Overcoming the Challenges of Mobile Game Localization

10 mins read

With Comments from Tom Whiteley, the Producer in Ndemic Creations

Rapid growth of app store popularity becomes a pot of gold for game developers. Now it is so easy to make your games accessible for million of people worldwide, just with one click in app store and its transfer your game to a part of the progressive $26,3 billion global mobile game market (Global Games Market Report Newzoo, 2014).

But pay attention to the word “global”, it’s a bit unrelated to your game, right? If you want to reach fully global market as well, you just can’t stay in one language and one country. The only right way here is to localize your game and make it available to new users around the world.

Game localization process is complex. It intersects with some challenges that can be crucial in achieving the success.

Challenge #1. Target languages, where are you?

According to App Annie research, the number one language across Google Play and IOS App Store is Japanese. But English and Korean are also the most profitable languages in mobile game localization. Combination of these three languages accounts the 75% of profits made by games on Google Play. Also, China and Taiwan with their Simplified and Traditional Chinese have huge markets for iOS games. German and French are finishing up the top ten profitable languages list, and if you want to get real growth in the global market you should certainly include Russian, Spanish and Portuguese. The number of game downloads in these languages is big and only getting bigger.

It, actually, should be the first question you scrolled in your mind because languages you choose to localize your game will affect your future success in the global market.

Think about strategy, which markets would be more profitable for you, in which countries gamers haven’t seen your game before and where competition is not too strict.

Challenge #2. Build a team

There are two ways you can translate your game: crowdsourced translations or professional translations. Choosing the one you should consider pros and cons of each.

It isn’t a rocket science for now to find a freelance translator or company that provides localization serviсe - network is full of professional vendors and translators who can help you make the localization process easier. But the real challenge is finding someone you can completely trust your product and who can offer accurate service in localizing into many languages.

Crowdsourced translations

Pros:

  • Localization is cheaper when you involve the community to translate your game
  • You become closer to the actual users and listens to their feedback
  • Fast turnaround time: the more contributors the faster the process
  • Opportunity to get more brand ambassadors for your product worldwide

Cons:

  • Continuous motivation program for translators requires time and effort
  • Deadlines cannot be defined forward as you can’t force your volunteer translators to contribute translations on time
  • Doubtful translation quality: your translator can be fluent in few languages, but it doesn’t mean you’ll get high quality, grammatically correct translations

Professional translations

Pros:

  • High quality translations confirmed by certificates and translators experience;
  • More control of the process timing;
  • Optional proofreading.

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • There is no deep understanding of the game: translations can be perfect on the linguistic side but poor in terms of game style

In any case, hire a proofreader who would be native in target language and qualified enough of your game to make translations accurate. And admit, two pair of eyes and one more fresh head is always better.

Challenge #3. More than translation

If you want to get high-quality translations, your translation team should be completely aware of the game universe. You can always get good translations without this nuance, but, in this case, you risk getting poor and dry translation, without game style and even with a chance to repel the user. You might not even think that something is wrong while your fans have been already leaving.

We asked Tom Whiteley from Ndemic Creations that is dealing with localization of Plague Inc: Evolved to give us a feedback on what are the necessary things about translations for games. Here is what we found out:

For us the most important factor in creating a high-quality localisation is using translators that really understand the game and indeed the gaming universe. Plague Inc. has its own unique style, and the players fully understand this and are most able to translate this style into new languages

– Tom, Producer at Ndemic Creations

It is best not to give access to the game translation content until translation team will know your game history and all characters of it. Let them learn everything about your game, even why pigs are flying, or horse can ride the bird. Provide your translators with game description, glossary list and screenshots, and you’ll see then the best translations ever.

Challenge #4. Make it faster

Game localization is slightly slow and thorough process that should be completed in a short terms. In most cases, time allotted for localization is barely enough to translate and proofread the content at least once. While for getting efficient translations it is needed to proofread it for 4-5 times, not even including checks on the test.

In game localization is believed that in order to speed things up, you should start localization process as early as possible. But according to our expert Tom Whiteley it doesn’t work in practice all the time when crowdsourcing, in most cases it can be implemented using professional translations. However, if you intend to do it with crowdsourcing it can be troublesome for you:

Keeping your crowd motivated is essential. If you start the localisation process too early, then it can be difficult to keep your best translators engaged throughout the whole process. Strings will always change during development, and changing strings that translators have already translated means part of their hard work has gone to waste. You have a limited time span that each translator will be engaged, so you need to maximise the impact of this

– says Mr. Tom.

Your localization team should provide a huge amount of translation and proofreading work in really short terms. To do everything efficiently and on time they should spend not too much time for reviewing the game materials. In this case, provide your translators with your game concepts, early experience and important materials for helping them make translations along with your copywriters or narrowly with them.

Challenge #5. Culturalization

So, knowing how to deal with these localization challenges will allow you easily call your game definitely “global”.

We used to laugh at other localization fails when some titles sound funny or even offensively in different countries. Therefore, if you don’t want to find yourself in a similar situation you should learn everything about country you choose for game localization, even its essential history stages and cultural aspects that would affect your new users.

Understanding of basic information about the country you want to localize on namely its history, culture and lifestyle can help you to avoid crucial localization missteps. Use your native speaker translators as reliable cultural assistance and let them provide useful comments during the whole localization process. You also should be ready to change a large part of your content or even all jokes and specific expressions, as it is too sensitive to provide accurate humor by just translating it. In this case, you can only trust your translators with adapting or creating new jokes that will conquer your new users without losing the original style.

Thanks to Tom Whiteley, Producer at Ndemic Creations for his expertise about how to make game localization efficient and overcome challenges that occur on the way. Almost 12 languages live in the Plague Inc: Evolved right now and there are also more than 20 languages underway. Here is what Tom has to say about his experience working with our localization management platform:

Using Crowdin to localise Plague Inc: Evolved has given us a great opportunity to engage with our community and work with some highly talented people from all over the world. The players that want to help translate Plague Inc: Evolved are often experienced gamers and extremely passionate about the game, which helps ensure a high-quality translation.

Have anything to add? Looking for your input in comments.

Iryna Bilyk

Previous Post
Custom Languages, New Wordcount Algorithm, Improved Reports and More
Next Post
Fresh Crowdin’s Editor and New Workflows: Already in Action