in the game’s setting. Location names, character names, items, and flavor texts often follow a specific theme.
Translating these elements into a new language can sometimes diminish the artistic appeal and disrupt the initial thematic coherence. Therefore, game content translation requires careful revision to ensure consistency across languages.
For example, ShiftUp’s new game, “Nikke: Goddess of Victory,” suffers from an excessive number of translation issues in its side quests. Inconsistencies in pronouns, in particular, make it difficult to determine the gender of a character before seeing them on screen.
2. Cultural Variables
The biggest challenge in video game localization is cultural adaptation. Different regions of the world have vastly different cultures and geopolitical situations. Games created with one culture in mind may not resonate with a global audience.
This challenge is prevalent in all regions and arises from various causes. Historical context significantly shapes culture, including legends, myths, and societal norms, which may be perceived differently by various communities. Religion and belief systems also play a vital role in cultural adaptation, as certain content may be rejected or embraced based on religious implications. Ethnicity, cultural customs, and political issues further complicate the process.
Overall, cultural adaptation is a complex endeavor that requires a flexible approach and deep understanding of global cultures.
The tone of the language used in video games is crucial for conveying nuances in dialogues and narrative content. It is one of the most challenging localization elements, as it requires collaboration from multiple fields. Direct translation alone is insufficient; it must also reflect the intended meaning of the original content.
Working with voice actors to create a complete set of voice lines is necessary. Additionally, while creative liberty is important during translation, it should be exercised in moderation to avoid altering the original style of the content.
In the early days, some major titles did not offer localized options for the global market. Fan translations were often created for games like the early Final Fantasy series. While these games hold nostalgic value, the inconsistencies in translation are evident.
4. UI-related Modifications
One of the challenges in game localization is dealing with UI-related modifications. The space constraints in the user interface (UI) section and dialogue boxes can be frustrating. Words in different languages vary in length, so when translated, they may take up more or less space than the original text.
Asian languages often use fixed-width fonts, which are incompatible with most Western languages. Simply translating the words without adjusting the system can result in awkward spacing between words.
To address this issue, translations for games from these regions require a complete UI overhaul to accommodate proportional fonts. Translators and programmers must collaborate closely to ensure a smooth internationalization process. It often requires multiple rounds of testing using localization testing tools to get the UI adjustments right.
Tips for Tackling Localization Challenges
Localization is a systematic process that demands seamless cooperation among multiple parties. Here are some tips for successfully navigating the challenges:
1. Assign a Dedicated Team
Creating a dedicated team for the localization project is essential. Relying on different individuals to sporadically handle the task won’t yield optimal results. Localization should be treated as a crucial part of game development because poor localization quality can negatively impact the game’s appeal in the global market.
If you don’t have qualified translators or lack cultural context, you can always reach out to game localization services like LingvoHouse. Forming a dedicated team for localization ensures accountability and enhances the cohesiveness of the project.
2. Understand Cultural Variables
Cultural awareness is particularly important for cultural adaptation. Certain topics are sensitive in Middle Eastern markets and Asian countries like China and Korea. Therefore, extra caution must be exercised when incorporating exotic-sounding voice lines or music in your game.
Conduct thorough research before including such content to avoid cultural or religious connotations that may be inappropriate within the context of your game. For example, the game “Kakuto Chojin” faced issues for using Quranic verses, which were perceived as insensitive.
3. Understand the Context
Context is paramount for translators working on video game audio translation. Regardless of whether the project is a small indie production or a larger one, every game has its internal story and context that goes beyond pre-established cultural and regional constraints in the real world.
To ensure a proper translation, video game audio translation professionals need to fully comprehend and immerse themselves in the context of the game. Only then can they provide an accurate and meaningful translation.
Video game localization is of utmost importance for global market success. The article highlights the challenges faced in this process, including consistency, cultural variables, tone, and UI-related modifications. Overcoming these challenges requires a dedicated team, cultural understanding, and thorough knowledge of the game’s context.
If you need professional assistance in game localization, feel free to contact LingvoHouse. As a localization company with expertise in over a hundred languages, we are delighted to help you bring your next game to the world.
LingvoHouse is a professional translation & interpreting agency with a wealth of industry experience. They specialise in bespoke translation solutions in over 200 languages in a range of different industries. With a team of more than 4,000 professional translators located across the globe, the company offers round-the-clock services that are highly accurate with unmatched turnaround times.
For more information, please visit https://www.lingvohouse.com/