How To Be A B2B Pro When Working With Chinese Mobile Game Companies

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How To Be A B2B Pro When Working With Chinese Mobile Game Companies

By Michelle Zhao, Managing Director – Greater China, LAI Global Game Services

Before we get into the data, let’s take a look around China:

Waiting in queues

In the subway car

The lucrative market

By the end of 2013, China had a $13 billion revenue game industry and 490 million players according to GPC, the China Game Publishers Association Publications Committee. Accounting for $1.8 billion, with 310 million mobile gamers, the mobile gaming market has been especially hot, seeing the largest growth in 2013 after rising 246.9% from the previous year. With the open policy of 4G license issuing (Dec. 2013) and economic growth in 2nd and 3rd tier cities, more people are expected to play mobile games. It is estimated that hardcore mobile games will be taking over half of the mobile game market in 2014. (Hardcore game mobile growth: 8% in 2008, 42% in 2013, 52% est. in 2014[1])

(From Newzoo’s report on Chinese Video Game Market 2013)

Though a business partner is not required for mobile games (according to Chinese law, foreign companies must partner with a Chinese service provider to run their online games in the country), the complex and highly fragmented market structure raises the bar extremely high for foreign companies to enter. Many times, local partners and 3rd party agencies are necessary to assist you with localization and publishing.

Characteristics of the market

 The Chinese mobile game market shows different characteristics from western markets:

 

  • Most Chinese mobile gamers started playing online games first, so they are more into games with interactive modes (playing with groups, or pvp fighting).

 

  • There are over 200 publishing and distribution platforms and stores in China. Since Google Play is not widely available in China and the Android market has captured over half of the market, major app stores like 360 Mobile Assistant, Tencent MyApp, Wandoujia, UC AppStore, Gfan Market, the Baidu app store, Anzhi Market, and Alibaba are considered the key to the market.

  • Android stores operated by the three main mobile carriers (China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom) have a very significant market share (up to 30% by some estimates[2]); carrier billing is the dominant billing channel for Android apps.

 

  • Revenue share doesn’t favor game developers (just last year it was between 90/10 and 50/50 publisher/developer) but it is getting better for developers.

 

  • Preloading by handset manufacturers plays an important role in distribution.

 

How to approach developers and publishers

 

Mobile game developers in China often work in teams of 10-15, or sometimes even smaller. With limited capital and unfavorable revenue share, they seek publishers to put up all the money (revenue share and a minimum distribution guarantee) so they are often passive during negotiations.

 

As mentioned earlier, publishing a mobile game in China is more complex than in the West due in part to the number of app stores, overlapping roles of publisher/app store/3rd party companies, and multiple revenue shares. Publishers usually lead the marketing campaigns, and perform other necessary adaptations and efforts.

 

Talk the talk

 

The most frequent word you will hear spoken by industry people at industry gatherings is “distribution channel” (“Qudao” or“渠道”). Compared to its neighbor Japan, China has more variety in terms of marketing and distribution channels. In Japan, the marketing approach is more straightforward: 3 to 4 marketing companies and ads on TV (6 channels). Game quality speaks more than distribution. However, in China, the big players show their own prowess to sell their games: Punchbox (Chukong) will seek money from VCs and make huge investments on ads; Tencent uses its platform to get all the consumers’ attention; Shanda puts more effort on branding their games.

 

English acronyms are often used in China as industry jargon. However, be aware of the differences– they might not mean what you think. Here are a few examples: At a game show event in the B2B area, you will often hear lots of BDs (business development folks) say they’re looking for “CP”. “CP” here stands for “content provider”. However, it is actually equivalent to “game developer” in English-speaking markets.

 

Another common term is “SP” (service provider), which refers to companies who offer B2B services such as monetization, app store optimization, and in-game ads.

Also, some famous mobile game titles are often referred to by acronyms like “COC” for “Clash of Clans”. Similar acronyms are often used when referring to game genre.

 

Cities

 

  • Beijing: This is where more established companies and many indie gamers are located. Zhongguan Village is considered to be the next Silicon Valley by many international investors.
  • Shanghai and surrounding area: Also has more established companies.  Usually companies have their marketing office in Shanghai and R&D in neighboring cities, Suzhou and Hangzhou.
  • Chengdu: Tianfu Software Park is where most video game companies reside. Bigger companies like Perfect World, Tencent, Ubisoft and Shanda have their R&D center or development team here. This area also has many smaller, newer companies, many with an overseas market focus.
  • Guangzhou and Shengzhen: This area has many game developers who were originally in the online game business, and are now shifting focus into mobile gaming.
  • Nanjing: Big carrier companies have their gaming operations here.
  • Dalian: Many video game and software parks with a long outsourcing history are located here (a large percentage are devoted to IT outsourcing for Japan).

Major conferences/shows and inside-circle parties

 

Shanghai: ChinaJoy (largest, national), Game Connection Asia, GDC-Asia

Beijing: GMIC, GMGC, TFC

Chengdu: GMGDC

Guangzhou: Guangzhou Game Show

 

Inside-circle parties are usually hosted by large publishing companies during a conference or show week. Sometimes they are closed-door events. You often need to get an invite from a connection/friend in the industry and pre-register, as the seats are limited. Be prepared for a huge crowd and bring a few hundred business cards and a happy face. Usually there are no rules about formal dress, and most attendees come dressed in business casual. Some events are hosted in a casual atmosphere: a huge café shop, a roof club, or even in nightclubs. As a well-connected industry BD (business developer) during a major conference week, it’s common to attend several parties in one night. For example, last GMGDC (Nov. 2013 in Chengdu), there were 20 inside-circle parties in 4 nights. A well-connected BD in China knows who is the key contact of your potential partner/clients to talk to and always follows the market trends and their competitors’ next move.

 

Social Media

 

WeChat groups (US equivalent: WhatsApp): you can register a few local game community groups and add friends here. Each day you can monitor what is going on by reading their posts.

QQ group chat (US equivalent: skype): Some event organizers will invite you to join their chat group too, e.g.: ChinaJoy.

Weibo (US equivalent: Twitter)

Doubai/Renren (US equivalent: Google+/Facebook)

Buzz.com (US equivalent: Meetup)

(Social Media Marketing Channels in China in 2014)

 

Know how to follow up

 

Chinese B2B contacts appreciate more direct communication compared to the West. Many of them prefer to keep in contact with you via phone and WeChat.

 

The video game industry is a young industry in China, and so is the average age of its industry professionals (born in 1980s and 1990s). It is not hard to start a conversation as almost everyone in the industry carries a passion for games and an open mind to new things. However, one thing you often find is that these highly mobile professionals won’t stay with one company for too long. I know of a few cases where people changed their email address after only 3 months – because they had already changed employers! At a party, someone once told me they considered themselves to be an industry veteran because they stayed with one company for a surprisingly long time – two entire years(!)

 

When making contacts at Chinese game companies, the BD is the first person you’ll talk to. Once they understand your purpose to engage with their company (or say they are convinced that your service provides potential value to them), they will refer you to the director of the internal department you are interested in talking to.

 

Though most industry professionals are from the younger generation and many have studied overseas, you still can’t ignore the importance of Guanxi (connections) when you are doing business in China. It is a unique skill to have – it is a combination of art and techniques of building your network with real work, friendship, trust, favors, dinners, and parties.

 

Final remarks

 

Chinese companies view western companies as prestigious but they tend to worry that foreigners do not understand the business culture necessary to get work done in China. Larger companies or some small companies whose founders have overseas experience should be able to communicate with English-speaking companies adequately, but for deeper engagement and networking, it is necessary that you have some employees who are proficient in Chinese. If that’s not feasible, you should consider working through 3rd party companies who have the expertise and the necessary language skills.

 

LAI Global Game Services (a unit of Language Automation, Inc.) can help you navigate the complex business climate and marketing and publishing challenges needed to achieve success in the China market.

 

Feel free to contact me directly (michelle@lai.com) and I’ll be happy to provide assistance and guidance.

 

 



[1] Data from App Operation Group (App运营之家, A Chinese industry WeChat group)

[2] Reference: Newzoo’s  2014 China Games Market Trend Report

Video Games & Global Valentine’s Day Traditions, Part 1

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A Brief History of Valentine’s Day

 

To-morrow is Saint Valentine’s day,

All in the morning betime,

And I a maid at your window,

To be your Valentine.

Then up he rose, and donn’d his clothes,

And dupp’d the chamber-door;

Let in the maid, that out a maid

Never departed more.

-          Hamlet

 

Valentine’s Day is already here! To some people, it means doing something romantic for a loved one. And to some game developers, it means adding holiday-themed content to their games. This may mean adding hearts, Cupid arrows, and pink items, such as in Angry Birds Seasons, or it may mean letter and gift deliveries depending on relationships with in-game characters, such as in Animal Crossing.

 

The holiday, as we know it today, is said to have its roots in 14th century England. According to scholars, February 14th first became associated with love and romance thanks to Geoffrey Chaucer, the “Father of English literature” and notable poet of the Middle Ages. Chaucer’s writing supposedly incorporates the first written record of Valentine’s Day:

 

For this was on seynt Volantynys day

              Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.

-          Parlement of Foules (1382)

 

There are many legends and stories associated with the birth of this holiday, including feasts that gave rise to courtly love and the belief in the Middle Ages that birds actually paired couples together. Over the centuries, Valentine’s Day evolved into a day to express love to others via flowers, candies, and cards, spreading from Medieval England to other parts of Europe and, more recently, to Asia, which is often attributed to the spread of American pop culture, as some Valentine’s Day celebrations didn’t begin until just a couple decades ago.

 

Although this holiday is now in many countries around the world, it certainly doesn’t mean the day is celebrated uniformly throughout. While many people globally are familiar with the way Americans celebrate Valentine’s Day, that doesn’t mean gamers in every country know of American Valentine traditions or would even appreciate the integration of these customs in local video games.

