You’ve created your indie game! Perfect! You are not just extremely proud and happy, but also ready to share it with the whole world, conquer millions of hearts, attract millions of players, and skyrocket your sales! It’s a dream come true!
However, even though it seems simple, it’s not as easy as many people who are not involved in the industry might think. You need to develop your marketing plan and budget, promote your game on social media, connect with gaming influencers, and assure to get some great reviews for your playing.
But before all that, as an independent game developer, you need to think about translating and localizing your game. Why?
- First, because when targeting audiences from different countries, you must adapt your game to their specific characteristics
- Second, localizing your game has an undeniable impact on downloads, reviews, social media, and overall marketing strategy. When the potential players find your game, they are more likely to download it if they can understand the content.
If you want to get maximum downloads and sales with every release, you must be aware that game localization always comes with a price, and not all indie game developers can afford to pay. The reasons can be diverse: you share your first game with the world and you don’t have any budget for localization; or maybe you created that demo for the Kickstarter campaign that will fund the development and localization of your game; or maybe you’re just at the end of the development phase and looking to save some money.
You may have considered using cost-free options, such as Google Translate or crowdsourcing. However, while they are free, they also come with serious quality issues.
However, you should know that ensuring high-quality translation and localization does not always require a high investment. But when you have a tight budget, you have to make some smart decisions about adapting your game to different markets, without sacrificing its quality.
Here are a few tips:
- Strategically choose your language for your indie game localization
- Start early
- Decide which part you want to localize
- Don’t forget about word counting
- Replace words with visuals
- Provide your translation and localization teams with context
- Make sure of the Localization Quality assurance
- Budget time and money to localize your indie game
Strategically choose your language for your indie game localization
When it comes to gaming localization, the very first step is to make market research. Which is/are the most high-potential market(s) for your game? Which are their main characteristics? What is the dominant language spoken there? What are the pros and cons of entering that specific market?
Here are some data:
- For console / PC games, the most popular non-English languages that the Steam gamers played last year are Chinese, Russian, Spanish (Spain), Brazilian Portuguese, and German.
- For the mobile market, the App Annie’s State of Mobile Report 2022 shows that the top countries by app store downloads are China, India, the US, Brazil, Indonesia, Russia, Mexico, Turkey, Vietnam, and the Philippines. According to the same report, the top countries by consumer spending are Brazil, Indonesia, South Korea, Mexico, India, Japan, Turkey, Singapore, Canada, and the US.
Let’s consider, for example, China. On one side, Chinese is the second most spoken language across the globe and China has one of the largest markets in the world. On the other side, it is also very strictly regulated and the Chinese gamers don’t spend too much on playing their preferred games, making it pretty hard to expand on.
Additionally, you should also think about costs before choosing the pair language for your game. Localizing Western languages to Eastern languages (and vice-versa) will be more costly, due to the major cultural, political, and religious differences.
Don’t leave localization to the last stages of your game design because they are strongly connected. Adapting your game to a foreign market can significantly impact user experience and gameplay. Therefore, if you are serious about localizing your game, you should start to consider it before and during the development stage. This way, you’ll face less re-work or issues along the way, saving you time and money.
What you should consider while developing your game:
- Use a font that supports all UNICODE characters – many languages include specific characters like, for example, ß, ü, ¿, or å, that can’t be replaced.
- Make sure the font also allows no-break spaces – (also known as unbreakable space”, non-breakable space, or “hard space”), they are spaces that will not be separated from the two characters they are surrounded by. They are used to avoid splitting certain texts into different lines, such as numbers (DE: 10 000), names (Mr. Bock), numbers from values (DE: 5 %, 10 Gold), and words from punctuation marks in languages whose convention is to have a space before certain kinds of punctuation (FR: Trop cool !)
- Code scalable text boxes – many languages need more space than English; therefore, you should always let extra space for more characters (typically 30% or even more). Otherwise, the translation and localization teams will face difficulties (and maybe will be unable) to create convincing adapted versions of your playing.
