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7 Common Challenges in Video Game Translation 

video game translation
video game translation

Gaming translation should feel effortless to the people enjoying your games, leaving no trace of the challenges you had to overcome to deliver a truly multilingual and global experience. Dealing with these challenges effectively is key when producing quality gaming translation and maximising revenue in each target market. This starts with understanding the obstacles in video game translation and some of the most common challenges you will face, which we will discuss further in this article.

#1: Gamer demands & expectations

One of the biggest challenges game developers and publishers face today is meeting the demands and expectations of gamers themselves. The modern gaming industry is one of the most globalised in the world, with developers connecting with gamers through the internet from every corner of the planet.

With greater access to games from international markets, gaming fans have become increasingly demanding when it comes to translation. This has forced game developers and publishers to take translation more seriously and improve the multilingual experience of their titles. This in turn, has driven gamers’ expectations even further.

Now, gamers are quick to vent their frustrations online when games fail to meet these expectations or their demands.

#2: Choosing your languages

The first practical step of gaming translation is to choose which languages to support; this is a big decision! You have to consider a range of factors, including market size, potential revenue, the market coverage of languages (e.g. all Spanish-speaking countries) and the challenges involved with each language: translation difficulty, linguistic distance, grammar structures, etc.

Source: Newzoo

If you are purely interested in market size, China, the United States and Japan are the top three markets in terms of revenue. However, you are taking on a big translation project by supporting these three languages due to their linguistic and market differences, so it is important to make sure that you can pull this off. Alternatively, you might also want to consider other language coverage and decide that targeting all English, French and Spanish-speaking markets provides greater revenue potential with a more manageable translation project.

#3: Dealing with non-translatables

Most translation projects involve specific phrases, words or concepts that objectively cannot translate into certain target languages. The more creative your content the more likely this is will happen and happen. This is a common occurrence in games with complex stories, scripts and in-game dialogue. When running into anything that cannot translate into your target languages, it is important to consider the closest possible alternatives.

#4: Creativity getting lost in translation

In addition to non-translatables, it is common to find plenty of creative language and concepts that lose their meaning when translated. In other words, the direct translation is straightforward, but it takes on a different meaning altogether or loses its impact through differences in connotation, idiomatic meaning or cultural interpretation.

In these cases, you have to forget about direct translation and find an alternative capable of playing the same role linguistically.

#5: Localising game code & UIs

To deliver localised experiences to multilingual gamers, you have to optimise your code to separate in-game language from core files. With the correct file and code structure, the development workload of testing and reviewing translated experiences can be significantly minimised, eventually making it easier to add new languages in the future.

Translated text can also expand or contract, which can mess around with UI layouts. Likewise, considering the use of icons, symbols and colour coding to ensure they’re relevant to every audience is also required.

#6: Adapting gameplay for cultural reasons

One of the biggest creative challenges in multilingual game development is understanding cultural differences. For example, characters that feature bones and skeletons in their designs are often adapted for Chinese releases, where such visualisations are often considered bad luck or a bad omen.

The Chinese government has rejected games in the past for including such characters with titles including World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King being among the many titles to experience issues.

#7: Delivering consistent experiences

Translating a game can force you to change several aspects of the experience, including user interfaces, icons and symbols. It can also require to localise other aspects of gameplay, such as jokes that are lost in translation or characters, as well as story elements that are unsuitable for specific markets.

The more changes need to be made, the more challenging it is to deliver a consistent experience for every user base. On the one hand, you might strive to deliver the best possible experience for gamers in every market. On the other hand, you might try to deliver an experience that resembles the original as closely as possible while only making the most necessary changes – and this balance may vary from one market to the next.

Also Read: All You Need to Know About Gaming Translation

Need help with these video game translation challenges?

If you are currently encountering challenges during your gaming translation process, our team of localisation experts can help. Get in touch with our gaming translation experts, Jackpot translation, to talk about your projec

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