 

In this multi-part article, we will cover the different ways Valentine’s Day is celebrated internationally and how game content based on real-world traditions necessitates adaption (or localization) for each given market:

 

 

Age-Old Tradition of Romance – China

China’s equivalent of Valentine’s Day stretches back many centuries to the Han Dynasty (a dynasty lasting from 206BC to 220AD). This celebration is known as the Qi Xi Festival, and it takes place on the 7th day of the 7th month of the Chinese lunar calendar (this year on August 2nd). (It is also called the Magpie or Double Seventh Festival.)

 

There are multiple legends surrounding this holiday. These legends speak of two lovers, the Cowherd (Niu Lang) and Weaver Maid (Zhi Nu), who are only able to cross the Milky Way once a year in order to be together. One legend says that the Weaver Girl came down from heaven to marry the Cowherd and have children with him, but when the God of Heaven realized this had happened, he ordered Queen Mother of the Western Heavens to return Zhi Nu back to the heavens. Another legend says that Niu Lang and Zhi Nu were fairies on the opposite sides of the Milky Way, and when they were together, they would neglect their work, so the Jade Emperor of Heaven only permitted them to meet once a year.

 

Game Examples

There are many aspects of Chinese legend and history that game developers can draw upon when creating game content for the Chinese market, and Chinese gamers respond positively to this cultural content. Thus, numerous games have been created for the Qi Xi Festival. Perhaps a more well-known game example is from Google. Last year, Google released a Google Doodle game for the Qi Xi Festival, where users create a bridge of magpies so the two lovers can meet.

 

Larger games, like MMOs, also work to incorporate local content when possible. There is an MMO set in ancient China, Conquer Online, that had a Qi Xi quest a couple years ago, where players gathered items and summoned the magpies to bring “happiness to the Herd-boy and the Weaving-girl.” This kind of culturally-focused content tends to have positive effects on sales, as gamers appreciate game content that incorporates local traditions.

 

While it is now common for women to receive chocolate or flowers on White Day, in some parts of China, traditional aspects of the Qi Xi festival are still celebrated, with girls displaying their domestic skills. Common celebrations in the past for girls included competitions for threading needles under low light conditions, praying to Zhi Nu for wisdoms, reciting prayers, and wishing for a good future husband. In addition to competitions for young girls, the Qi Xi Festival was also a time of celebration for newlyweds. Young women would also place fruit, flowers, tea, and face powder out for Niu Lang and Zhi Nu, throwing half of the face powder onto the roof and using the other half amongst themselves, signifying shared beauty with Zhi Nu.

 

 

Beware! – Not Everyone Celebrates Valentine’s Day

When bringing Valentine’s Day-themed content to other countries, it is crucial to keep in mind that there are a number of countries that do not permit Valentine’s Day celebrations, due to religious beliefs and/or political parties. This is because some people believe Valentine’s Day has associations with Christianity or is symbolic of the penetration of Western culture.

 

It is important to keep this in mind and to learn which countries do not allow the celebration of Valentine’s Day, as often the sale of red items, romantic cards, flowers, and other such gifts is banned (such as in Saudi Arabia). There have even been reports of protesters and volunteers in some countries attacking couples and burning Valentine’s Day cards (such as in India). Despite the widespread animosity toward the holiday in some areas of the world, some couples in these countries may celebrate Valentine’s Day in the privacy of their homes, buying flowers and gifts on the black market or vacationing in a country like Dubai in order to celebrate the day.

 

It follows that Valentine-related content would not go over well in countries where there is unrest surrounding the holiday. Instead, game developers that typically create holiday-themed game content (such as Rovio) find other ways to stay relevant across global markets. It was reported last year by IGN that Rovio is studying the Middle East in order to effectively communicate stories from the region. As Rovio’s COO, Harri Koponen said, “There is a long Arabic history and lots of interesting stories that need to be told in the region, like One Thousand and One Nights. We are always developing more local content – we have been focusing on themes recently.”

 

While Valentine content could cause intense problems when released in certain parts of the world, there are ways to pay homage to historical traditions without unintentionally making a cultural or political statement with the inclusion of the Western version of the holiday in games. For example, game developers looking to integrate local traditions related to love and romance may look to ancient India, where the Kamadeva, the Lord of Love, was celebrated.

 

 

In the next part of this article, we will take a closer look at other global traditions surrounding love, romance, and Valentine’s Day.

从游戏本地化视角看新兴的中国游戏机市场

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从游本地化角看新的中国游机市

作者:赵梦雪,美国LAI(Language Automation, Inc.)大中华区执行长

Rory Schussler, 特别通讯员

译者:赵梦雪

 

一月初,中国政府解除了长达13年的游戏主机生产和销售禁令,给中国游戏市场未来注入一支新的兴奋剂。然而, 面对这个机会,要想知道大型游戏主机厂商是否能成功把握,还时机尚早。(任天堂表示至今未有进入中国市场的计划,索尼雄心勃勃,计划在2014年3月出售500万台PS4 。)政策的修改细节还未颁布。内容限制会对游戏设计造成问题。盗版和水货市场也令人担忧。摆在我们面前的最大的挑战,是如果适应独特的中国市场。

让我们把镜头转向13年前,任天堂的马里奥给中国的小朋友们带来诸多欢乐,这一点和美国的情形毫无差异。但当中国向主机游戏市场关掉大门时起,世界的其他地方却进入了被称为第六代游戏机时代。索尼的Playstation 2 ,微软的Xbox和任天堂GameCube成三国鼎力之势。游戏行业自始而来,游戏大多都针对男性(青年和大龄儿童)开发。目标受众,也就是如今所称的“铁杆(hardcore)玩家” 要求复杂且具有挑战性的游戏,同时画面感也要极好。尽管在行业拥有最久的历史,并有知名的专营连锁,任天堂在当时却落后于它的竞争对手。2005年,当业界继续将相同的设计理念应用于新一代游戏机时,任天堂却用了一条不同的策略。Wii的开发与传统制造智慧背道而驰,让任天堂发现了一个曾经被忽略的全新的市场。与Xbox 360和PlayStation 3相比,任天堂发布了一个不那么强大的主机与一个完全不同的运动控制系统。简单而直观的游戏一炮打响了家庭和大龄市场。任天堂在硬件上节约了成本, 其销售更胜过了它的竞争对手,其结果是索尼和微软在几年后都纷纷效仿,推出了自己的运动控制系统 。

 

类似的情形再次重现。一个14亿人口市场向我们开放。根据IDC分析认为,一旦禁令被完全解除,在未来几年,中国将称为最大的游戏机市场。摆在我们面前的问题是,怎样的创新和策略能用来获取这曾被忽略的玩家市场。要赢得中国玩家,优质的本地化是必要的。做好优质的本地化游戏产品, 可以从以下几个方面来考虑:文化调节,法律问题,商业化和技术。

文化调节

除画面感外,最能让游戏玩家投入游戏的是UI界面,当然,它必须是玩家自己的语言。好的翻译就是在讲游戏里的故事,风趣生动,用语符合玩家口味,并根据游戏不同时期的背景译出符合其时代特点的语言风格,达到浸入式的游戏体验。同时,游戏的语音对话应提供字幕或配音。在许多情况下,人物形象和情节改编是必要的,对当地的文化更具吸引力。如果游戏故事中涉及历史事件,一定要检查涉及的游戏内容是否属实。在游戏测试阶段,让当地玩家来验证符号和宗教元素在当地的正确使用往往是非常重要的。

(台湾游戏展showgirl)

 

(ChinaJoy showgirl)

对大多数游戏开发者来说,很难辨清哪些是文化观念的差异。就拿颜色来说,当中国人见红色,一般象征吉祥,给人幸福和欢乐的感觉。可在大多数西方文化中却似乎完全相反 – 让人联想到暴力和鲜血。但是,不要以为“红色就意味着吉祥”适用于所有情况。比如说在餐厅结帐时递过来一只红笔来签字,就让中国人很恼火(这是我在美国经常遇见的情况…) 这一忌讳是从死刑问斩的历史演故而来的:犯人名字是用红笔写在押号上,以候处决。所以用红笔写自己的名字是相当不吉利的一件事!

小浣熊在中国是多么可爱的一个形象,还是一个干脆面的品牌代言。但在美国确像老鼠一样人人喊打。东西方龙的形象又是一个例子。调整文化概念和理解上的不同,还有很多值得考究的地方:某些数字的象征含义,日期和时间的表达法,不同历律的节假日等。想要保证所有细节都没错,最好办法是咨询有经验的游戏国际化和本地化专家。他们可以帮助你避开忌讳的风俗和习惯,并给游戏添彩,让你的游戏在全球大卖。

如今,游戏的营销少不了社交媒体的帮忙。尽管Facebook, Youtube和Twitter风靡全世界,但在中国大陆却并非流行。中国国内有一套自己完整的社交生态圈(见下图),基本每个工具都和国外的功能相对应。在LAI公司,我们经常帮助客户寻找正确的营销和发行渠道,尤其在大中华地区和美洲,我们有很多游戏平台和社区的合作伙伴。

营销时机在各地也有所不同。台湾游戏同行很关注台风季,这时玩家都宅在家,有更多时间来玩游戏。中国新年前,也是最忙的时节。在美国,圣诞节是玩家得到最多游戏礼物的时间。

法律问题

相比文化意识,政府法规对游戏的发行要求更苛刻。我们在前面的文化部分谈到了红色。在德国,游戏中红色的鲜血被规定替换成绿色或蓝色。很多其他国家也有自己的游戏评级标准 (如澳大利亚常被认为有很严格的评审),为适合的特定年龄群体进行游戏分类。

虽然中国没有年龄评级系统,但政府的审查却并不松代。一个月前,战地4遭中国封杀,因为政府认为它对国家安全构成威胁。据中国电子游戏信息门户网站17173.com报道,超过40家外国游戏都没有被允许在中国销售 。

 

中国游戏产业网上有游戏在中国发行的相关政策。有几点值得开发商注意的是:

