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Video Game Translation Best Practices

Video Game Translation Best Practices

The success and longevity of a game depend almost always on its presence on the global market, characterized by a large number of game players who become more open-minded, wiser, and more demanding with their acquisitions. Therefore, you should make sure that you have a high-quality video game translation and localization, as they can make or break the reputation of a game and its sales on the international market. 

Besides, during the internationalization, translation, and culturalization of your game, you’ll face various challenges that are not so easy or funny to overcome. But its triumph you will enjoy represents the reward of providing the ideal versions of your game to players around the world.

So, what does it take for a game to be found worthy of entertaining today’s most sophisticated customers? And which are the translation best practices that will ensure you successfully provided your target market with a captivating product? 

Read on to find out what you have to do and what are the translation best practices to take the game experience to the next level.

With 2.7 billion users from all over the world in 2019, the video games market is worth $152.1 billion. In 2020 the global gaming market reached $155.89 billion and it is estimated it will amount to 268.8 billion U.S. dollars annually in 2025.

Even if this market has a continuing growth, the video gamers are an extremely sophisticated and complex audience, with a mindset different from an average customer, very specific tastes, and cultural behavior. In this industry, even the slightest mistake can lead to a serious drop in sales.

Therefore, video game translation is a tricky process and not very easy if you want to get the best results. In addition, you must have specialists who understand your audience and provide you with the right translation and localization services.    

However, to have a game that engages the player and brings his experience to the next level, you must go through the following steps:

Pre-production

Before starting your game translation project, make sure that your game is really ready for translation. In other words, to work with your translation and localization agency as smooth as possible, complete various related tasks in advance, such as:

  • Gather the various pieces of information that will lead to the accurate and high-quality translation and prepare the specific documents
  • Complete the legal documentation and agreements
  • Establish the translation process workflow and the procedures
  • Set the project management structure and define the communication protocols
  • Adopt a realistic budget for the translation project
  • Prepare for the next steps following translation and learn how to handle the QA issues that might occur

Video Game Translation

Converting game texts and dialogues from the language in which they were originally created to a different one means more than just a word-for-word replacement. You must pay attention to the smallest details, and that means translating clichés, idioms, and other expressions into equivalents in the target language. Also, make sure you match all the in-game audio, texts, and graphics with the new version of your game.

Generally, the translation process entails:

  • Translation — this means playing the game, studying the style guides and specific glossaries, learning the game’s context, and translating the text and audio files. This stage also includes editing, proofreading, and quality checking and/or testing the translated content, which are usually made by an independent team of translators.
  • Quality assurance — this step includes a close analysis of all text elements to correct in detail any error that might occur, especially spelling and grammar. Audio files are meticulously checked to detect and fix any problems, such as distorted or muttered words, and sound quality issues.
  • Files conversions — when the quality assurance processes are complete, the translated files are converted to the game’s original file formats. Translated text files are copied into the game code while translated audio files are converted to MP4, WMA, or other audio file formats used in the original version of the game.
  • Follow-up QA testing — At this point, the linguist experts or a third-party quality testing provider may perform additional quality examinations to ensure that the newly translated material and the game’s coding are ideally integrated.

To meet the high standards of the industry requires a meticulous process and following the most important video games translation best practices.

If you want to succeed in the global market, then all translated and localized versions of the game must have the same quality as the version created in the source language. Therefore, you need to make sure that professional translators use cultural references and regional dialects, use slang, and apply the nuances specific to the intended language.

Understand the culture of your target market

It’s important to know what was successful and what has failed in that area and why so researching the culture and the gaming market in the country where you want to expand your game is a key process of your translation and localization project. That’s why testing the game to discover how any cultural features and other aspects of it will be received in the area are very important steps. The areas with a strong cultural sensitivity are:

  • History — an inaccurate portrayal of a nation’s important historical moments can trigger surprisingly strong negative reactions.
  • Religion — inappropriate allusions and the use of religious and cultural symbols and concepts considered taboo can offend and even cause serious consequences for in-country game developers and their partners.
  • Ethnicity — racial stereotypes, prejudices, and failure to properly manage the ethnic diversity in-game can lead to direct and brutal rejection of the product in the target market.
  • Geo-politics — some countries do not permit media and gaming industry products portraying boundaries that conflict with the government’s claims to external land areas as part of its sovereign territory.

Promote teamwork and communication

To make the whole process smoother, keep transparency and promote a collaborative team relationship between author, game developers, and professional translators throughout the whole translation process. This way you make it easier to maximize the quality of outcomes and ensure a much more satisfying experience for everyone involved.

Effective communication between translation professionals and developers enhances the ability of everyone involved to get the most out of the process, and benefits players and the success of the game.

Complete all pre-production work

Determine whether your game is ready for the translation process. Create a checklist, and use it to complete pre-production tasks, including choosing languages for localization, preparing the legal documents, creating a budget for video game translation services, setting the project workflow, testing in target markets, and other pre-production work.

Test and collect feedback

Establish well-functioning channels for submitting and receiving feedback and gather it from your game’s multilingual consumer base. After the translation is completed, advise your clients to perform testing and check if the outcome fits with your localization strategy.

Efficient time management 

Superficial research, rushing up translation and other related tasks result in errors and compromise the quality of results for all parties involved, from players to shareholders and employees of the gaming company. Proper planning and preparation of translation and video game localization projects allow for methodically executed processes and substantial quality. Time management skills make often the difference between games with average performance and those that become international hits.

Some other aspects you should keep in mind when you want to successfully translate and localize your game in different languages and prepare it for a global audience:

  1. Look to identify and fix potential translation problems as early as possible in the design and development process.
  2. Write source code in a way that allows translation with minimal rewriting.
  3. Leave room for translated strings to occupy a larger space than the original text.
  4. Before starting localization, hire native players to test your translated version of the game to discover cultural issues.
  5. Make sure your game meets all national and local government constraints does not affect cultural sensitivities.
  6. Provide translators with a thorough understanding of context. Leave notes in text strings to help translators understand their use in the game.
  7. Provide translators with elements that make it easier for them to understand the context of the game leave notes in text strings to help them understand their use in the game.
  8. When inserting localized strings, assure that translators are allowed to reorder words in any way they wish.
  9. Limit substitutes you use in coding to a number or a single word.
  10. Set up a system for tracking changes to the source text to prevent duplication in ordering strings and to avoid difficulties in integrating translated strings back into the game. This can be especially important when releasing frequent updates with added content.

Final Words

High-quality gaming translation and localization will help you to maximize a game’s value, facilitate its success and avoid potentially serious costs of lost revenues, public relations failures, and brand damage. Beyond its accuracy, a successful translation should enhance the player’s experience through engaging and natural interaction. Achieving this result depends largely on the success of open communication and collaboration between developers and translation experts. Employing video game translation best practices further helps maximize accuracy, minimize risks of errors, time wasted, and the needless duplication of efforts.

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