Gaming is an industry that might be relatively new, but it hardly took a
few years to become the giant it is now. In fact, it’s also an industry
that has led the way in many areas. Localization is one such area. Gaming
has been busy with localization way before other industries caught on to
So, being a senior in the localization game, the gaming industry definitely
has a lot to offer. You see, not all of gaming’s localization success
stories were the result of smart research and strategizing. A lot of the
learning happened through trial and error.
These failures may be specific to the industry, but there are definitely
lessons in here for all of us. So, let’s look at some of the most common
and greatest gaming localization failures and apply the lessons learned to
our own respective industries.
An expensive mistake that gaming companies often made would be hardcoding
text into their core game files. This would include something like the
menu, dialogue, or title. Developers would fail to consider that their game
could just end up not appealing to foreign markets because of this.
Hardcoded elements are hard to get rid of when you’re trying to localize
the game into a new language.
Of course, the industry eventually picked up on this and started including
variables in standalone resource packages.
The lesson other industries can learn from this is that they need to think
ahead and stay flexible. You never know what kind of market you might be
entering in the next ten years or so. So, make sure everything you do is
Compromising on Translation Quality
This is something we discuss every now and then and there’s no harm in
bringing it up again. This is a very valuable lesson for every business
Never compromise on the quality of your translation.
This only ends up snowballing into a bigger problem down the line. So,
you’re going to end up spending more resources than originally intended
just to get rid of the issues that could have been avoided at the start.
Always focus on accuracy right from step 1. This includes everything from
choosing the right translation tools to even the right translation
The last thing you need is to start everything all over again. Of course,
that’s still better than actually releasing the project and risking the end
of everything. But, as they say, a stitch in time saves nine.
Hiring the Right Translation Teams
Context is a major factor to be considered in gaming localization. So, it
has always been a basic requirement for gaming translators to understand
the game and truly learn what it is about.
Of course, things didn’t just fall into place in the gaming industry. They
had to learn things the hard way too.
In the early years of gaming localization, it was common for developers to
just deliver spreadsheets filled with text to their translators and assume
everything would be okay. But, the only thing that happened was the results
would be a complete failure. This is because the translation teams had no
context to work with.
Eventually, developers realized their error and started offering
translators a look at their games, even allowing them to go through the
gameplay and everything. This allowed them to understand what the game was
all about and what the core message being conveyed was. Attention was paid
to terms, styles, and visuals etc.
So, what’s the lesson here?
Well, the lesson here is that context is important and if you want
translators to do a good job, give them everything they would ideally need.