1. 内容限制 – 被禁止的:淫秽,色情,赌博,暴力,迷信,民族歧视,危害国家安全,等等。

2. 所有的进口网络游戏(包括台湾/香港/澳门)需要找一个中国本土游戏公司发布:要么合作出版或自行发布。

3. 保护未成年防止沉迷网络游戏,并对18岁以下的玩家游戏销售有更严厉的规定,如实名登录等。

主机游戏现有的商业模式不适合中国市场。目前存在的主机市场,游戏往往要花费2000-3000万美元制作,单价售出60美金 。较便宜和老款游戏虽然只有其1/3的价格,但一下子让中国玩家拿出120元还是很高的。泛滥的盗版问题和中国玩家的支付模式偏好,启迪了中国游戏商家大多采用free-to-play模式。 而主机游戏玩家也大部分在水货市场购买了游戏机,习惯了买盗版游戏光盘。很难想象中国游戏消费者会支付同样价格购买正版主机游戏。

(国内的盗版机)

值得注意的是,主机游戏行业里已经开始有不同的计价模式,并越来越受欢迎。所有的当代游戏机都有网上在线市场,可以下载购买经典游戏、小游戏、低价游戏。大预算的主机游戏也开始流行可下载内容的销售,尽管它和目前中国游戏市场运作有所不同。(虽然free-to-play模式已在美国休闲和手机游戏玩家中取得一定的成功,但铁杆玩家不喜欢游戏内存在用支付手段取得竞争优势。 )重要的是,市场已经开始向新的方向移动,结构都已到位,可以为新兴的游戏机市场制定独特的定价模式。

对中国市场来讲,游戏和可下载内容的数字销售前景客观。在线系统越来越多地应用于防止盗版。中研普华的研究显示,2012年,在主机游戏解禁前,水货市场销售了约4百万台主机(包括掌机)。然而,这些游戏机无法和其他游戏机联机,一同在线玩游戏。建立主机游戏的官方网络能阻止用水货和盗版的玩家进行游戏,不让他们进入游戏网络。游戏机的数字销售也消除了物流成本,避免了中间商和游戏转售。

 

科技

主机游戏解禁几天后,华为在拉斯维加斯的消费电子展上推出了其首款安卓系统游戏机Tron。TCL也发布了制造其自己的游戏主机计划。国内公司开始在主机游戏市场初露端倪,但微软、任天堂和索尼电脑娱乐公司被许多人认为是游戏机解禁中最能受益的赢家。主机游戏需要巨大的投资和长时间的制作,而没有成熟的技术和行业知识的公司很容易就会失败。

一旦AAA游戏广泛进入中国市场,游戏市场格局将转向对视听效果更高科技的要求,游戏玩法也会要求更复杂多样。10年前,3D游戏在世界各地开始盛行,而如今2D/2.5D游戏开发在中国还是最常见(Cocos2D pk Unity 3D)。在不同的平台发布游戏时,技术兼容性的困难时经常发生。国内企业通常只有有限的主机游戏设计和发行资源。

国内公司对游戏玩家喜好(题材风格、情景设计、流行趋势)和游戏度量(metrics)有更好的把握。对进口游戏的改编也有更多经验。在2013年9月,微软第一个与中国公司百视通组建合资企业。主机游戏市场的未来给这样取长补短的中外合资公司提供优势,使双方从合作关系的协同效应中获利。而给不希望形成这种深度合作伙伴公司的公司提供了另一种解决方案,是与经验丰富的本地化和出版机构合作。

中国游戏机市场的开放给游戏开发者和主机制造商带来了很多的挑战,但同样带来了巨大商机。最先进入中国市场获得绝对竞争优势的公司将是那些最先找到针对中国玩家的成功营销方案、并能在中国市场立足的公司。

在LAI,自1993年以来,我们一直与索尼及国际上许多其他成功的电子游戏公司合作 。我们拥有齐全的游戏本地化和海外出版解决方案。用我们的经验助你走过所有发行步骤, 让你的产品推向市场。

 

Perspectives on Game Localization for the Emerging Chinese Console Game Market

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Perspectives on Game Localization for the Emerging Chinese Console Game Market

By Michelle Zhao, LAI’s Managing Director for Greater China and Rory Schussler, Special Correspondent

Earlier this January, China lifted a 13 year ban on the sale and manufacture of gaming consoles. This has generated great excitement about the future of the video game industry in China, but it is still too early to know how successful the big console players will be in taking advantage of this opportunity. (Nintendo has said they have no plans so far for entering the Chinese market; Sony is making ambitious plans to sell 5 million PS4s by March, 2014.)

We’re still waiting on more details from the government on how the change in regulation is going to work. Restrictions on content are an issue for game designers. Piracy and the grey market are major concerns. The biggest challenge is how to adapt to the differences of the Chinese market.

Let’s go back in time 13 years. Nintendo’s Mario was almost as much of an iconic presence to Chinese children as he was to Americans. While China was closing its doors to consoles, in the rest of the world gaming was entering what is known as the sixth generation of consoles, where the major competitors were the Sony Playstation 2, the Microsoft Xbox, and the Nintendo Gamecube. From the beginning of the video game industry, games were targeted towards an audience that was mostly male and aged child to young adult. The target audience (a group which is now referred to as “hardcore gamers”) demanded more complicated and challenging games with better graphics. Despite having the longest history in the industry and a line of well-known franchises, Nintendo was falling behind its competitors. When the industry continued with the same design philosophy working on a new generation of consoles in 2005, Nintendo went with a different strategy. With the Nintendo Wii, the company went against the conventional wisdom and discovered an entire new market that had been ignored before. In contrast to the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3, Nintendo released a less powerful console with a radically different motion control system. The simple and intuitive games were a hit with families and older generations. By saving money on cheaper hardware, Nintendo’s sales outdid its competition so well that Sony and Microsoft both came out with their own motion control systems a few years afterward.

What’s going on now is a similar situation. A market of over 1.4 billion people has opened up. According to IDC analysts, in the next few years, China is going to be the largest console game market once the ban is lifted completely. The big question is what kind of innovation or strategy can be used to capture the formerly ignored population. Quality localization is necessary to win Chinese gamers. There are a few aspects of localization to consider: culturalization, legal issues, monetization, and technology.

Culturalization

Besides artwork, the first thing to get gamers connected and immersed in your game is the UI that is written in their own language. When talking about the language “Chinese”, many people get confused by a few terms: Cantonese, Mandarin, Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese. Cantonese and Mandarin usually refer to dialects.

There are actually many different dialects in China. Cantonese is spoken by people from the Canton area which is in the very south of China (many early immigrants in the US are from Canton.) Mandarin is the national/official language, originating from Beijing and the Northeast of China. People from Taiwan and Singapore also speak Mandarin.

Simplified and traditional are usually referring to writing systems. Simplified is used in Mainland China and Singapore, while traditional is used in Hongkong and Taiwan. Many people who understand traditional may not read simplified very well, and vice versa. The good news is that since the language is concise, most of the time you don’t have to worry about the maximum length of the characters for UI design.

A good translation offers vivid story-telling and period-accurate language, which is essential to a great gameplay experience. Providing subtitles or voice-overs in the targeted market are necessary for dialogue. In many circumstances, character and plot adaptation are preferred in order to appeal to the local culture. It is always necessary to fact check, if historic events are included in the game. Asking local gamers to verify the correct use of symbols and religious elements is often important during the testing phase.

 (showgirl @ Taipei Game Show)

(Showgirls @ ChinaJoy – China’s largest video game exhibition)

Differences on cultural notions are not always obvious for game developers. Take colors for example – when Chinese people see red, generally they relate it to auspicious, happy and festive feelings. Its usage seems quite opposite in most western cultures – it is associated with violence and blood. However, don’t assume that “Red is good luck” in all situations. A Chinese person could feel quite offended if offered a red pen to sign the bill in a restaurant – in historic times, only prisoners who were sentenced to death had their names written in red ink. Many Chinese people still believe it will bring them bad luck.

Raccoons are cute and used as a mascot in branding in China, but are considered pests in America. Dragons are another well-known example. There are plenty of other things to be aware of in culturalization: superstition surrounding numbers, display of dates, and Chinese holidays under the lunar calendar, etc. The best way to make sure you’ll get it right is to consult with an experienced internationalization/localization professional working in the game industry. They will be able to make sure all the taboos are untouched and give you better alternatives to boost your game sales in China.

Social media are very helpful and trendy tools to support game marketing, but Facebook, Youtube and Twitter are not available in Mainland China, even though they may be used widely throughout the rest of the world. China has a totally separate social media ecosystem, but it can be confusing at times (see the following chart showing the correspondence with other platforms). At LAI, we are experts at navigating China’s social media ecosystem and frequently help our clients with marketing initiatives in China.

Marketing opportunities can vary in each area. In Taiwan, the game industry takes advantage of typhoon seasons since everyone stays at home and plays games. In mainland China, the busiest period is before Chinese New Year.

Legal Issues

Compared to cultural awareness, government regulations are even harsher. We talked about the color red in the cultural section earlier. In Germany, gore is replaced by green or blue in games. Many other countries also have their ratings boards to classify games as appropriate for certain age groups.

Though China does not have a system for age rating, its censorship is also very strict. A month ago, Battlefield 4 was banned in China because the government viewed it as a threat to national security. According to Chinese video game information portal 17173.com, more than 40 foreign games have not been allowed to be sold in China over the years.

This Chinese game industry official website provides video game publishing rules and regulations in China.

A few things for developers to note:

  1. Content restriction- these are forbidden: obscenity, pornography, gambling, violence, superstition, illegal trade enrichment and endangering national security, etc.
  2. All imported online games (including from Taiwan/Hongkong/Macau) need to find a Chinese local game company to publish: either co-publish or self-publish.
  3. There are strict rules on selling games to gamers under 18. Often, real name log-ins are required to play certain types of games.

