Translating games into multiple languages is the best way to maximise the reach of your titles in foreign-speaking markets. With the global gaming market set to surpass $200 billion (£163bn) for the first time in 2022, only one of the top five markets is native-English speaking: China, the US, South Korea, Japan, and Germany.
The only way to maximise revenue in today’s global gaming industry is to provide native experiences for these top markets. In this article, we discuss five key things you need to know before translating a game into multiple languages.
Above all, knowing your markets before the start of any gaming translation project is essential. This starts with market research, understanding the potential rewards from each market and setting realistic goals for each one.
With targets in mind, market analysis should be continued in order to determine what makes each gaming audience unique, including languages, cultural factors, audience demographics, market regulations, etc.
The aim is to create native gaming experiences for each given audience, whilst avoiding making any assumptions. Game publishers and developers should be prepared to make some tough calls in terms of what to translate and not translate; what to localise and what to adapt (more on this later) so making informed decisions with confidence should be based on extensive research and not guesswork.
Gaming translation always runs smoothest when titles are optimised for multiple languages from the early design and development stage. Game code localisation should happen early in the process in order to facilitate translation. The localisation of game codes usually involves using a system of language files in a dedicated folder and variables in core game files to call the correct language in.
Hard-coding in-game content into core game files should be avoided in general.
By localising games the right way, this can help avoid coding issues and unnecessary revisions later in the development process. This approach also keeps language files separate from core files and allows for the editing of individual languages or the addition of new ones without touching the core files.
In the previous section, we focused on localising core game files and back-end code for translation. However, it is also important to consider the front-end code that shapes the visual experience of a game and how to optimise this for all language audiences.
For example, text often expands or contracts when it gets translated into certain languages including English. English is a relatively compact language, which means text expansion is particularly common. Not taking this into account, can lead to the breaking of layouts including menus and other user interfaces – if you don’t allow for expansion.
This issue, however, can be avoided with careful planning. As long as you know which languages you are targeting, the translation of text labels can take place during the design stage and this will ensure enough space is left for text expansion.
When it comes to gameplay, some titles are more challenging to translate than others. Obviously, the complexity of in-game language plays a big role in this and titles with simple or little gameplay text/dialogue are generally easier to translate. Language is not the only factor that needs to considered, though.
Every element in the story of a given game shapes the overall experience for gamers, including the storyline, script, events and visuals. Some parts of the script may require more than translation to keep the experience relevant to each language audience.
For example, certain publishers or developers decide to localise the names of characters to make them more relevant to each market. Likewise, certain catchphrases, metaphors and other language devices in scripts may lose their meaning in translation and require adaptation to retain their intended message.
In some cases, the adaptation of some gameplay aspects might also be required to improve relevance, such as historical references, character outfits or anything that could lose meaning or culturally offend specific audiences.
The primary goal of gaming translation is to maximise revenue from foreign-speaking markets. To achieve this, game publishers and developers also have to translate and localise the marketing material around new titles.
This includes all of the marketing campaigns before and after launch, the game listings on each app store/marketplace and every interaction with gamers in each language market (social accounts, technical support, e-mail marketing, etc.).
With a strong multilingual marketing strategy promoting new game releases – both ahead of and after launch – game publishers and developers can really build hype before release, showcase the quality of your localisation and maximise downloads in each target market.
If you need more information on or support with translating games for multiple languages, you can speak to our gaming translation team by calling us on +44 (0)20 7324 0950 or filling out the contact form on the Jackpot Translation website.