These days, the video game industry contrives to get to the top of the entertainment sector globally. This intention is benefited from the pandemic which has accelerated the market demand for video games. Many game developer companies do not want to miss this golden opportunity and strive to make sales around the globe. Hence, localization services are in high demand.
If you are a video game developer aiming to reach the international market, localization has to be top of mind. Localization is a very important thing for your game to be sold globally. Launching your game only in one version would hurt your foreign sales because you lose your chance to reach a wider consumer.
Why game localization seems very needed? What is it exactly and how important is it?
To be clear, video game localization is an adaptation process of video game products into other languages. The adaptation includes not only translation but also the specific embodiment of each culture. This allows video games to blend seamlessly into the international market.
Video game localization is one way to bring market improvements to your game product. Properly localizing your video game product before launching it overseas will help improve the user experience. It develops native nuances in the game so that the players would fancy it more for they can see and hear things that they are familiar with as they play it. Thereby it shall reach greater international recognition and increase sales.
Game localization example
Chinese company Moonton has provided localized features for their globally popular game, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang(commonly known as MLBB or ML). The features were launched in 2020 and intended for Arab and Indonesian players. They included voice-overs for all characters as well as the emergence of new characters who have the local background of each country.
The Arab features feature a new character named Khaleed, which has an Arabian Peninsula background. The character appears in ancient Arabic traditional dress and weapon. Meanwhile, the localization for Indonesia presents a character that originated from traditional Indonesian Hindufolklore, Gatotkaca.
Moonton also adapted other local materials into the characters. For example, Khaleed which came from Arabia Peninsula has attacking skills that are related to sand and desert. Gatotkaca on the other hand appears with the same costumes and skills as it is in folklore. The character is also able to pull out Indonesian native phrases such as om telolet om and ototkawat tulang best.
How does game localization work?
Game localization is not a simple process at all. It requires amounts of time and resources to be done. Video games consist of various media such as audio, video, text, and graphics. Attempting to adapt your video game is to reckon with more than one media simultaneously and it is certainly challenging.
Game localization covers cultural wisdom instead of only language translations. Localizing a video game requires not only translating the text in it, but also in-game dialogues, and with that, its cultural attributes. For that, adequate knowledge and creativity towards the linguistic and cultural aspects of particular game environments are crucial. Translators must prevail over the source and target language and culture to develop consistent character and speech.
Game localization also includes technical tasks, such as string extraction and UI/UX modification. Content additions or deletions are common to occur in localized video games. Even so, it still has to respect the story and intention of the game. Automation tools such as TranslationManagement System (TMS) would come in handy for this.
The process of game localization includes the following steps:
1. Content Analysis
This is the preparation step. The objective is to determine the target audience, the elements of the game that need to be translated and/or adapted, and the required resources. This step is important for developing a strategic plan so that the localization will be effective and efficient.
2. Localization Tool Development
This step is where the localization team develops a localization kit (LocKit) that will be a complete guide to assist the translators of your game and its linguistic assets.
In this step, the team will input your in-game data, such as the idiosyncrasies, characters, items, and the game’s story, plus the data gained from the previous step to determine the terminology for the translation.
3. Code Localization
This is the step where the localization team extracts the strings from your game’s code. The extracted strings will then be submitted to a Translation Management System (TMS). For this step, your game needs to be written in a way that it can be translated.
4. Integration With a TMS
In this step, the previously extracted strings will be combined with a TMS. The simplest way to do this is by using a custom-built connector for your particular repository. The workflow will depend on the repository of your game.
5. The Translation
The separated and isolated strings of your game are now able to be sent to the translators and get worked on. The use of TMS will be very helpful in this step. TMS will merge your resource files altogether into a platform to be exercised by the translators. The translators will then translate each string using your LocKit so as any other given context.
6. Regional Localization
Other than just translation, specific elements of your game will also need to be adapted based on the target region. For instance, some graphics like blood, corpses, and skulls, are prohibited in some regions. In this case, you must cut them out so your game can be marketed there. On some occasions, some part of your game’s storyline such as cut scenes also needs to be reworked to fit into the target region’s culture.
7. Quality Assurance
After being translated and adapted, it is important to make sure that the outcome is free from linguistic issues as well as grammatical or spelling errors. It is also important to check that the context of your game is not changed during the translation process.
This is the part where the localized elements are integrated into your game. In this step, the UI/UX of your game will probably be adjusted or changed to make sure everything is in order. The codes might as well be changed to integrate the translation output into your game.
A good game localization will bring out a seamless outcome. The main purpose of game localization is to let the target market feels like your game is specially developed for them. Therefore, you can keep in touch with your customers.
With all that being said, localizing your game is very important for your game’s sales and economic growth. By localizing the content of game, you will be able to expand its purchase globally and gain market share in the long run.