Monetization

The current business model for console games doesn’t fit China very well. In the existing console market, a game tends to cost around $20-$30 million to make, and sells to consumers at $60. Even cheaper and older games only drop to about a third of that, and 120 RMB is still very high for a Chinese gamer. The majority of Chinese gaming works on the free-to-play model due to the high degree of piracy. Most gamers who are interested in consoles have already purchased illegally imported systems, and are accustomed to playing bootlegged games. Consumers would refuse to pay the same prices that people do elsewhere in the world.

(copycat consoles)

Different pricing models have already taken root though, and are becoming more popular. All of the current-generation consoles have online marketplaces where classic games or smaller and less expensive games can be purchased and downloaded digitally. The sale of downloadable content is becoming increasingly prevalent in big-budget console titles, although it is different from how the present Chinese market works. (While the free-to-play model has had some success with American casual and mobile gamers, hardcore gamers tend to reject any game where players can pay for a competitive advantage.) What is important is that the market has started to move in new directions, and structures are already in place to accommodate a unique pricing model for the emerging console market.

Digital sales of games and content is promising for the Chinese market. Online systems are increasingly used to prevent piracy. (Shenzhen) Zero Power Intelligence’s research shows about 4 million consoles (including handheld) were bought in China from the grey market before the ban lifted in 2012. However, such consoles are unable to play anything other than local multiplayer, and cannot connect to other players. Establishing an official network for a console can prevent anyone from playing on an illegally modified console or game disk, and ban them from the network. Digital sales on consoles also avoids the physical costs of shipping to retail stores, eliminates the middleman, and prevents resale of games.

Technology

Huawei unveiled its first Android powered game console Tron at CES in LV, only a few days after the government’s policy change. TCL also has plans on manufacturing its own console.

(Huawei’s Tron)

Domestic companies are making their debut in the console field, though Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony Computer Entertainment are considered by many as the best poised to benefit from the lifting of the ban on consoles. Console games require huge investments and long production times; companies without mature technology and industry know-how will easily fail.

Once AAA games become widely available, the landscape of the market will shift and the demand for high-tech visuals, sound and gameplay will increase. Ten years ago, 3D gaming became prevalent in the rest of the world, while 2D/2.5D is still the most common technology used among Chinese game developers (Cocos2D instead of Unity3D). Technology compatibility difficulties often occur when publishing on different platforms. Domestic companies usually have limited resources and talents in experienced console game design and publishing.

Domestic companies have advantages on user preference (stylistic, plot and trend) and game metrics. They also have more experience in modifying gameplay of an imported game. Microsoft took the first step to form a joint venture with Chinese company BesTV in Sep. 2013. The future of the market should give an advantage to similar partnerships between established foreign companies and domestic designers, allowing both to profit from the synergy of the relationship. An alternative solution for companies that do not want to undertake such an extensive partnership is to work with experienced localization and publishing agencies.

Conclusion

The opening of the Chinese market to consoles brings plenty of challenges to ambitious game designers and console manufacturers, but the potential for rewards is commensurate. The first companies that work out a successful formula for marketing to Chinese gamers and establish themselves will gain a solid competitive advantage by getting in on the ground floor.

At LAI, we have worked closely with Sony and many other successful video game companies worldwide since 1993. With a complete range of game localization and overseas publishing solutions, we can help you get the experience you need to work through the necessary steps of publication and get your product to market.

 

LocaLAIse This! – Interview with Executive Director of the IGDA, Kate Edwards

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LocaLAIse This! (pronounced “Localize This”) features an interview with Kate Edwards, Executive Director of the IGDA. Kate has worked extensively as a geopolitical strategist and localization expert at leading companies such as Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. She has worked on numerous AAA titles, including the Dragon Age series, Modern Warfare 3, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Mass Effect 3, and Halo 4.

 

In this episode, Kate discusses emerging markets, proper culturalization of games, and her work consulting on AAA titles. You can check it out at this link, or download it for free from the iTunes Store. 

 

Translation Conferences January-June 2014

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It’s a job and a half finding all of the industry conferences and events happening around the world, so we made life easier for you by providing a comprehensive list of relevant translation conferences and locations/dates.  Also check out our earlier post with video game conferences and which ones we will be attending.

If there are any conferences we missed, please let us know @LanguageAutoInc.  We greatly appreciate and encourage feedback!

Sign up for our newsletter to receive monthly conference updates.  Enjoy!

 

January 9-10, 2014 Colloquium “Performativity and Translation” at the Hong Kong Baptist University and City University of Hong Kong in Hong Kong

January 9-12, 2014 The American Name Society (ANS) in Minneapolis, Minnesota

January 9-12, 2014 129th MLA Annual Convention at the Chicago Marriott and the Sheraton Chicago in Chicago, Illinois

January 21-23, 2014 USAN 2014 at Stellenbosch University, South Africa

January 23-25, 2014 10th International Congress on English Grammar (ICEG)

January 30-31, 2014 Translation in Transition: Between Cognition, Computing, and Technology at the Copenhagen Business School in Frederiksberg, Denmark

January 30-31, 2014 The 6th Riga Symposium on Pragmatic Aspects of Translation “Translation, Quality, Costs” at the University of Latvia in Latvia

January 31, 2014 2nd Durham Postgraduate Colloquium at Durham University in Durham, UK

February 6-8, 2014 30th South Asian Language Analysis Roundtable at the University of Hyderabad in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

February 10-11, 2014 Rhizomes VIII: Surviving and Thriving in Multilingual Spaces at the University of Queensland

February 13-14, 2014 XXXIV International VAKKI Symposium in Vaasa, Finland

February 24-26, 2014 Localization World in Bangkok

February 27, 2014 Subtitling and Intercultural Communication, European Languages and Beyond at Università per Stranieri di Siena

February 28-March 1, 2014 L’Humour, le ludique, le rire: Approches interdisciplinaires at l’Université de Victoria in Victoria, BC, Canada

March 5-6, 2014 The Fourth International Conference on Religious Texts and Translation in Marrakech

March 5-7, 2014 DUT International Language Symposium: Developing Africa through a Harvest and Reinvestment of Multilingualism at the Durban University of Technology

March 6-8, 2014 The Ethical and the Violent International Interdisciplinary Conference at the University of Sousse

March 7-9, 2014 Second Asia Pacific Corpus Linguistics Conference at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hunghom, Kowloon, Hong Kong

March 13-14, 2014 International Conference on Translation and Accessibility in Video Games and Virtual Worlds at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain

March 13-15, 2014 Conference on Baltic and Scandinavian Studies at Yale University in New Haven, CT

March 20-22, 2014 Identity and Conflict in the Middle East and Its Diasporic Cultures at the University of Balamand in Lebanon

March 20-22, 2014 Groupe d’étude et de recherche en anglais de spécialité (GERAS) at l’Université d’Aix-Marseille in Aix-en Provence, France

March 21, 2014 5th Biennial Graduate Student Conference, Packaging Meaning: Culture and Concepts in Words and Grammar at the University of Texas in Austin, Texas

March 21-22, 2014 Translating the Voices of Theory: Intercultural Passages, Resistances, and Audibility in Paris, France

March 24, 2014 From Ethics to Censorship: Constraints in Translation and in Translation Studies at Concordia University in Quebec, Canada

March 24-26, 2014 Eighth Students’ Conference of Linguistics in India at Kashmir University in Srinagar, India

March 26-27, 2014 I Coloquio Hermeneus: Los Estudios de Traducción e Interpretación Basados en Corpus in Soria, Spain

March 27-28, 2014 Interdisciplinary Approaches to Translation (InATra) in Bydogoszcz, Poland

March 27-29, 2014 Language in Focus: Exploring the Challenges and Opportunities in Linguistics and English Language Teaching in Antalya, Turkey

March 28-29, 2014 The Translation and Localization Conference in Warsaw, Poland

April 3-4, 2014 (RE)Visiting Ethics and Ideology in Situations of Conflict in Madrid, Spain

April 3-5, 2014 New Tasks for Legal Interpreters and Translators in the Enlarged Europe in Krakow, Poland

April 3-5, 2014 32nd International Conference of the Spanish Association of Applied Linguistics (AESLA) at the University Pablo de Olavide in Seville, Spain

April 3-5, 2014 The American Translation and Interpreting Studies Association (ATISA) VII: Where Theory and Practice Meet at New York University in New York City, New York

April 4, 2014 General and Specialist Translation/Interpretation: Theory, Methods, Practice in Kyiv, Ukraine

April 7-8, 2014 Empirical Methods in Linguistics (EMLS) at the University of Lodz in Poland

April 10-11, 2014 TAUS Executive Forum in Tokyo, Japan

April 11-12, 2014 Words and Music II in Portoroz, Slovenia

April 11-12, 2014 XII Symposium on Translation and Interpreting the Myths of Translation and Interpreting at the University of Tampere in Tampere, Finland

April 14-16, 2014 Global Translation Flows, 5th Annual Translation Conference in Doha, Qatar

April 14-17, 2014 Certificate in Collaborative Translation Training in Auckland, New Zealand

April 16-18, 2014 8th International IDEA Conferences: Studies in English at Sitki Kocman Mugla University in Mugla, Turkey

April 17-19, 2014 The 2nd International Symposium on Languages for Specific Purposes at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, Alabama

April 25-26, 2014 War and Peace in the Life of Language at the University of Nottingham in Nottingham

April 26, 2014 Human in the Loop: Workshop on Humans and Computer-Assisted Translation (HaCat) in Gothenburg, Sweden

April 26-30, 2014 The 14th Conference of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics (EACL) in Gothenburg, Sweden

April 29-30, 2014 Key Cultural Texts in Translation in Leicester, UK

April 30-May 4, 2014 35th ICAME Conference at the University of Nottingham in Nottingham

May 1-4, 2014 AICW Biennial Conference, Writing and Translating Culture: Bridging Differences Together in Montreal, Canada

May 2-3, 2014 Budapest 2014 in Budapest, Hungary

May 7-9, 2014 TISLID ’14: 2nd International Workshop on Technological Innovation for Specialized Linguistic Domains – Lifelong Learning on the Move at the University of Salamanca in Avila, Spain

May 8-9, 2014 ASLA Symposium: Language and Identity/Språk och identitet in Stockholm, Sweden

