Applying localization is not only reserved to websites and the market, it is really a necessary procedure in pretty much everything and anything there is. There are hundreds if not thousands of examples in the videogame industry; a badly localized game can lead to some terrible consequences, even the complete ban of said game in a specific region. To avoid this and the loss they suppose to the publishers, a proper game localization must be in place.
Videogame localization refers to the process of transforming video game software and hardware for preparation to be implemented and sold in a new region, typically a new country. This process, same as with web localization, does not rely solely on translations of text; the game must undergo a thorough revision in order to detect which changes must be made to the game. Audio files, manuals, art assets, content, these are all subject to change and even, when necessary, entire cuts.
Monolingual vs. multilingual
With the rising of the gaming industry, digital purchases have become an even greater boost to sales than ever before. Revenue from games downloaded directly to consoles, PCs and mobile devices rose by 9.8% in January of the current year; this raised the bar for total game revenue to an outstanding $7.47 billion, this number does not include physical software purchases.
Languages play a major role in video games sales, this directly impacts a game’s relative popularity against others and this works across all platforms. For this review, Android and IOS applications were taken as an example and according to an analysis made by pangeanic.com, mobile apps need to have a translation strategy if they’re considering on going beyond their home market. For this purpose, they analyzed the current market and discovered the following:
Only 13% of iOS games are multilingual. This is a huge missed opportunity for developers. It was revealed that in 2017, 75% of respondents from ten non-English speaking nations want products in their own language. 55% of those surveyed revealed that they would only buy at websites where the information was presented in their language, and that figure rose to 80% for those with limited English.
However, if your goal is to boost download numbers, translation into Chinese is the way to go; Chinese markets alone compromise 12% of the global mobile games revenue; this ultimately brings the developers to a fork in their road and to the questions, when, what and why to translate in the game.
There are a few key factors that need special attention when translating a game, be it for consoles, PC or mobile devices; these are of the utmost importance as they give out the first impressions a game may have on the audience. These key factors are:
Game name: Simple and to the point. The title of the game has a few considerations when choosing to translate or not; some names may have a special meaning that can’t be attained with a translation, others don’t. Picking when and when not to translate a game name is sometimes crucial. An example of a game name that shouldn’t be translated is Devil may cry, simply because the meaning and the reason for this name is lost in the translation.
Language: This part is pretty self-explanatory and yet has its own “rules”. Translating into a language doesn’t just mean providing an accurate translation of every word in the game; it encloses the locations, character names, landmarks if applicable, weapons, tools and other text-based information. These are again, not to be translated automatically, for example, character names shouldn’t be translated because in most cases they represent an identity to the game; when character names get translated confusion starts to flourish on the internet communities.
Measurement: Some countries use meters, others use feet, others something completely different. Adjusting these is a must.
Localizing In-game elements to improve popularity ratings.
Games have an array of features and elements within them so vast, that enumerating every single one of them would take a lifetime to do. However, there are a few key factors that a game should always contain in order to be popular, in which measures though, can vary from genre to genre.
Great Gameplay vs. Great Stories.
Games are all about telling a story, much like a movie game rely on conveying the gamer the ability to immerse themselves in the world that’s presented to them; however, unlike a movie in which a person is only along for the ride, games have to provide an easy to understand and use gameplay mechanics. Which brings developers around the world to the question: Should a game rely more on the story or on the gameplay itself?
While it’s true that games should have a compelling story, gameplay elements are of great importance as well. Reality is that it heavily relies on the genre of the game in question; one clear example would be a mobile game such as Clash of Clans that doesn’t have a story, just gameplay elements that rose it to be one of the most popular games in virtual stores. Other game genres, like for example graphical novels however, do need to focus on their story arcs and into making them entertaining and addictive to players.
On the other hand, if a game has an amazing story with all the right elements in it, but the gameplay makes it difficult for the person playing it to actually play the game, then said game is destined to failure. Games are meant to be interactive, giving the player choices and allowing them to play however their style drives them to, this in turn helps players immerse themselves in the story that’s being told. So as a conclusion, stories told are important, yes, but so are the gameplay mechanics that allow a player to enjoy and identify themselves with said story.
Nowadays, graphics have become a driving force in the game industry. Developers push towards realism in their graphical design, this is a somewhat misguided idea as not always the best graphics translate to a great game. It all comes back to the story the game is based upon, for example, games like Tom Clancy’s The Division have an amazing graphical engine which compliments the story of the game perfectly, since the game it’s based on real life; graphics should strive to be as accurate to the universe as possible.
But this doesn’t apply to every game out there. Games like the super popular Crash Bandicoot opted for a more cartoon-like graphics which fitted the universe and story perfectly. The focal point for developers when thinking of graphics and art style should be the story, the game graphics should always compliment the story and setting of the game, otherwise cohesiveness will not be possible.
In the end it all comes to a proper analysis of the market and conditioning of the games to properly fit in with the target. Developers should always have the regional restrictions in order to avoid incurring in moral, religious or any other kind of fault with their content. Proper translations of text as well as maintaining the so called ‘puns’ localized are a must when publishing games, one tiny mistake in the process and said game can be a sales catastrophe.
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