The Importance of Voice Actors for Game Localization

dynasty warriors 8 empires

Dynasty Warriors has traditionally included full English voice overs in their localization. Image: Tecmo Koei

In the world of video game development, one of the constant struggles is attempting to gauge just how successful or popular any given project might be. In order to create a more fully polished game, chances are that there will have to be some amount of investment of resources to achieve that goal. But since every project has to operate off of a budget, it becomes extremely vital to identify what aspect of development would be the most beneficial so that the project is as marketable as it can possibly be upon its release.

Voice acting is one such aspect to the development has the potential to make a game much more appealing to consumers. While voice acting is by no means some sort of prerequisite that qualifies whether a game will be marketable or not, the effect that it can have on the enjoyment that consumers get from playing these games cannot be denied. Certain games that contain a lot of text—especially those that are heavily dialogue driven—tend to benefit the most from the inclusion of voice acting as the voice acting plays a much more central role in the experience of the video game itself, rather than it being more peripheral in nature as it might be in games where there would be less of a focus on it.

This appeal for voice acting is a powerful one, and it has enough sway of influence where the inclusion or lack thereof can be a deciding factor in whether or not any given consumer will purchase a game. With this in mind, any developing team that has the desire to market their projects to areas outside of their own must keep in mind how valuable going that extra mile to include more than just subtitle translations can be. While subtitles may be serviceable, they do have the tendency to detract from what is actively occurring in-game. It takes more focused attention to read subtitles than it does to simply listen to audio, and so anything less than full voice acting can be distracting at times.

For games that have great attention to detail in their voice acting, hiring voice actors for localization efforts is practically an absolute must, as without it they lose a major selling point. But even for games that don’t have a particular focus on voice acting, the decision to not include fully voiced translations is one that can result in loss of sales. To use as an example, the Dynasty Warriors series (published by Tecmo Koei ) has for many years done full voice acting when localizing the games for areas outside of Japan. But more recently, some of their titles have only gotten subtitle translations during the localization process.

Dynasty Warriors 8 was included with a full English translation complete with English voice actors when it was released. In contrast to that, Dynasty Warriors 8 Empires only had English subtitles. The sales differential between the two in English speaking areas is rather pronounced. It becomes even more pronounced when looking at the sales of Dynasty Warriors 6 Empires, which did have English voice actors. Though it would be unfair to attribute the entire sales difference in English speaking regions to the lack of localized voice acting, it does factor into it to some notable extent.

And the Dynasty Warriors series isn’t even one that has the voice acting as a major selling point, so the implications of just how many sales would be lost for a game that does have it as a major selling point are rather staggering.

Conclusions

Localization efforts matter quite a bit when it comes to sales, and the importance of hiring voice actors for translations cannot be understated.