May 8-10, 2014 Political Linguistics III: (Re)construing nationhood in ‘(un)doing Europe’ today? in Warsaw, Poland

May 15-17, 2014 3rd International Conference: Language and Law in Social Practice in Italy

May 20-21, 2014 Mediating Translation in Europe from the Early Modern Period to the 20th Century: Translation Studies and Transnational Literary Histiography at Ghent University in Ghent, Belgium

May 22-23, 2014 Traduire le sacré dans les langues et littératures de l’Orient at Université d’Artois in France

May 22-24, 2014 6th International Conference on Corpus Linguistics at the Universidad de las Palmas de Gran Canaria in Spain

May 22-24, 2014 The 1st International Conference on Food and Culture in Translation at the University of Bologna in Italy

May 23, 2014 TAUS Translation Automation Roundtable in Moscow, Russia

May 26-28, 2014 27th Conference of the Canadian Association for Translation Studies (CATS) at Brock University in Ontario, Canada

May 29-30, 2014 The International Conference: Representing, (De)Constructing and Translating Borderlands in Krasnogruda, Poland

May 29-31, 2014 International Conference on Economic, Business, Financial, and Institutional Translation at the University of Alicante in Alicante, Spain

May 29-31, 2014 2nd International Conference on Non-Professional Interpreting and Translation at Mainz University in Germersheim, Germany

May 26-June 6, 2014 Nida School of Translation Studies (NSTS)

May 29-June 1, 2014 20th Anniversary of IQLA and Journal of Quantitative Linguistics (JQL) in the Czech Republic

June 2-7, 2014 Translation in Russian Contexts: Transcultural, Translingual, and Transdisciplinary Points of Departure at Uppsala University in Uppsala, Sweden

June 3-5, 2014 International NooJ 2014 Conference at the University of Sassari in Italy

June 4-6, 2014 Localization World in Dublin, Ireland

June 4-6, 2014 On the Border of Language and Dialect at the University of Eastern Finland in Joensuu, Finland

June 5-6, 2014 1st International Conference on Translation Studies – Translating Asia: Now and Then in Bangkok, Thailand

June 5-7, 2014 Second IATIS Regional Workshop: Collaborative Translation – From Antiquity to the Internet in Paris, France

June 12-14, 2014 9th International Conference on Third Language Acquisition and Multilingualism at Uppsala University in Uppsala, Sweden

June 13-15, 2014 3rd International Conference on Itineraries in Translation History at the University of Tartu in Estonia

June 15-18, 2014 Sociolinguistics Symposium 20 in Jyväskylä, Finland

June 17-19, 2014 XXVI FILLM International Congress: Languages and Literatures Today in Ningbo, China

June 18-19, 2014 Innovation in Language Learning: Multimodal Approaches at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona in Spain

June 18-20, 2014 Languages and the First World War in London, UK

June 19-20, 2014 East Asian Translation Studies Conference in Norwich, UK

Video Game Conferences January-June 2014

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Check out our new podcast on iTunes – LocaLAIse This!

______________________________________________________________________________

It’s a job and a half finding all of the industry conferences and events happening around the world, so we made life easier for you by providing a comprehensive list of video game conferences and locations/dates.  We even included relevant Twitter pages so you can stay up to date on the latest conference news and updates.  You can find the conferences LAI will be attending by looking for the events highlighted in purple.

This list may not be complete and may not reflect the most recent information available.  Please check the relevant webpages to learn more about these conferences.

If there are any conferences we missed, please let us know @LanguageAutoInc.  We greatly appreciate and encourage feedback!  We also have a Twitter list of 70+ video game conferences.  Subscribe now to easily stay on top of conference updates.

Sign up for our newsletter to receive monthly conference updates.  Enjoy!

 

January 7-10, 2014 International CES in Las Vegas, Nevada @IntlCES

The International CES is the world’s gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer technologies, serving as the event for innovators and breakthrough technologies for more than 40 years. Registration opens October 1st. On-site registration fee begins January 2nd at $200.

January 22-23, 2014 Mobile Games Forum and Social Games & Virtual Goods Forum at Novotel in London @GamesForum @VirtualGoodsUK @VGSummit

The definitive global event where over 400 of the industry’s most influential stakeholders, 120 speakers (including 29 of the top 50 developers in the world, 30 sponsors and key media converge to set the agenda on the hottest issues in mobile entertainment. Attendees are able to plan meetings ahead of time through access to a meeting planner. Early bird business pass available until December 20th at £1999, conference pass at £999, thereafter £2999 for a business pass and £1299 for a conference pass. Developer pass available for 25 studios at £499.

January 2014? Mobile Gaming USA East in New York @MobileGamingUSA

January 2014? GameON: Finance in Toronto, Canada

January 2014? Game Design Expo in Vancouver, BC, Canada

February 4-6, 2014 DICE Summit at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, NV @DICESummit

DICE Summit 2014 is an exclusive high-level conference, gathering the brightest and most creative minds dedicated to exploring approaches to the creative process and artistic expression. Past speakers have included Shigeru Miyamoyo, creator of Mario and The Legend of Zelda and Gabe Newell, co-founder and managing director of Valve. Active business member early bird fee available through November 8th at $2050, general fee through December 20th at $2300, and late fee through January 24th at $2575. Non-member early bird fee available through November 8th at $2775, general fee through December 20th at $3050, and late fee through January 24th at $3400.

February 7-8, 2014 Winter Nights Mobile Games Conference in St. Petersburg, Russia

The Winter Nights: Mobile Games Conference is an international mobile game development and marketing conference, with over 800 decision-markers, developers, publishers, and other professionals from over 300 companies. Early bird registration ends January 17th, with standard passes available for $250, premium passes for $350, and premium+ passes for $400.

February 11-13, 2014 Casual Connect Europe at Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Casual Connect is the premiere event for the casual games industry with over 6500 professionals attending Casual Connect each year. Early bird registration of €350 ($450) until January 18th, standard registration of €350 ($450). Premium pass available at an early bird rate until January 18th at €500 ($650), thereafter €575 ($750).

February 14-16, 2014 IndieCade East in New York City, NY @IndieCade

The IndieCade Festival is the only stand-alone independent-focused game event in the nation and includes festival workshops, keynotes, family-focused activities, meet-and-greets, and hands-on gameplay. All access available on site at $450, festival plus at $300.

February 17-19, 2014 Digital Kids Conference in New York City, NY @DigitalKidsCon

The 8th annual conference is a “must-attend event” for professionals engaging with children online and on digital devices. All access super early pass available through November 15th at $595, early rate through January 17th at $695, online rate through February 7th at $795, and on site at $995.

February 27, 2014? Hamburg Games Conference at Bucerius Law School in Hamburg, Germany

This conference informs attendees of how to protect themselves against hackers and cyber threats. Check website for pricing information.

February 2014? Audio for Games Conference in London, UK @AESGames

February 2014? Play4Agile in Rückersbach, Germany @Play4Agile

February 2014? Flash GAMM! in Hamburg, Germany @FlashGAMM

February 2014? Taipei Game Show in Taipei, Taiwan @computex_taipei

February 2014? Norwegian Game Conference in Hamar, Norway

March 1-3, 2014 Guangzhou Game Show at China Import and Export Fair Pazhou Compex in China  LAI will be attending!

This conference brings together worldwide professionals across the digital interactive game industry. Check website for registration and fee information.

March 17-19, 2014 Game Connection America at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco, CA @The_GameCo

Buckle up for another year of record-breaking attendance, and join more than 1800 attendees, 200 exhibitors and 250 certified buyers to engage in networking, business, and lively conversation. Check website for registration and fee information.

March 17-21, 2014 Game Developers Conference (GDC) at Moscone Center in San Francisco, CA @Official_GDC @IGFNews

Be a part of the world’s largest and longest-running professionals-only game industry event, with over 22,500 attendees, the Localization Summit, the Independent Games Festival, and the Smartphone & Tablet Games Summit. Early bird all access pass available until January 31st at $1475, main conference pass at $995, summits/tutorials/bootcamps pass at $695, expo pass at $195. Early bird regular pass available until March 12th at $1975, main conference pass at $1350, summits/tutorials/bootcamps pass at $795, expo pass $250. Early bird onsite pass available at $2100, main conference pass $1475, summits/tutorials/bootcamps pass at $895, expo pass at $250. LAI will be attending!

March 2014? SoCalBio Games for Health Conference in Los Angeles, CA @GamesforHealth

March 2014? GAMEON-Asia in Shanghai, China

March 2014? Flash Gaming Summit (FGS) in San Francisco, CA @FGSummit

April 7-8, 2014 Cloud Gaming Europe in London, UK

Cloud Gaming Europe is Europe’s largest video game network and cloud gaming event, bringing together senior level decision makers from publishers, developers, network architecture companies, and investors. The super early bird business pass is available until January 17th at £995 (£1395 thereafter), and the super early bird basic pass is available for £695 (£995 after January 17th).

April 11-13, 2014 PAX East at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC) in Boston, MA  @Official_PAX

PAX East doubled in size each year since its start in 2004 until venue capacities were reached, and when PAX expanded from Washington to Boston in 2010, tens of thousands attended. With tournaments, concerts, a handheld lounge, and widely attended speaker sessions, there’s something for everyone at PAX. Individual day passes available at $40, three day passes available at $75.

April 23-24, 2014 Festival of Games in Amsterdam, Holland @NLGD

The Festival of Games unites game development professionals, hosting a pitch and match session to connect organizations. Check website for registration and fee details.

April 23-24, 2014 East Coast Game Conference 2014 (ECGC) at the Raleigh Convention Center in Raleigh, NC

ECGC 2014 is in its 6th year and remains the largest gathering of video game professionals on the East Coast. Early bird conference passes are available until December 31st at $125, and early bird premier passes are available until December 31st at $270.

