Content Updated May 1 2022
Localization is more commonplace than ever, thanks in large part to the booming mobile gaming industry. Mobile and social games have afforded players all over the world more access than traditional console games — which has influenced game developers to localize games into even more languages.
Whether you’re localizing for the first time or you’re trying to determine if your next big game should have localized copies from the get-go, there are a few things to consider before trying to start your localization project.
Yes, this is seriously the first question you should be asking. Not every game can or should be localized, and not every game needs to be localized on day one. But the argument for localization is pretty strong. Some games get 40 to 50 percent of their revenue from foreign markets, so if you’re confident your game is going to do well — you should consider localizing in multiple languages right off the bat. If this is the first time you’re localizing a game, you might want to consider waiting to see how it does domestically. The other questions you need to think about may help you to better answer this initial pondering.
This is more of a technical question. Will your game be able to accommodate localized versions of the text? Once your copy is translated, those changes will have to be implemented, so you’ll need to figure out if your game engine is internationalization ready. That includes load screens, HUDs, subtitling, and in-game text and audio.
Along with whether your game can actually be localized from a technical standpoint, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the Minimum Viable Localization (MVL) standards for your genre and platform. For example, when releasing a game for iOS, you need to localize the metadata, keywords and maybe the description or screenshots depending on the game. Of course, these are just the bare minimum requirements and you can add additional localization from there.
When it comes to localizing a game, the old adage of “you have to spend money, to make money” is very true. As mentioned, a lot of U.S. developed games earn around half of their revenue from foreign distribution, so having a localization budget could help in the long run. Startup publishers tend to wait until the domestic revenue starts rolling in, but more established publishers can usually justify an up-front localization budget so that the game sim-ships in multiple languages. Localization vendors can work with a wide range of budgets, so don’t think it limits you.
This depends heavily on the platform and genre of your game. While console games are still big in Europe, mobile games are the dominant force in Latin America and Asia. Same differences goes for genres — RPGs are big almost anywhere but survival horror is not. The most common language groupings EFIGS (English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish) CJK (Chinese, Japanese and Korean) or BRIC (Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Indian, and Chinese) are good places to start and you can add additional languages if your game becomes popular somewhere else.
So you’ve answered all these questions, but there’s still one more to answer — are you ready to get a quote from a localization vendor? They’ll need to know how many words you need localized, the platform your game is on, what languages you’re thinking about, and what your timeframe is to advise you on production timelines and give you a quote. If you know all of these things, you’re ready to start talking to vendors — and hopefully get your localization project rolling!
Want to beef up on your localization terminology? Check out our Localization 101 guide!
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