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Why we need to talk more about Gaming Localization!

What do localization and translation have in common with gaming? Well, not much…spare for just about being essential for the global success of any video game!

When Japanese Game Developers such as Namco, Sega, Taito and of course Nintendo first brought out their epic gaming titles in the early 80’s, the strategy was pleasing the internal market. Worldwide recognition only came later through the decision of expanding overseas and entering markets such as North America. But Games like Pac Man, or as it used to be called Pakkuman would not have moved squat if it wasn’t for the brilliant localization. Would you have played Taito’s Supēsu Inbēdā or as we know it, Space Invaders, without the proper description and localization?

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As part of our gaming dedicated month and along with the launch of our very own game, Beluga Triangle Battle, we wanted to talk some more about the importance of gaming localization.

3 Unbeatable Reasons to localize your game!

  1. The devil is in the detail: Culture

Next gen-gaming, open world games, sophisticated engines, customizable character features, complex gaming scenarios - all require a lot of passion for detail. And if getting it right in the native language is difficult, imagine the amount of work and love of detail which has to go into translating said game in 40 different languages. Even so, through translation alone you might not get it right. Which is where and why localization enters the game (literally). When dealing with other countries, one inevitably deals with different cultures.

See, Culture plays a great role in the perception and acceptance of a computer game. It can not only influence the tonality of the game, but its entire gaming mechanics. For example: Europe and North America are used to moving more and more toward open world scenarios, with no fixed narrative. In Asia, the big parts of the industry are built upon linear narratives.

The game localization process for different cultures can involve changing your color scheme, aesthetics, character features, locations, customs, etc…which is a lot of work and of course loving attention for detail.

2. Space: Rewriting the plot and dialogues

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Some languages are longer than other and take up more space and take longer to be spoken. Take for instance Japanese and compare it to English. It does not use up as much space as English and is a true speed demon. Japanese beating even Spanish when it comes to speed.

Now imagine having to change and adapt entire game designs with menus changing, dialogue bars becoming longer or shorter, cutscene’s needing to be trimmed and even hotkey mapping having to be rewritten due to different international keyboards. The language and text can influence design and programming, which means that games might need to go back to the drawing table.

3. Localization in numbers

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English might have its appeal when first getting into the business, yet 50% of all downloaders of the top 10 games do not speak it. Also Asia’s gaming demand is steadily growing with more than 40% of the total app revenue stemming from there. China’s game market alone holds more than $22 Billion in revenue. That is like taking Europe, Africa and the Middle East together! It is also the second largest market. Forecasts for 2018 show that the market will grow another 7% ($118 Billion) compared to 2017.

Final Thoughts

Localization is an essential part of making a game playable and immersive. Every little glitch or translation caused loophole, lead to unhappy gamers and a diminished experience. With the internet being full of people discussing their favorite foreign titles, proper localization became indispensable for a successful game. So when setting up your next project and budgeting it, you should dearly consider a team of expert translators to help you in your Endeavour.

About Beluga Linguistics

Beluga Linguistics was founded and is lead by two passionates about technology and languages, Cristina Moreno and Jan Hinrichs. With more than a decade of experience and professional linguists in all major markets Beluga is a stable partner of many of the most thriving enterprises in the technology sector. The business goal: To help fast growing companies offer their international audiences an excellent and engaging user experience.