April 2014? VentureBeat Mobile Summit 2014 in Sausalito, CA @VentureBeat

May 7-8, 2014 NeuroGaming Conference and Expo 2014 at the Metreon in San Francisco, CA @NeuroGameConf

The NeuroGaming conference is where mind and body meet gameplay, featuring neurogame developers’ work on the latest emotional, cognitive, sensory, and behavioral technologies to create radically compelling experiences to engage and entertain gamers worldwide. Early bird full conference passes are available until January 15th at $650 (indie developer price $250), regular full conference passes are available until April 7th at $850 (indie developer price $350), and late full conference passes are available at $1150 (indie developer at $550).

May 7-8, 2014 GameHorizon at The Sage in Newcastle, UK @GameHorizon

GameHorizon aims to be Europe’s most relevant forward-looking games industry event, with a combination of inspirational sessions, debate, and networking. Tickets are available for £180 or £270.

May 16-18, 2014 INTERGAME 2014 at the Estonian Fairs in Tallinn, Estonia

A wide spectrum of gaming professionals is anticipated from across Europe. Check website for registration and fee details.

May 20-22, 2014 Casual Connect Asia in Singapore @CasualConnect

The Casual Games Association connects professionals at conferences around the world and provides educational resources and community support for those involved in creating games for the mass market consumer. Standard registration available at an early bird price of $300 until April 26th, $350 thereafter. Premium registration available at an early bird price of $450 until April 26th, $650 thereafter.

May 21-23, 2014 Nordic Game Conference in Malmö, Sweden @NordicGame

The Nordic Game Conference engages global speakers and has a pitch and match sessions to connect businesses – a combination of a targeted audience, online meeting system, and personal matchmaker. Check back for registration information.

May 27-30, 2014 The Android Developer Conference (AnDevCon) at the Sheraton in Boston, MA  @AnDevCon

 AnDevCon is the world’s largest Android Developer Training Conference, serving as a technical conference for software developers building Android apps. The full conference plus pre-conference tutorials pass is available through January 17th at $1195, February 14th at $1295, March 21st at $1345, April 18th at $1395, May 16th at $1495, and $1795 thereafter. Full conference passes are available through January 17th at $945, February 14th at $995, March 21st at $1095, April 18th at $1195, May 16th at $1295, and $1595 thereafter.

May 2014 Flash GAMM in Moscow, Russia

The conference gathers representatives of leading social and flash game companies, small studios, and independent developers. Check back for exact dates and registration details.

May 2014? Game Monetisation Europe 2014

May 2014? Social Gambling and Gaming Summit

May 2014? Foundations of Digital Games (FDG)

May 2014? GameConnection Asia

May 2014? Ottawa Game Conference @OIGConf

May 2014? Kontagent Konnect @Kontagent

May 2014? Russian Game Developer’s Conference (KRI)

May 2014? Mobile Gaming West

June 10-12, 2014 E3 Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, CA @E3Expo

E3 is the world’s premier tradeshow for computer games, video games, and related products, drawing tens of thousands of professionals to experience the future of interactive entertainment. Expo pass available for $795 through April 27th, $995 thereafter.

June 10-13, 2014 The Gamification Summit @GSummit2014

Over 4 days, hear from 50+ expert speakers and engage in workshops covering gamification, customer loyalty, employee engagement, and behavior science. Even earn a Certification in Gamification Design in GSummit’s limited space workshop on June 10th! Early bird conference only pass available until January 24th at $595. Early bird conference pass with Advanced Gamification Certification Workshop available until January 24th at $1795. (Special prices available for alumni.) 

June 16-17, 2014 Games for Change (G4C) @G4C

Games for Change is the largest gaming event in NYC and brings together funders, NGOs, corporations, government agencies, and educators seeking to leverage entertainment and engagement for social good with leading game developers. Check back for registration information.

June 2014? MultiScreen Summit @MultiScreenSumm

June 2014? Canadian Gaming Summit @CDNGamingSummit

June 2014? Games Beyond Entertainment Week @GamesforHealth

June 2014? Web Game Conference

 

Check back for an updated list as more video game conference dates and details are announced!

DevHour 2013 Presentation

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Interested in learning the ins and outs of game localization? Check out our presentation from DevHour 2013 in Mexico City:

 

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The Regional Differences of Languages and Their Impact on Game Localization: Exploring Spanish Localization across the Americas

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Localization is one of the few parts of the production process where you know you’ve done a good job when no one ever mentions it.  A good localization isn’t intrusive and should make the player feel that no matter what language they’re playing the game in, that is the original.

-    Capcom’s blog for Dragon’s Dogma

  

I recently returned from DevHour, an incredible industry conference in Mexico City.  The organizers have done a fantastic job of bringing together game development talent from states across Mexico, making DevHour the largest conference specifically for game developers in Latin America.  As a result, the conference is gaining more traction from organizations abroad, this year including talks by the IGDA, King.com, YetiZen, and TechBA Vancouver.

 

Since very little has been written about the nuance of game localization, particularly for languages outside of Japanese and English, I interviewed Language Automation’s Latin American localization team and gamers from the region, in addition to scouring gaming forums.  This article reflects the compiled information – how linguistic differences across 20 Latin American countries affects immersion in games and how translators are able to compensate for these linguistic variations.  I’m publishing this article in follow up to my DevHour presentation about game localization, in which I spoke about the complexities of global markets and why proper localization (and culturalization) is key.

 

Muchísimas gracias a todos ustedes al DevHour por 2 años maravillosos a la conferencia en DF.  Espero que disfruten este artículo explicando más de las idiosincrasias de su mercado.  Si pueden escribir de sus opiniones y experiencias con los juegos localizados en español, por favor, lo escriben debajo por los otros desarrolladores aprender más de la importancia utilizar la localización de una buena calidad (¡y con espero, recibir más juegos buenísimos en español!…a menos que prefieren los traducciones como “Yo soy cola, tú pegamento.” : ) ).

 

A Brief Introduction to the Wide Distribution of Spanish, French, & Portuguese

My first experience with regional differences in a language for which I wasn’t native was when I spoke Spanish with a Venezuelan.  Until that time, I spoke Spanish exclusively with Mexicans, so it surprised me to hear the Venezuelan say, “¿Qué?” (“What?”) in response to not having heard what I said.  I learned very early on when speaking with Mexicans that “¿Qué?” is often considered rude in that context and that “¿Mande?” should be used instead.  When I asked the Venezuelan why he used “¿Qué?” instead of “¿Mande?,” he asked in response, “What is ‘mande?’”

 

When that conversation is contextualized within the field of game localization, it puts a new spin on the localization of video games for widely translated languages like Spanish, French, and Portuguese.  After all, Spanish is spoken from Mexico down to the tip of South America, Europe, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and throughout the U.S.  French is spoken within Canada, Africa, Europe, and parts of Latin America, among other locations.  While Portuguese may immediately bring to mind Portugal and Brazil, it is also spoken in parts of Africa and even Southeast Asia and India.

 

Due to the wide geographic spread of these languages, it isn’t as simple as merely translating an English or Japanese-based game into Spanish, French, or Portuguese.  Even if Spanish is pared down to Spanish of the Americas, translators are likely to encounter problems with in-game jokes or words that don’t easily translate across the entire region.  (For a detailed description of the differences between translation vs. full localization and culturalization, see our previous blog post “When to Forgo the Culturalization of Video Games: Contextualizing Globalization within the Mobile Marketplace.”)  Even the Harry Potter book series was localized from British English to American English!  Why do you think the American Harry Potter books refer to scotch tape, as opposed to the British “sellotape” and wastebaskets as opposed to “bollards?”

 

Word use vastly depends on context, such as in the instance of “qué” and “mande,” wherein “qué” is understood and used in Mexico (depending on context) but “mande” is not widely used in other countries.  There are instances in which words and phrases that make sense in other countries would throw Mexican gamers off-guard – a main component to be avoided within localization.  (After all, games are localized specifically to give international players the opportunity to experience a game like players of the original version and certainly to avoid jarring experiences that would remove the player from the gameplay experience.)  Although game companies may translate products into Spanish, French, & Portuguese for Europe and separately into Spanish, French, & Portuguese of the Americas, there are an incredible number of linguistic variations in any of these languages throughout the Americas.  So exactly how are game translators able to account for these regional differences, maintaining an immersive experience consistent throughout an entire region?

 

Location Does Impact the Evolution of Language!

Often, languages spoken in Europe are influenced by languages within close proximity.  In Latin American Spanish, “computadora” is used for “computer,” whereas the European Spanish equivalent evolved from the French word for computer “ordinateur,” resulting in “ordenador.”  (Microsoft Windows uses the “region-neutral term” “equipo.”)  The same phenomenon occurs in parts of the US, where even Spanish speakers who don’t know English use English terms like “park” as opposed to the longer “estacionar” (to park) or “estacionamiento” (parking), just as “mall” is frequently used in lieu of “centro comercial.”  Spanish words from the US down to South America can vary rather drastically due to the influence of the English language, historical linguistic factors, etc.  While Spanish speakers in the US, border states of Mexico, and even countries like Venezuela may use “carro” as opposed to “coche” for car, in other regions, “carro” brings to mind an old carriage, a horse-and-buggy.  Even for basic words, translation can get complicated very quickly.

 

Even though Canadians and people from France can speak French and understand one another, there are significant differences between their vocabulary and even grammar.  European French often anglicizes words, whereas Canadian French elects to use terms that sound more French-rooted.  For example, France uses “firewall” or “pare-feu” rather than the Canadian French “barrier pare-feu,” and France uses “serveur proxy” rather than “serveur mandataire.”  Despite the ability for Canadian and European French to communicate together (barring major differences in spoken French), a game or game support documentation translated into French but not localized for different regions may come across in a bad light, possibly putting-off a select portion of the French market.

These differences may seem minor to those with limited knowledge of these languages, but the use of region-specific words (or lack thereof) can make the difference between a localized game that is highly praised and one that people simply will not buy. 