- Don’t hardcode text – by mixing the code with in-game text, you will make it difficult to extract and integrate all the text for translation.
- Don’t use concatenated text – combining two or more strings is particularly useful as it can help you to keep the game small and save time (and money) needed for programming, writing, and even translating. Still, due to the differences between languages, a lot of the text must be grammatically adjusted to fit the variables.
- Avoid graphic text and mixing designs with text – you might not be aware at the beginning, but having a convincing localization implies more than just translating the in-game texts. It also involves adapting your visual elements. But redesign your imagery just to insert the translated text, it’s a complete waste of time and money.
And the list can go on. However, to get a high-quality localized version of your game that will attract and engage with your users, you have to prepare it seriously.
Decide which part you want to localize for your indie game
When localizing your indie game, you need to consider a lot of things: in-game dialogues, menu buttons, visuals, user interface, launch kit, and marketing content. Otherwise, your audience might feel that they have a translated version of an original game created for someone else. But sometimes, depending on the context, it’s better to leave some original elements in the localized game instead of translating them. It all depends on the market you are targeting.
If it’s the first-time translation, you’ll want to have a list of everything you want and don’t want to localize.
Don’t forget about word counting
Avoid long texts full of filler words that do not enhance the game or provide a special connection with the player. Review all dialogues and their structures to eliminate cluttered and unimportant sentences. The fewer the words, the less translation is needed, saving you time and money.
Replace text with visuals
You know the expression “a picture is worth a thousand words”? Well, that’s also true in the gaming industry and you need to use it to your advantage. Find opportunities to use descriptive images that can successfully replace your long wordy descriptions. Visual elements, such as icons, pictograms, and other graphic elements, can often be understood in a variety of contexts. These visuals will help reduce translation efforts, which then leads to lower localization costs.
Provide your translation and localization teams with context
If a want to have a high-quality translation and localization of your indie game, your translators really need to understand the original text of your game. The more detailed info, the better. You should include:
- the description of your game’s characters: gender, age, habits, living style, etc.
- their communication style (serious, aggressive, funny, or old-fashion?) Which are their dialects?
- the virtual world and the time of your game action. What do they refer to?
Providing your teams of linguists just with the basic information is the foolproof way to get a basic translation quality of your game.
Make sure of Localization Quality Assurance
Checking the quality of the translation and your game’s features are extremely important. This way, you can make sure that a pair of fresh eyes can see and correct the spelling, grammatical and other linguistic issues that are unnoticed during the localization process.
In this stage, a team of reviewers will also inspect the UI/UX interface to judge usability and run compliance and functional tests to see if all elements fit properly together.
Budget time and money to localize your indie game
The translation process is usually the last step in the game’s development cycle, and translators don’t have much time to do a good job. But if you plan your translation in advance, you can avoid any problems that may come up.
Trying to cut corners at the beginning can be costly in the long run. For example, it may be tempting to use free online translation software, such as Google Translate or DeepL, but these tools don’t take culture or context into account. Fan translation services may be a better solution than using online tools but may not be suitable for specialized game localization.
However, when hiring a professional linguist or a translation agency, you should plan your budget ahead. This is because, on one side, high-quality professionals might be booked out for several months. On the other side, they respect their work enough to charge higher fees (in case you have urgent tasks), which reflects their values.
And this is because, on one side, high-quality professionals might be booked out for several months, and second, they respect their work enough to charge a fee that reflects their value.
Game localization takes time and time means money, this process depending on the languages required, the type of game, and the complexity of the localization project.
To use more efficiently all the resources you have, you need to rethink how you translate and localize your game. As it requires more of a thorough analysis of all the inefficiencies in your existing workflow, there is no quick fix for doing this.
But if you want to localize your indie game with a tight budget, starting this process in parallel with the development of the game makes a lot of sense. So, what are your thoughts on this?