Localization in video games

The current success of video games and the growing complexity of their dynamics are translating into increased sales worldwide. In order to meet the expectations of gamers, publishers have therefore been looking for a way to best adapt the auditory and visual experience.

The triumph of video games gave rise to the emergence (and then evolution) of a new translation field called “video game localization”, which involves preparing the software and hardware resources of video games for marketing in other countries or regions. Concretely, it is about adapting the game to a target culture.

Although translation is an important part of localization, the process also includes any changes made to adapt the product to its new market, such as modifying artwork, creating new packaging or instruction manuals, recording new soundtracks, removing or adding portions of a game for reasons related to different cultural sensitivities and/or for legal or censorship reasons, etc. It may also involve hardware such as the game console.

The goal of localization is to create a gaming experience that is enjoyable and clear to the user, while respecting the specific cultural context of the user and remaining true to the original material. Immersion and suspension of disbelief are paramount in this experience; if the player feels that the product is not intended for them, or if the location adds confusion or difficulty of understanding, it may break the immersion or even compromise the player’s ability or willingness to continue playing the game. According to Nimdzi Insights, video game localization is worth some US$330 million. There is also an even larger market for related services such as testing and localisation of audio content for games.

Even though localization has a lot of advantages, an error on the part of publishers in transcribing cultures can cause a lot of losses for the game.
Localization is expected to anticipate cultural sensitivities that may offend consumers from different backgrounds; whether about politics, history, faith, mentality, geography, status, lifestyle or recent world events. Recently, for example, the publisher electronic arts apologized for an error in its 2016 EA Sports UFC. He gave to the non-fictional fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov, a practicing Muslim, a Christian gesture of victory celebration, which disappointed the Muslim players and the fighter himself.

Localization where the adaptation of the game to the culture can sometimes forget the context of the game and make it totally incoherent for the players. For example, Assassins Creed Unity takes place in Paris. If we play the French version, we hear French voices, in English the characters speak perfect English. However, being in Paris one would expect the English version to be imbued with the French accent. The Parisian context would then be perfectly defined.

Finally, publishers sometimes make a lot of cultural assumptions without taking the time to verify them. Using the same example as above, poor people sound like Londoners… evil people are posh, solders are northerners… A lot of prejudices that could offend some players…

To conclude, it’s amazing how much our culture influences the way we are, think or even play! Localization I s a real asset for all companies looking to set up in a new territory. 2002 Studio’s expertise can help you on any of your projects. We always try to transcribe as well as possible the specificities of the representative cultures of the targeted market, forgetting no detail.

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