 

The Impact of Linguistic Differences on Spanish Localization Efforts

If you want a clear picture of how linguistic differences can affect gameplay, take a look back at news segments regarding Microsoft’s Kinect.  The Kinect is an Xbox add-on, allowing users to play games with a motion sensor as well as with voice commands.  Just as Google Translate sometimes produces incomprehensible translations between languages, the Kinect didn’t always properly register certain dialects…or even entire languagesIn an article from 2010, El País cited the inability of the Kinect to register Spanish spoken with a Spaniard accent, as it would only have the capability of speaking English, Japanese, and “Mexican” at that point in time.  Castilian was unsupported until the spring of 2011.  Just because the Kinect could supposedly understand English, that did not necessarily mean English across the globe.  At the end of 2011, Aussies rejoiced when the Kinect could finally understand them.

 

To get a better sense of the broad range of games in Spanish from seamless localization to the poor, I scoured gaming forums to learn how gamers respond to localization ranging across a broad spectrum of dialects:

 

Halo 2 Localization

Halo 2 had the worst rap among gamers from Spain for its localization into Spanish.  As opposed to localization in Spain Spanish (Castilian) or even neutral Spanish (also referred to as universal or standard Spanish), Halo 2 was done in Mexican Spanish.  This was problematic for many reasons: Spaniards couldn’t fully enjoy – or immerse – themselves into the game as would have been possible with a Castilian localization.  Plus, Spain’s trailer for Halo 2 was actually dubbed into Castilian Spanish, leading gamers to feel they had received a false advertisement.  A trailer flawlessly dubbed into the region’s dialect inevitably caused gamers to believe the entire game would be released in their local dialect of Spanish.

 

While the game may have been translated into Spanish and read by native speakers, Halo 2 was not localized for the market in Spain, resulting in Halo fans of the region perceiving the game to be a subpar gaming experience.  Games are typically dubbed at least into Spanish for Spain’s market and sometimes given a separate dubbing for Latin America, due to regional preferences and what would give gamers in both regions the best possible gaming experience.  (Wouldn’t you be disappointed if the first Halo game was localized perfectly for your native language and you were led to believe the 2nd installment would be just as immersive, but suddenly, the entire cast was speaking in an entirely different accent (or dialect) with jokes that make little to no sense in your country and with words that don’t even exist in your own language?!)

 

While many games are currently made with the North American gamer in mind (whereas games are not always localized for Latin American gamers), let’s say Halo was available only in British English and not localized for American gamers at all (putting aside for the moment the fact that Halo is based upon the US).  While you yourself may be fairly knowledgeable about the linguistic variations and differences in humor between England and the US, there are plenty of Americans who would be entirely unaware of the meaning of British words (especially the younger gaming audience who may never have traveled abroad nor had much exposure to British English apart from Harry Potter).  In fact, here is an extensive list of words that differ between British English and American English, such as “articulated lorry” for “trailer truck,” “naughts and crosses” for “tic-tack-toe,” “The Plough” for the “Big Dipper,” “tea towel” for “dish towel,” “bonnet” for “hat,” and “torch” for “flashlight.”  If these words were used in Halo, it could entirely change the meaning of how the player perceived (s)he should try to interact with the environment.  What about in Left 4 Dead, if you were told to turn off your “torch,” as opposed to your flashlight?  While you may able to gather the intended meaning, that doesn’t mean it would be any less jarring to hear people say, “Turn off your torch!”  After all, you aren’t playing Tomb Raider, where you are using torches to light your way…you are using a pistol with a handy flashlight attachment.

 

World of Warcraft Localization

Some localization decisions ostracize gamers since they cater the game to one specific region or country, and some localization decisions have players rolling their eyes and frustrated over disengagement from what should be an immersive experience.  A prime example is the tendency for speakers of Castilian Spanish to prefer literal translations of proper names and places.  This resulted in the translation of Stormwind reading as a command rather than as a place, with the translation “Ventormenta” essentially reading as “Come here, storm!”  Horde didn’t receive it much better, as the translation for Undercity (“Entrañas”) reads as “Entrails!”  If you’re expecting an immersive fantasy setting, there goes that sense of immersion if your map says “Come here, storm!” or, worse yet, “Entrails!”

 

A tricky aspect of Spanish localization is the sheer number of words with offensive meanings in countries of the same region.  While I won’t write out the incredible list of words with double meanings here, these words are available online if you’re interested.  The sheer number of food-related words with offensive meanings in certain countries could mean that cooking-related games may end up blocked by parental controls or even outraging parents in a given country.  Are you a fan of pico de gallo sauce?  Be sure to order something else in Chile, since pico is slang for the part of a male you probably wouldn’t want to eat (with gallo meaning “rooster”).  Do you enjoy the traditional Peruvian shell stew dish?  Don’t try to order that dish in other Latin American countries, as its literal meaning is often something very different, so different in fact, that I’m not going to include it within this article.  Let’s just say you are likely to upset parents if you include this particular dish in a cooking game distributed across other Latin American countries.

 

Regional Differences Aren’t Just Limited to Spanish!

The idiosyncrasies of localization across other languages may seem more complicated than English simply because English doesn’t have a plethora of words with offensive double meanings across multiple countries.  However, this doesn’t mean English is devoid of linguistic and cultural variations.  In an interview with Emma Watson (Harry Potter’s Hermione Granger), she discusses the language barriers that made life in America a bit more challenging, including the time she ran around with a bloody finger, asking for a plaster (Band-Aid).  I, myself, faced communication barriers simply by moving from the West Coast of the US to the East Coast – the first time classmates were talking about getting hoagies and grinders, I thought they were talking about some kind of food that only existed out there.  Plus, when my teacher talked about going to UConn for the weekend, I was unimaginably confused, picturing a quick trip way up north to the icy Yukon.  Likewise, I assumed a trip to Washington meant a cross-country trip to Washington state as opposed to Washington D.C., as I had only ever heard the state shortened as Washington and the capital shortened as D.C.  It took a while to (in a sense) reorient myself to the English language based upon my physical location.

 

Beyond the vocab variations and differences based on locale, I even discovered communication difficulties based on accent.  People on the East Coast couldn’t understand my pronunciation of the word “tour” (a pronunciation difference I can’t even begin to describe), and when the word “idea” inevitably arose during classes and meetings, I mentally checked out due to the frequent addition of the “r” sound at the end of the word, effectively changing “idea” to “idear.”  (Talk about a jolt from a setting in which my attention should have been held!)  While accents and seemingly minute linguistic differences may not seem like a significant problem in theory (such as “idea” versus “idear”), this can result in a hugely jarring experience for gamers if not accommodated for correctly.

 

Creating an Immersive Experience across Borders

Many video games use a neutral Spanish that can feel stiff and emotionless to Latin American players.  This form of Spanish is perceived to be the best solution in encompassing broad linguistic differences, as it is the lowest common denominator of all Spanish variants and eliminates idioms and regional mannerisms.  However, since the entire point of localization is to make a player feel as though a video game was created specifically for their enjoyment, how would neutral Spanish serve as an effective solution?

 

Although neutral Spanish is understood by speakers across Latin America and certainly costs less than adapting a video game to every linguistic variation (since, after all, games are a business and business decisions ultimately come down to anticipated ROI), there is also a tradeoff to consider in the quality of localization: with neutral Spanish, the game is not truly being localized for given markets, which often results in a less than immersive experience.

 

In fact, it has been echoed by many gamers that Mexicans prefer English dialogue with appropriate Spanish subtitles, even for movies (with the exception of those for kids), whereas Spaniards prefer a full localization – Castilian-style, an accent that often sounds grating to Latin American speakers.  Perhaps this would not be the case if more games implemented localization effectively but, far too often, the Latin American market receives games with “sloppy” localization, inevitably turning players off of so-called “localized” versions (not far removed from the translations English games used to receive on NES/SNES titles…can you “proove” the justice of our culture?).  This is due to the history of Latin American games receiving subpar dubbing via voice actors without formal training.  Subsequently, gamers in Latin America are prone to instead buy American versions of games.  Martina Santoro, co-founder and director of Okam Studio in Argentina, cited both subpar Latin American voice acting and games featuring Castilian Spanish as the reason gamers in the region often buy English games from the US:

 

 “[Since] gamers, especially hardcore gamers, preferred to buy games in English directly from the US [when] big studios did their marketing research, the results said that Latin Americans weren’t spending money on games.  But the fact was they were; they were just spending it in the US market.”

 

Fortunately, voice acting in select Latin American versions of games has vastly improved, leading gamers to highly praise games such as Uncharted 3 and Killzone 3.  This is key, as The Game Localization Handbook states, “More gamers are likely to buy a game that is localized specifically for their native language […] Gamers might not purchase it if it is not in their native tongue, resulting in a direct sales loss” (8).  In fact, in LAI’s upcoming article “How to Approach Game Localization for Scandinavia,” I cite the importance of at least adding subtitles to games, even for countries with the world’s highest rates of English proficiency.  It follows that games should be localized for Latin America, given the region’s reportedly low rates of English proficiency.

 

Just as neither British English nor American English works for every localization project (as it greatly depends on context), neutral Spanish nor country-specific Spanish will work in every instance in which developers seek to broaden or narrow game localization.  What does that mean?  Well, in Final Fantasy XII, the English localization decision for the word marquis resulted in an ongoing headache for the localization team long after the game was released.  It was decided to use the pronunciation “mar-kwis” (as opposed to “mar-kee”).  Why would an incredible localization team such as the one at Square Enix elect to use a British pronunciation for an American release, particularly when other dialogue was voice-acted using American pronunciation?  Localizers intentionally selected the “mar-kwis” pronunciation to reflect the linguistic influence of the British in that part of the fantasy world.  While some gamers appreciated the effort after learning more about this localization decision, this ultimately resulted in a decreased immersive experience for the American audience – the complete opposite intent of localization.  This parallels the experience many Latin American gamers have when playing a game with Spain dubs:

 

“There are some truly great actors like those used in Uncharted, I enjoyed the Spanish version almost as much as the English even though I probably laughed at some things that were not intended as comedic just because they said them with [a] Spaniard accent.”

