Game Localization - Why It Matters & How To Do It

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

As a marketer you need to first know your target audience and what action you want them to take.

Do you want basic user engagement? Positive connections to the brand? Brand education? Social sharing or voucher redemption? Do you want it to be a local game or do you want to have a global reach? Global marketing obviously maximises revenue but before you decide to reach a global market there are a few things you first need to know, things I learnt about the hard way. These lessons cost me a lot and I hope they will save you both time and money if there is any global marketing in your future.

Most people assume that all that is needed in global marketing is simply language translations for potential nations of interest. However, it is more complicated than that, having to update the game software for different countries and regions under three specific subcategories which I will address below but also optimising the software to the Mobile/Cell/Smartphone of choice by the local country or Region. This is referred to as Game Localization.

Top 3 reasons why game localization matters

Cultural relativism refers to how different cultures have customs that differ from the rest of the world. These customs are important in how they conduct business and interact with content. Game localisation refers to the process of game developers adapting their game content to a specific region or country with cultural relativism in mind.

Gamify campaigns have the power to push advertising to the next level. However, adapting the content of your game to the target country or region while ensuring that the legal, regional and cultural sensitivities are not infringed in the process is a challenge broken down into the following specific subcategories that you can use as guidelines for effective localization:

  1. Culturalisation. This involves changing game content to ensure that there is no cultural disruption by users from a different region. The purpose of this is to ensure that the game is relevant to the local culture. It is important to ensure that the ethnicity, geopolitical factors, religion and history of the target region are in no way disturbed.

  2. Internationalisation. This is slightly different to culturalisation as it refers to the process that ensures that a game is localised seamlessly. In the gaming community, this involves the creation of game architecture that can accommodate different language options while removing any code that may differ from the local.

  3. Differentiation. Unlike the previous points, that have more of a defensive approach towards providing a game that will not disrupt a new market. Differentiation is proactive in regards to embracing what is different and incorporating cultural and regional trends into the game in order to be more engaging with the new market. While culturalisation and internationalisation is more about accomodating a newly expanded market, differentiation is about enhancing the engagement with that new market.

A combination of all 3 of these subcategories leads to game localization. This is not a futile endeavour, as it increases the market considerably. If you were to only target Western nations, the game would only reach 27 percent of the entire world. Games need to expand to different regions in order to get a more effective market cover, plain and simple.

Game localization ensures that the game remains immersive for the all cultures playing by adopting mannerisms, music, colour and other social aspects that each differing audience relates to their specific culture.

The Complexity of Localising Game Content

The common misconception is that game localization is the same as software localization. However, the process is quite different as games differentiate themselves from other mediums through being more of an interactive medium that in turn branches out a long list of required changes in content consisting of; texts, videos, characters, sounds, story components and so on. This may seem like a simple process, but it involves altering mass changes in the coding at the base of the game.

Other mediums only need changes in one or two of the aforementioned areas. However, localization usually requires all previous areas to be tweaked right at the nucleus of a game’s build. This can take quite a bit of time and money to implement the additions and changes to a game’s structure.

Why You should use a Professional Game Localization Team for their Services

As highlighted earlier, game localization usually has a few more steps that require extra attention in comparison to other mediums. Where most gaming companies go wrong is via hiring people or firms who are more acquainted with localizing non-game content. Most of the time this results in only the content being translated without any specific changes to the game itself. Usually, leaving inconsistencies in the gameplay.

The other side of that coin has developers being left responsible to localise all in-game mechanics. They may be able to ensure that the gameplay is unaffected, yet the problems lie within the content. Developers are not translators, and they may be unable to localise the game effectively due to their inability to perfectly translate to the cultural expectations. Utilising professional services is key, due to their ability to strike a balance between both the game mechanics and content development to ensure that the immersion of the game is not lost in translation.

The process a professional team undergo in order to localise a game, includes numerous testings and checks across all branches of translatable content, so that come launch the game is completely proofed and ready for a new market.

The Global Game Industry

A recent study has shown that the global market capitalisation reached $108.9 billion last year. The total number of gamers around the world are 2.2 billion. The Asia Pacific region generates 47 percent of the revenue while China's gaming industry has now reached $27.5 billion surpassing the US. The North American region accounts for 25 percent of $27 billion, Latin America contributes $4.4 billion while the remaining 24 percent is shared between Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, accounting for $26.2 billion of the total market.

Reasons to Consider Localization

The market overview indicates that game development is lucrative. However, in order to truly experience the full effect of the market, game developers should ensure they maximise the benefits of localization. These benefits include:

i. Staying ahead of the competition. Proper localization can boost a game in other regions, leading to greater overall sales.

ii. Avoiding PR problems due to oversights in the content of the game. Many games are banned in certain regions due to cultural insensitivity. Proper localization preempts such problems.

iii. Increasing your return on investment. Many localized games have a surge in purchases within a given region due to it being more engaging for local players, the cost of localizing your game is integrated into the return that is made with an expanded market cover.

iv. Expanding your fanbase. The gaming industry is bigger than the film industry these days, when you consider the money made from your favourite film franchise on an international scale, you’d have to be crazy to not want to best utilise localization to expand your game’s reach, not only for investment return but also the fanbase, the loyal followers that will eagerly await the next instalment of the potential game series.

If you are a marketing agency or game developer, make sure you properly localise your game to ensure that the other neighbouring cultures and regions can also enjoy the game as intended. This means game localization cannot be an afterthought, but rather implemented on the base level of the game design.

If you need to know more about localization and effective cross-country marketing, fill out the information field below for further related materials and the ability to be in contact one of our staff members who will gladly answer any questions you may have. We have done multiple marketing campaigns cross-country including the “All Blacks Vs Japan” Rugby World Cup campaign which integrated the listed process above.



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