As is well known, video game localization is the process of linguistically adapting a video game to the culture and language of the players in a target market, and includes textual elements such as dialogues, game manuals, marketing texts and much more. For this reason, the localization of a video game often involves many actors, from product managers to narrative designers, from localisation specialists to dialogue specialists. Since there can be many linguistic and cultural differences between the national and target markets, it’s unlikely that, in every markets, a global result can be achieved with the same version of a game in just one language.
What are the elements that vary from region to region?
A first aspect undoubtedly concerns language. Although many players speak English, there’s a risk that, if not adapted to their mother tongue, the video game could be misunderstood. ‘Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater’ is an example of localisation that demonstrates the importance of linguistic adaptation. In fact, the name of the US video game was adapted in Europe as ‘Tony Hawk’s Skateboarding’ so that users would not confuse it with ice skating.
Cultural references also play a key role in video game localisation, as they can vary greatly from one country to another. For example, one of the most popular Chinese games, ‘Honor of Kings’, was launched in Western markets as ‘Arena of Valor’. In fact, only the Chinese version of the name contains the word ‘Kings’ because in the history of China, monarchs have played a central role, whereas in several Western regions, such as the United States, there has never been a figure of a king. “Arena of Valor” uses the same game engine and user interface design as “Honor of Kings”, but with heroes significantly modified to suit the needs and tastes of the Western market.
Players are more likely to enjoy a game if the design and appearance match their expectations, because local culture has a significant impact on brand preferences and loyalty. In the US localised version of ‘S.O.S The Final Escape’, developed by Irem in 2002, most of the characters have blonde hair, whereas in the Japanese version they were dark-haired. Finally, local legislation also plays its part, because, many times, sensitive content may have to be removed or adapted. One of the localisation examples that shows how local regulations need to be taken into account is Nintendo’s Super Mario Kart. In the Japanese version of the game, two characters drink champagne after winning a race. Nintendo of America‘s policies did not allow the depiction of alcohol consumption within the game, which required the modification of the animations.
Why localization is essential
Localisation is a great way to maintain a high level of success in such a competitive and fast-growing industry as video games. Many companies invest in localisation in order to benefit from competitive advantages in the global market. On an economic level, localizing a game is a way to attract new customers and generate more revenue. In addition, it’s very useful to foster loyalty towards a brand, and to show local gamers that the product on the market is of interest. In turn, they can easily remember the company and buy other games developed by it in the future. This effect is even stronger in small markets, where localized games are still few.
The release of a new video game is often greeted with enthusiasm and the launch of a localized one has a multiplier effect. Potential customers in local markets are even more likely to buy a new game if it is available in their native language. The initial enthusiasm can only be exploited if it’s released in several languages from the start.
When it comes to raising a video game to a global level, the risk is high due to the rapid growth of the global video game industry.
For the process to achieve the desired success, it’s essential to consider localization as early as possible and to ensure direct and rapid communication between all those involved. With GLOS’s video game localization course, you will have the opportunity to learn the fundamental steps of video game translation and planning.