Videogame Translation and Localization

Posted by Jamie Faulkner

In the early 1950s, university professors began tinkering with computers and television sets to create an interactive game of tic-tac-toe.  Almost two decades later, Computer Space and Pong were released to the world as the first commercial videogames.  Although parents and teachers passed it off as hopefully “just a fad,” technology continued to grow and computer games and videogames evolved with them.

Today, over 50% of Americans play videogames and an estimated 1.2 billion people are playing worldwide. Over onebillion! With a B!  That’s a lot of gamers.  And the market is only growing.  Studies show that almost 75% of teachers use videogames in their classrooms and more than half of parents believe that videogames positively affect their children.  This means that this market will continue to grow as these children age and play videogames into adulthood.

So what does that mean in terms of translation?  As international markets continue to grow, so do your translation needs.  It is important for all game creators to take full advantage of this growing market in all corners and languages of the world.  And with all of these videogames being created, it’s vital that your game has the best translation and localization possible.

Although in the past bad translations have led to hilarious memes that have persisted through the years, in today’s gaming world, with endless options to choose from, gamers aren’t going to settle for something they can’t understand.

I caught up with a serious gamer to ask about his experience with bad translations in videogames.

Q: How many hours a week would you say you play videogames? And on what types of systems?

A: I probably play about 20-30 hours a week on different systems.  I mainly play online games like W.O.W, but I also play games on my Xbox, PS4, and sometimes on my phone.

Q: Wow.  So you play quite a bit. Have you ever played a game in a different language?

A: Oh, yeah! I’ve played games from all over the place.  Lots of Japanese games.  And online I’ve played with people in other countries like Germany and Spain.

Q: Have you ever experienced any translation problems in your games?

A: Of course! There are so many games I’ve played where the sentence is all jumbled and hard to understand.  Usually I can figure it out, but it’s frustrating to have to waste time deciphering a sentence that should already be translated.

Q: Wow, that is annoying.  Especially when most games are time-sensitive.  Have you ever died in a game because you were trying to read the poorly translated sentence?

A: I don’t know about that, I’m pretty good at multitasking.  It doesn’t affect the game that much, but it’s just one of those things that make you think, like, these people spent how much money creating this game, and they couldn’t even pay a few bucks more to have it translated well?  I played a game a few months ago that was only partially translated.  The cut-scenes had voice-over, but the rest of the game had only subtitles.  I was like, what’s the point of that? Why not just pay that extra little bit to have the whole thing voiced over?

And there are consumers like this all over the world, wondering why their language isn’t important enough to be properly translated and localized.  Does that mean they aren’t important enough? These complaints may not be mainstream customer complaints yet, but as the market grows, so does the customer power and their desire and need for a game catered to their language needs.  Beat them to it by giving them the translation they want with Lionbridge game services.