Japanese Gaming – Impacts on Localization and Development

Japanese gaming, when localized, involves so much more that strategizing globally. That is because economic, geopolitical, local, and cultural components are involved. Plus, Japan has been involved in gaming for quite a long time.

Japanese Gaming

Japanese Gaming

Japanese Gaming Impact – Geemu

In Japan, the term for game is geemu. However, a video game is often described as TV geemu or bideo geemu. However, for English readers, geemu will suffice as it covers an array of Japanese diversions. These games include the following:

  • Role-playing games or RPGs
  • Eroge (Erotic or adult video games)
  • Otome games (targeted to the female market)
  • Mobile games
  • PC games
  • Game centers (Geemu sentaa or geesen)

In order to see how the Japanese market has evolved in gaming, you need to refer to its development. From 1973 to the late 1980s, geemu entered the mainstream. During these 15 years, Japanese videos or geemu were associated with varied and fluctuating markets.

A Mobile Industry

As a result, this type of economic structure has triggered a specific gaming culture in Japan – one that is shifting and mobile. The following resources have influenced this type of mobility:

  • Console manufacturers
  • Developers
  • Publishers
  • Localizers
  • Marketers

The Evolution of Gaming

Interpretive communities, such as specialty media and fan, and gaming communities, also have had an impact. As a result, geemu is both national and local to Japan. You can also say that the Japanese gaming market is “glocal,” or plays on two fronts simultaneously. Therefore, globalocal and localization elements are both used and recognized. In many ways then, the evolution of video gaming in Japan is linked to a cultural and economic context.

Poor Localization

As a result, retailers have featured Japanese video names in the US and elsewhere for the past 20 years. In some instances, poor localization presents a beginning point for proving that language is a dimension of spontaneous gameplay. If grammar errors are noticeable then, they can launch an immersive discord for a game.

If you elect to play Japanese roll-playing games (JRPGs), you will find that these games depend heavily on language. Localization then carves out the profiles of the protagonist and supporting cast. It can either immerse you in the culture and dynamics of game play or it can be disappointing. It just depends on the translator of the text

Multiple Systems of Writing

Naturally, language plays a major part too. After all, Japanese has multiple systems of writing –

  • Kanji, which is based of ideograms
  • Katakana and hiragana (both of which are called kana and are phonetic)
  • Romaji, which is used when combining Japanese writing with a Latin alphabet

Translation may be based on two computer methods used for input as well, including keyboard romaji or kana.

 Revamping Sentences

Besides these challenges, the grammatical structure of Japanese is subject-object-verb versus the subject-verb-object arrangement of English. These differences are so apparent that translators often have to revamp sentences. Revamping includes omitting or reordering words.

As a result of these challenges, Japanese localization can be beset with higher-than-average error rates and longer project times. Localization projects also demand greater attention to the customer experience.

Presentation over Content

Therefore, customers display a low tolerance for design mistakes. They also prefer engagement that includes visual over textual experiences. As a result, presentation is often more valued than substance.

In order to be successful with Japanese localization then, you have to practice the following:

  • Agree on plans that will meet the budgetary and time requirements of the localization process.
  • Prepare for translation challenges by using style guides, glossaries, and terminology sources.
  • Place more of an emphasis on visual displays, including desktop publishing.

Japanese localization is a true challenge for translators. However, the challenge is not as great when developers concentrate on the visual aspects of the game.


Image Credit:

Flickr – Creative Commons


Pedro Szekely