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Your Ultimate Guidebook for Game Localization

Your Ultimate Guidebook for Game Localization

Translating your game is a vital part of reaching diverse users. In the end, communication with your audience is the first step in addressing them worldwide. When we’re talking about building a loyal, global gamer base, a simple translation isn’t enough. This is where game localization comes in. 

Game localization, as the name suggests, is the adaptation and optimization of a game to a different culture. It represents that your content is “local”. This process goes beyond simply translating the dialogs of a game into another language. However, there is a difference between translation and localization: Through translation, you can “talk” to your audience all over the world, whereas localization allows you to “follow talking with deeds”.

For such an important practice, you need to work with experienced LPSs that take into account important details of your game. In addition to linguistic expertise, game translators also need to understand narrative arcs, game mechanics, and the development process. 

In this article, you’ll find a detailed guide to help you prepare for game localization. Let’s start with the aspects of game localization and continue with the guide itself.

Aspects of Game Localization

  • Literary: To translate properly, translators need to understand a game’s narrative structure, as well as the characters’ backstories and motivations. Games often refer to motifs from books, history, and mythology in the same way as literature, and sometimes characters find clues in poems or books in the game.  
  • Technical: Unlike books, games require instructions. Game tutorials and hardware manuals need to be localized, ideally by someone who understands the mechanics of the game, i.e. by the same translator who does the localization in the game.  
  • Software: The process of game localization is most similar to software localization. It includes extensive testing, a responsive user interface, and text structured around variables and character boundaries.  
  • Marketing: In many cases, the same localization team that worked on the video game translates app store copy, marketing insurance, and even social media content. In order to successfully localize these materials, they must be able to adapt the content to local norms and cultural nuances. 
  • Preparing For Game Localization: A Guide

    Create A Localization Plan in Advance

    As video games evolved, so did the requirements for their localization. In contrast to the early video games, which were simply designed and contained little text, modern games may contain enormous amounts of text as well as elaborately designed graphic, film, and audio elements that should also be localized.

    Game localization requires a wide range of skills compared to other translation specialties. In-game text can be written by developers or created by experienced story writers. This can be done months or years in advance of the game’s completion, let alone published.

    Since the various genres differ significantly from one another, which has an impact on localization, the peculiarities and specific problems of individual genres are important. Localization encompasses a multitude of other aspects: This includes the translation, integration, and testing of localized assets.

    Analyze Your Content

    Before starting the localization process, you should analyze your game and determine which elements to be localized. A video game consists of a large number of different components that you must take into account during localization as they may require different localization methods. This includes in-game text, i.e. the text that appears while playing, graphics that may contain text, dialogues, and cinematics as well as printed materials such as instructions and packaging.

    You should also determine which languages your game is to be localized into. Many developers usually localize their games in six to eight languages including mostly French and German, followed by Italian and Spanish. These four languages are often referred to as FIGS. English and Japanese are by far the most important source languages. The largest sales markets are North America, Japan, and Western Europe. But Eastern Europe and South Asia, especially Korea and China, have also gained significant importance.

    The effort you will spend on the localization depends on whether this analysis has already been run during development or not. Therefore, designing individual components in such a way that the localization process becomes easier and faster requires deep analysis.

    Provide A Lockit

    A lockit (localization kit), is the essential guide that you should provide your translator. There are some localization characteristics of video games such as having limited space, meaning the text must not exceed a certain length, otherwise it cannot be displayed correctly.

    Text forms differ from other translation areas and have limitations. The translator usually receives the text to be translated in tabular form. Usually, one line of this table contains a name for the columns. Columns include the source text, an area for the translation, and context information.

    However, the collateral cells in a line may not match in context. If you do not supply the translator with adequate information or take the aspects of the target language into account when creating a table, the translators have to limit themselves to makeshift solutions, for example, translating all columns with the same gender and the same number. This leads to an artificial, unnatural language with deficiencies, incorrect syntax, and grammar.

    This is a major obstacle, as it means that translators have to work without sufficient context, which means that errors occur more frequently and language testing takes more time.

    Use A Translation Management System

    Utilizing technology plays an important role in localizing. You and your LSP should have an affinity for translation technology and a willingness to work with various software and hardware solutions. They are prerequisites to achieving a successful game localization.

    Using translation memory systems for game localization is especially helpful because you need to localize your codes, too. These codes need to be integrated into a TMS with some tools. Then your translator can work on texts that are extracted from your localized codes. 

    TMSs also quicken the whole process. In theory, an in-game copy can be completed two, three, or even four years before a video game is launched, leaving plenty of time for thinking, lazily localizing. But in practice, localization, the final phase of game development, has tight deadlines. 

    Translation teams need to hurry to keep up with last-minute changes, software updates, and new game content. TMS provides a platform where they can simultaneously collaborate in such scenarios. The platform also enables agile workflows between linguists. This methodology breaks the project down into small tasks and keeps them constantly moving between team members. It enables translators to edit smaller amounts of text sooner instead of waiting for the development process to end. This moves the entire project forward faster without the rush to meet tight deadlines.

    Pay Attention to Regional Differences

    Since a large number of different types of text and language styles are typical for video game localization, it is important for your localization team to be able to adapt their style carefully to different game characters and situations, taking into account the differences between regions, cultures, languages, religions, and regulations.

    As we stated at the beginning, localization is more than translation. The term “transcreation” depicts the practice best. It is a complex mixture of translation and creation. It is most obvious in text localization. In particular, puns and other humorous elements demand original solutions from the translator. Many games also contain puzzles that are based on word games and therefore cannot be adopted directly but have to be recreated.

    Words that seem innocent can have awkward meanings when translated into other languages ​​or dialects. For example, in Spanish, the word “currar” means “to work”. In Argentina, on the other hand, it means “to cheat”. When localizing your game and preparing to venture into new markets, it’s really important that you take the time to understand these cultural intricacies, trends, and taboos. This not only avoids simple misunderstandings or legal penalties but also helps you build trust and loyalty with your new customers.

    Video games are strongly influenced by culture and therefore require extensive knowledge of various aspects of both the target and the source culture. The translators may recommend cultural adaptations for the texts. As specialists, they can also suggest modifying all elements, for example, graphics, sound, and even action provided that they improve the localization.

    These adjustments to the target market not only serve to bring your virtual world closer to the player in the respective country but also make your game culturally and legally convenient. Improper content affects the age rating in some countries. Your game may also be banned if the regional legal requirements are not met.

    Experienced LSPs are familiar with the regulations of the most important target languages and can adapt the games autonomously to the legal status if necessary. On the other hand, your developers or graphic designers are responsible for making fundamental changes to the game elements, such as the plot and graphics. 


    We at Tarjama work with expert linguists and provide tailored services designed to make any transformation you want as easy as possible for you. Whether it is localization, copywriting, or content creation, we are confident that we can help you in the most effective way. Contact us and find out more about our services!

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