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Every development team considers the steps, techniques, and best practices required for a successful game release. Furthermore, the role of the translator or localization team has become integral to the game making process. A game’s most fervent fan base can emerge from any number of foreign territories, especially if it’s translated to the languages spoken in these countries.
But could translating a game result in its success? A simple yes or no answer wouldn’t be sufficient as games are a complex and fragmented medium. Instead, we’ll sift through various types of games to see how these benefit from game localizations, and how translators best fit in the picture.
1. The Art Of Telling A Story
Since the introduction of text adventures such as Infocom’s legendary Zork series, games rapidly become a powerful story-telling medium. Adventure games, visual novels, RPGs (Role-Playing Games), strategy, and simulation games usually have compelling stories with well-developed characters and universes. While players in the developer’s host market can enjoy these types of games, they’re unplayable in foreign markets that don’t comprehend the original text and voice acting.
Thus, story-driven games require competent translations for their respective target markets if they’re going to have a shot at success. It also makes good business sense to research target markets before committing resources for specific language translations. For example, Germany is a good market for adventure games such as Thimbleweed Park based on Kickstarter and Steam Spy data.
2. Translating Arcade Thrills And Casual Capers
It seems obvious that story-driven games need translations. But what about action-oriented games that lack or have a minimal narrative? We believe that all action titles including simple arcade-type games benefit from localizations, even if it’s only translating their options menus and user interface (UI) as this makes life easier for players in foreign territories.
The fastest growing segment of the gaming industry is mobile games, which means that players will continue to consume fast-paced casual titles. Most mobile users prefer a quick, fluid, and user-friendly experience, and a reliable translation for the UI and menus helps to facilitate this. Developers should avoid skimping on quality translations, as millions of users will likely only experience their brand through these mobile game apps.
3. Empowered And Knowledgeable Translators
We’ve already determined that it makes sense to translate all types of games for an ever growing and diversifying marketplace. However, none of this would be possible without talented translators who have all the best tools at their disposal. But these days, translators have to deal with massive workloads while delivering quality translations on time and budget. That’s why putting translators first and empowering them with the right tools that will increase their productivity, without the need for additional project managers is paramount.
Smaller developers with budget constraints may be tempted to hire freelancers for their translation needs. While it’s not necessarily wrong to hire a freelance translator, it’s vital that they’re experienced and knowledgeable about the difficulties they’re likely to face. A good game translator, whether they’re a freelancer or working for a localization service will understand the terminology of video games, and also prepared to go the extra mile by translating in-game fantasy languages.
Regardless of game genre, it’s a wise choice for developers to translate their games. This makes their games accessible to a global audience while ensuring that foreign players have an equally good time to that of local audiences. Experienced and talented translators equipped with tools that enhance productivity are in a position to achieve this. Therefore, developers and project managers should identify the most suitable translators for their projects, and allow them to use the best tools available.