How Translating Video Games Opens New Opportunities For Gaming Companies

Fire Emblem Awakening Nintendo

Awakening made more than two thirds of its sale outside of Japan. Image: Nintendo

The effort that it takes to create a well-crafted and enjoyable game is not something to be understated.

In addition to the time required to make such a game, the financial costs that go along with such a project serve as another obstacle.

With these difficulties in mind, game developers may feel discouraged from the idea of translating video games for different regions—after all the game is already complete, and translation would require additional funds to supply a localization team.

But while at first the prospect of localization may seem intimidating, game developers stand to gain a heck of a lot by introducing their creations to foreign consumers.

Expanding an audience

The most basic principle of advertising is that the more people who are aware of any given product, the more people will buy it. So it stands to reason that by translating games into a variety of languages and marketing them to a variety of different audiences would result in higher sales numbers. Of course, translating and localizing a game is not quite as simple as it sounds, so it is important for developers to not spare expenses if they are serious about broadening their audience.

Localizing a game should not be seen as simply an expenditure, rather, it should be seen as an investment, and one that can pay off in spades if done correctly. Not only will a quality translation of a game create addition sales, it will also result in a brand new audience that is far more likely to support a game developer than they were previously.

A Success Story

While extraneous factors such as personal taste may create deviations in sale trends, the success of translated games is still largely dependent upon the effort put into the translation and the effectiveness of its localization to a completely new audience. While some games may have suffered as a result of haphazard translation, others have capitalized on foreign markets and left their marks in fantastic fashion.

One such series that has had substantial gains from localization is the turned-based strategy game, Fire Emblem. Originally, Fire Emblem titles were only released in Japan, and though they were very popular there, the developers of Intelligent Systems were only exposing their creations to a rather limited population. It wasn’t until the seventh game in the series, Fire Emblem: Blazing Sword (more commonly known as simply Fire Emblem outside of Japan) that the series was introduced to foreign audiences.

The results of localization in the North American and Europeans areas were staggering.

Not only did European sales equal out to more than 50% of Japan’s, but North America held a majority of sales for Blazing Sword at nearly half a million. Sales from abroad continued to impress for the series. For Sacred Stones, Europe once again had approximately 50% of Japan’s sales, and North America only barely miss a majority holding with 420,000 sales.

Global sales may have dropped for the ninth and tenth installments, but that speaks more to the fact that they were exclusive to the GameCube and the Wii respectively, consoles that did not experience the same success that Nintendo’s hand-held devices had.

For Path of Radiance, Europe continued to keep pace while North America once more accounted for more than half of global sales. North America accomplished the same did the same with Radiant Dawn, and Japan managed to muster comparable sales numbers for only Shadow Dragon, a remake of the very first Fire Emblem title. And for Awakening, the best-selling title to date, more than a million copies were sold between Europe and North America.


Translating and localizing games can be extremely lucrative if done correctly, and as the Fire Emblem series experienced, they can even multiply their sales.