Translation and localization of video games. Why is it necessary?

Translation and localization of video games is a crucial stage of the production process for a satisfactory user experience. Gamers have become more demanding and developers can create absolute masterpieces through hyperrealistic visuals and video aesthetics.

However, it can all get ruined if the experience fails due to a translation mistake that breaks the context’s magic. Good video game translation and localization is a key factor in your product’s success or failure.

What is video game localization?

Localization is adapting the product to a different market than the one in which it was developed. Video game localization means much more than translating menus, character dialogs or the texts that guide the player. Quality video game translation and localization help replicate the original game’s experience.

Localization includes technical and linguistic elements:

  • Technical localization: is adapting the software and the corresponding programming to the codes in each place.
  • Linguistic and cultural localization: it is a huge translation job from the target country point of view. 

Example of localization

In Japan, it is said that when someone criticizes you, you sneeze. This happened to the prince of the Elvaan race, who is a well-known character from the Final Fantasy XI (Square-Enix) video game. In other cultures, such as the Spanish one, this didn’t make any sense, so they turned it into a specific feature of this race.

The demands in video game localization and translation

For a complete game experience, translation must consider all of the following elements:

  • On-screen text.
  • User interface.
  • System messages and instructions.
  • Descriptions and texts with no audio.
  • Audio texts such as songs.
  • The manual and texts on the box.
  • Legal references.

A video game’s text is not flat and must be considered based on several facets:

  • Multimedia (audio, text and images)
  • Multimodal, with different semiotic channels
  • A high degree of interactivity by the players that must understand everything to act and advance in the game

The translator deals with different text types (narrative, descriptive or technical texts among others) with terminology that could be very specific in some genres. The translator’s professionalism and experience and the support of the best translation technology solutions are the keys to achieving it.

Every culture is different

Video game translation and localization requires a lot of creativity to find the expressions, funny phrases and cultural references of the place, respecting the consistency of the terminology that cannot be changed.

Many video games are part of a famous universe that includes books, movies and series. Different formats that, as a whole, contribute to the development of the story and share the names of characters, places, weapons or spells that is convenient to internationalize without changing their name.

The localizer must also take into account the restrictions and censorship regulations of the target country and know how to translate puns and double entendres keeping the original meaning.

Example of translation

In the English version of the Final Fantasy X (Square-Enix) game, the character Lulu addresses an enemy devil with the sentence: “I hope you like it hot.” The literal translation in Spanish (“Espero que te guste caliente”) could lead to misunderstanding, so it was translated as: “La cosa está que arde.” More appropriate.

This translation, alongside the previous one, are only two examples of the importance of adapting from the video game’s original country and that of its creators to a totally different context and culture. The final opinion of the user from the target market for which the localization is carried out, will greatly depend on all of these details. For this reason, it is important that there are no loose ends in your project.

Now that you know how difficult this process is, don’t risk it with video game translation and localization and hire experienced professionals for this service.