There’s no denying that video games have become an integral part of the millennial life. This is probably because they allow the gamer to lead an alternate life, full of adventure and challenges. Gaming is a truly global industry today- a $60 billion one.
In 2010, a video game distributor in Brazil revealed that a game localized into Portuguese multiplied its sales 15 times! This underlines the importance of video game localization: it also underlines the need for quality translation and localization.
In spite of the importance of game localization, companies make the mistake of opting for shoddy shortcuts which are costly to repair, bring bad publicity, and hurt sales.
What are the localization mistakes that gaming companies make?
#1. Cutting corners on translation
Many video game companies think that they have saved a buck by going in for machine translations or considering the cheapest translation option rather than the best.
Machines are the world away from producing the accuracy needed. Translation tools can also be a security threat by providing access to video game content to hackers via the Internet.
Also, anything that is typed in for translation is literally handed over to the translation tool provider: it becomes their data; they can do anything they want to with it.
Translation needs not just to be accurate, but retain the flavor and nuances of the original to breathe life into the translated version.
Mistranslation can make the game a frustrating experience for the player or make the game developer a laughing stock of the gaming world; in the worst -case scenario, it can land the developer into a legal soup.
Cutting corners on translation add to the work and the expense. The sensible thing would be to make the use of professional translation services which are not just competent and creative, but discreet as well. Making the translation agency sign a non-disclosure agreement can help the game developer relax while the localization is going on safely in expert hands.
#2. Hard coding text into core files
This is something that video game developers with limited vision do. It is a mistake to embed text elements like the menu text, game’s title, and on-screen, printed dialogue into core game files. If the text is stored in a separate resource file, it will be easy to incorporate a translated version by adding a new variable and providing the translation in a separate dedicated file. Much easier than digging through source code while translation?
#3. Painting all game text with the same brush
Some games involve specialized terminology. Take sports games; football terminology is not the same as basketball-tall talk. Translators and localisers for such games need to do some research. The need here is for “research-oriented text.”
Games like the popular and addictive Candy Crush come up with new gaming concepts. Such games are slotted as needing “creative-oriented text.”
Game developers should analyze their game content and decide which category of text is suitable. Text should be tailor-made to content, and the portfolio of the translator should match this need.
#4. Out-of-context game localization
Surely, there is little to be gained by handing over reams of text to translators and localisers who know little about the game or its content. Worse still, is expecting someone who has no idea about gaming to handle the job!
When game localization is of such importance, the more the translator knows about the game, the better will be the outcome. Translators should be encouraged to play the game being developed. Discretion and security are non-negotiable requirements, of course.
#5. Ignoring Cultural Factors
Each market is steeped in its own culture. Cultural sensitivity is necessary while localizing a game or the developer will risk alienating target audiences. This isn’t just about actual game content like the story, characters, situations, and events.
Consider the following:
A gaming giant had to recall 75,000 copies of a video game which used the chanting of the Quran in its soundtrack after a user raised objections to it.
The depiction of Japanese armies invading South Korea may be a slice of history; nevertheless, Seoul was offended by a game that showed just that.
Localization misdemeanors can range from showing alcohol to displaying blood and gore on screen. While localizing, video game developers will do themselves a favor by doing a thorough recce of the target market. Cultural gaffes are not to be taken lightly, and the adverse publicity surrounding them can kill the game if not the developing company.
#6. Failing to test game translations
The proof of the pudding is in the eating!
Translation does tend to change the length of the sentence. Translated strings may not fit the graphics or the elements of user interface. Coding may also leave some strings missing. All this can be avoided if developers test-drive their games on an actual device.
On-device localization testing can let you assess the overall quality of game localization while identifying the glitches at the same time. If the game has on-screen printed dialogue, autofitting the text to fit the text space is necessary.
#7. Poor management of translation content
Game developers must organize all the different formats and files – marketing copy, manual, packaging, app store descriptions, in-game interface text, and subtitles. The management of translations must be centralized to avoid mistranslations and duplications across the various types of content.
#8. Treating localization as an afterthought
Thinking of localization as the very last step in the development cycle is a costly mistake that many game developers make and land up missing great overseas opportunities. When copycat versions arrive in the local market, such companies find that they have painted themselves into a corner. It is only then that they think of finding fresh markets overseas. Localization at this “end” stage means reworking source code and building up translation materials from scratch: all of which cost time and money.