8 Video Game Localization Problems and Challenges
Introducing your video game to an international audience is a smart move to increase your audience base. However, there are many problems and challenges associated with video game localization projects.
Games content is not a straight text to be translated. It may contain cultural references that need adaptation. Also, there is a large team from different domains involved in the project, which makes it hard to coordinate the project to have consistent quality and performance.
In this article, I will guide you through the top problems and challenges I saw while working on video game localization projects.
This is not an inclusive list. If you have any additional challenges you see, let me know and I will make sure to include them.
Let’s dive in!
#1 Not Preparing A Style Guide for the Language Localization Team
Game localization projects involve different types of texts, such as dialogues, descriptions, messages, button texts, player instructions, and other content types. Also, usually, such projects are done across different language teams at the same time.
Having a style guide for the translation/localization team with instructions about how to handle such texts will help keep the consistency of the different content-type translations.
This will lead to a better player experience.
So, prepare a style guide about how to translate messages, proverbs, length units, buttons, and help content. Also, make it clear that you are asking for localization, not a literal translation of the game content.
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#2 Not Testing the Localized Game in a Real Environment
When translating a game, usually translators work on a text-only platform or software, where they see only the text to be translated without a real context of the game. This can lead to literal translations, truncation of translated messages or button translations if the translation is too long, and similar issues.
For example, a German translation can be 50% longer than an English source. Consequently, if the German button doesn’t fit the translation, the button text will be cut off and can lead to a bad player experience.
The solution to this problem can be giving the translators the chance to play the game in a localized copy. Another solution can be generating screenshots of the game-translated texts and asking the translator to check them for errors.
#3 Not Using a Specialized Game Localizer/Translator
There are tons of translators out there who can do a great job of translating legal, medical, technical, and financial texts. But game content localization is unique. It requires a mix of marketing, technical and culture-adapted translation.
Using a non-specialized translator to localize the game can lead to deformed translations that don’t make any sense to the game players. This means a bad experience for the gamer and can negatively affect the number of downloads and the game’s reputation.
The solution to this is to select a translator with a history of game localization and translation. They will be aware of the requirements of the game content localization and may provide help and guidance to adapt the content for the target market.
#4 Treating All Game Content Translation As One!
Every game has both in-game and marketing campaign content. The in-game content is the one a player sees while playing the game or at the app store. While marketing content is used to attract more players on social media, paid advertisements, and other marketing channels.
The in-game content requires localization and non-literal translation, while the marketing content requires another type of translation called “transcreation”.
Hire a translator who can provide a “transcreation” service, as transcreation considers the marketing message, not the marketing content. You need to ask the translator to feel free to deviate from the source text to create a new copy for the target market that speaks to the hearts of the players in the target market.
#5 Missing Strings Translation During the Language Localization Phase
Generating editable files for translators is the start of the language localization phase of the game localization project. The developers export the files in a format that is compatible with the software used by the translators.
However, when importing the translation back to the game development environment, some sentences or strings will show as untranslated as the language localization team didn’t see them. Usually, this happens due to bad coding practices.
The solution to this is to ask the game development team to avoid hard-coding any strings while developing the game from the start. This will ensure all strings are translatable and shown in the translation platform used by the translators.
#6 Ignoring the Cultural Perspective in Localization!
The localized copy of the game will be played by people from various cultural backgrounds. Hence, a game released for the US market should appeal to the people who live in the US. The same game should be culturally adapted to appeal to the players in China for example if the target market is China.
However, some game localizers don’t consider culture while they translate, which will generate a game far from the culture of the market where it is played.
The solution to this is to accurately adapt things like the proverbs, salutations, characters’ names, and other culturally relevant items. Translators should adopt the language of the translation to look like it was originally written for the people playing the localized game.
#7 Not Considering the App Store Optimization for The Target Languages
Being discovered organically on the app store is one of the best marketing strategies a game publisher can use. There are millions of searches on Google Play and App Store every day.
But many companies forget to optimize the localized game description in the target language. They just ask the translation team to translate the game description from the source language to different languages, which is not the best strategy to use in the app store.
The solution to this is to ask the translation team to first do keyword research in the target language. Then, provide the game description translation based on the relevant keywords with the highest search volume.
#8 Setting Unrealistic Timelines for the Game Localization Project
The game localization projects involve many stakeholders, such as developers, translators, graphic designers, testers, and others. Each one of them is more aware of the challenges related to this part.
Some game publishers set timelines for the release of localized games without consulting with the teams involved. This can lead to delays in the release dates and may add costs.
The solution is to consult with all the teams involved in the project to set reasonable timelines for their parts. This will help the person in charge of the game publishing company to set more accurate deadlines for the whole project.
As you can see, there are many challenges and problems involved in game localization projects. Some of them are related to planning, translation, development, and project management.
I consider planning an important part of the game localization process. If it is done correctly, with the consultation of the concerned teams, you will have a successful video game localization project.
If you ever wanted to localize your video game into different languages, never hesitate to contact TranslationPartner’s team and we would be happy to help.