-        ilfito’s comment on an IGN article

 

Consumers in the Americas may understand and accept specific linguistic variants (such as the British use of “bloody”) and reject others (such as “marquis” in Final Fantasy), but the key to perceptive localization is to know when cultural context allows for the use of other dialects.  Localization professionals well-versed in both game culture and the target region will not only be aware of the current vocab specific to games (ex. mage, spell, raids), but they will also remain up-to-date on slang and other linguistic trends pertinent to the successful localization of your game.  Immersion into the gameplay experience can be severely stunted by those who don’t agree with stylistic choices or understand the nuances of the localization effort.

 

As translators behind titles such as Final Fantasy, Apollo Justice, and Vagrant Story said at PAX 2011, it’s about doing service to the original:

 

“You want to bring out everything that’s good about the original [and] that requires constructing a style that’s true to that world [...] Style is very language-specific [and] that can mean many different things, and of course, you’re drawing from yourself as well.”

  

How LATAM Translators Account for Linguistic Variations across the Region

With 20 countries in Latin America spanning numerous dialects and distinct cultures, how can one translator ensure that every single word and phrase within a game makes sense across the entire region?  After all, not even all Americans are aware of common words used in different parts of the US across the West Coast, East Coast, Midwest, and South, and Mexico alone has ten different variations of Spanish.

 

US vocab pop quiz! – Can you tell me what a bubbler is?  How about an alligator pear?  Where would you put jimmies?

 

Just how are Latin American translators able to make sure they use words that make sense to all and don’t offend a particular segment of the market?  A key resource is proper education.  If you are using a certified translation team, years of specialized training prepares that team to effectively use Neutral Spanish.  In addition, translation courses educate native speakers on the tools necessary to double-check that words aren’t too local or too broad.  Our translation team cites Google Trends as an immensely helpful tool, since it shows the popularity of the word across locales, compare its usage, etc.  However, Google Trends is currently unable to provide alternative solutions and is therefore solely limited to the insight of the translator.  By coupling research via Google Trends with tools such as Diccionario de la Real Academia Española (DREA, an online dictionary), translators are armed with the information necessary to achieve a greater understanding of whether a word works (or doesn’t work) across an entire region.  In addition, qualified translators are knowledgeable about industry-specific forums and online groups, allowing them to reach out to peers who have faced similar localization issues or are more familiar with a given part of Latin America and are able to provide possible solutions.

 

Why might a fully-qualified translator need to use tools like Google Trends and DREA?  Well, one major aspect of localization is using consistent terms.  That is why quality localization vendors create (or build further upon) a terminology database – a list of commonly used words and their translations within a game (or game series).  Translators are expected to maintain this consistency in order to suspend the player into immersive game worlds.  After all, it would be oddly unsettling and confusing for characters and key items to change names throughout a game or between sequels.

 

Imagine a character whose name was translated differently across multiple countries.  Then, imagine some translator who is supposed to localize a game featuring that character for widespread release across those different countries.  Here’s a good example: The character Strawberry Shortcake received at least three different translations in Spanish – “Rosita Fresita” in Mexico, “Frutillitas” in South America, and “Tarta de fresa” in Spain.  Hopefully, the game developer or publisher sees the value in localizing games separately for the market in Spain versus the market in Latin America, but even so, there are at least two different variations of the name to choose from.  (Fortunately, there seems to be less confusion over the necessity of localizing games into Spanish separately for Europe and the Americas, whereas there seems to be more confusion among developers for languages like French.)  Instead of arbitrarily selecting one of these possible names for Strawberry Shortcake, a qualified translator would likely consult a tool, such as Google Trends, to determine which name is most popular: 

 

 

Fortunately, the translator is able to analyze the three terms side-by-side and note the drastic difference in the popularity of these terms.  In addition, the map view clearly shows the translator which countries use which terms.  For example, these two maps show the difference between “Rosita Fresita” and “Tarta de fresa”: 

 

 

The left table shows the widespread popularity of “Rosita Fresita,” and the right table shows interest in “Tarta de fresa” localized primarily to Spain.

 

Both Google Trends and Diccionario de la Real Academia Española can reveal the regionalisms of specific words.  This is useful in determining which word would make the most sense across the entirety of Latin America or perhaps ensuring the use of a regional word for a character who is supposed to be from a given country.  (After all, even different states of Mexico have their own distinct, just like in the US where the use of the word “pop” or “soda” is telling in where a person is from.)  Pretty much anyone who has taken a Spanish class or two can tell you the word for “skirt” is “falda,” and it is true that term is used across Latin America.  However, in both Argentina and Uruguay, the word “pollera” may be used instead:

 

The word “pollera” is clearly popular in Panama, but the word doesn’t have the same meaning as it does in other countries, referring instead to the typical national dress of the country.  This is where DRAE can clear up the actual meaning of a word by country or region:

 

 

DRAE gives each definition of the word, along with the regionalisms that range from someone who raises and sells chickens to someone who transports people to the US to the definition unique to “Pan.” (Panama), where “pollero” consists of a dress with a flowing skirt and blouse.  (In contrast, Google Translate simply defines “pollero” as “poulterer” or “poultry dealer,” encapsulating none of the other definitions.)  Experienced translators are able to use respected industry tools to ensure the best possible translation is being produced.  It is far too easy for inexperienced “translators” to entirely change the meaning of a game or to even outrage parents by not taking into account regionalisms.  (Remember the food-related examples from earlier in this article?  Pico de gallo sauce is not something you’d want to order in Chile, just as the traditional Peruvian shell stew dish is best ordered only in Peru.)

 

What it comes down to is that translation is no easy task!  With such nuance across languages, it is essential to use certified translators, as poorly translated games run the risk of causing massive PR problems on a global scale.  Everyone loves a good laugh when it comes to mistranslations…but if you’re a game developer, you certainly don’t want people laughing at the expense of your game!  Tools like Diccionario de la Real Academia Española and Google Trends aid translators in ensuring translations won’t include fatal mistakes that may cost millions of dollars in damage control and rebranding.  Certified translators are set apart from the average bilingual through careful training, experience, and overall expertise, utilizing specialized toolsets and industry practices specific to their niche.

 

When quality is built into the overall localization process, you end up with phenomenal localizations such as the incredible care taken with Epic Mickey 2 and Ni no Kuni across multiple languages.  Qualified translators are able to properly utilize tools to ensure your game is the most immersive it can be for players in a given region.  One person cannot possibly know every single linguistic and cultural idiosyncrasy across 20 countries.  However, proper education and collaboration with other specialists throughout the region aid in sculpting the most appropriate translation possible.  This ultimately results in localization that transcends the translations that remove players from the gameplay experience like using “Ventormenta” for Stormwind (essentially “Come here, storm!”) or “Entrañas” (Entrails) for Undercity.  With localization (or “full” culturalization), gamers are able to enjoy the game in their language as if it were the original, resulting in higher reported satisfaction overall.

 

Since Latin America is reported as one of the key emerging markets in the world, game developers don’t want to ruin their reputation within the region by utilizing subpar localization efforts.  After all, the region is expected to reach $624 million in virtual good sales by 2014.  Plus, Pyramid Research states the mobile market in the region is far from saturated, with Latin America expected to reach 130% mobile penetration by the end of 2015 and Newzoo revealing this year that Latin American and the Asia Pacific have the highest regional growth in game spending.

 

By giving gamers a chance to fully immerse themselves into games through the appropriate use of linguistic nuance, you are allowing the player to build a deeper relationship with the game world and its characters.  The reputation you build with gamers through localization does, in fact, impact your bottom line – The Game Localization Handbook specifically states that a game not available in multiple languages directly results in a loss of sales (8).  And poor localization is even worse, as it damages the brand and makes the player more likely to actively criticize that game and future games to other potential players.  In contrast, gamers will actively praise and promote games that have stellar localization, even when they perceive the overall game to be subpar for other reasons.

 

Quality localization is beneficial to gamers, game developers, and the industry as a whole.  After all, we want to make games available to a broader audience on a global level, giving everyone the ability to enjoy games as if playing the original.  There are entire movements of gamers dedicated to bringing games from Japan to the US, Europe, and other markets.  If we don’t continue to advocate for games to be given quality localization (not only for ourselves but for other markets as well), business decisions will continue to be driven by perceived market demand as opposed to actual market demand.

 

  • Gamers – Make sure your voice is heard!  Check out Operation Rainfall and other advocacy groups dedicated to bringing games abroad.  (Disclaimer – We are now partnered with oprainfall, so we’re a bit biased!)
  • Game developers – Stay focused on building a presence for your games…but not only in English-speaking markets, or you’ll miss out on over 70% of the potential worldwide market!*  Check out the IGDA to stay connected with the industry globally.

 

 

We at LAI would like to send a special thank you out to our Latin American Spanish translation team for contributing to this article and the DevHour coordinators/attendees for teaching us more about the game industry in Mexico, as well as Rossana Triaca and Juan Rowda, plus the members of the LinkedIn group “Meet Latin American Game Developers” for their assistance, specifically the commentary and opinions provided by Alvaro Gonzalez, Mayra Donaji Barrera Muchuca, Pedro Pimenta, Ignacio Bettosini, Sergio Rosa, and Rick Castillo.

 

Please comment below or tweet us @LanguageAutoInc (or the author @KarinESkoog) with examples of the linguistic differences in Spanish localization efforts and across other languages.  Your examples could make it into our subsequent articles!  Check back on LAI’s blog for future additions, and ensure you stay up-to-date with new articles and our upcoming podcast by subscribing to our monthly newsletter.

 

* Only 27% of the world speaks English.

LocaLAIse This! – Interview with Ubisoft’s Localization Project Manager

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Check out our new podcast NOW available on iTunes – LocaLAIse This! In this first episode, LAI speaks with Ubisoft’s Localization Project Manager Margherita Seconnino about her work overseeing the localization of Assassin’s Creed titles. Stay informed of future episodes by signing up for our newsletter. Our next episode will feature someone from Sega!

 

You can also check out our 1st episode at this link.