How Video Game Translation Differs From Other Types of Translation

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At Language Automation, Inc. (LAI), we focus specifically on the translation and localization of video games and ensure all of our translators have experience within the video game industry.  Why is this important?

Well, have you ever tried to explain a video game to your parents, grandparents, significant other, anyone who isn’t a gamer?  Assuming both of you are fluent speakers of the same language, as soon as you launch into World of Warcraft jargon, you may as well be speaking an entirely different language.  

For example, in the comic above, this avid gamer is screaming about a graveyard, mobs, runs, Taurens, and tanks.  Now, unless your mom is leveling her own toon in WoW, you may as well be speaking Martian.  And, chances are, unless your translator’s accreditation program had a class focused specifically on the translation of key vocabulary in MMORPG’s (unlikely), your run-of-the-mill translator will have no idea how to translate words like “pull,” “mob,” “run,” “Tauren,” and “tank,” much less the host of other WoW-centric words including “rez” and “drop.”  By now, WoW has a rather extensive library of words used for the various language packs available to players, but many games don’t have that luxury.



The Unique Language & Translation Challenges of Video Games

There is an established set of vocabulary across languages for popular fictionalized creatures such as elves and dragons, but what do translators and localizers do when they come across newly developed words?  (Now that would make for an interesting study – the number of new words invented by video game developers every year.)  Not only do writers establish new creatures and races (such as Moogles in Final Fantasy and Draenei in World of Warcraft), but they also create names for equipment and items unique to a game or game series.  Thus, video game translators need to know enough about gaming to make appropriate decisions for the intended market.


I came across an article a while ago in which the translation of a piece of equipment from Japanese to English was discussed.  The combination of four Kanji characters eloquently conveyed the attributes of the weapon through wordplay in Japanese, but a literal translation into English would have resulted in four very separate words that, when combined, would make no sense to an English speaker.  Translation puzzles like this give the localization team a unique challenge in sorting out whether a more literal or metaphoric approach should be taken, giving some freedom in the translation that should be produced.  (Unfortunately, I was unable to find the aforementioned article while writing this, but if I do come across it, I’ll add a link in the comment section.)


In some cases, video game translators are faced with an even more unique challenge, in that they are allowed creativity while at the same time balancing highly rigid constraints.  One of the translators of Phoenix Wright spoke at PAX East 2011 about the difficulties in translating the name Masashi Yahari to English, as the Japanese name literally means “with certainty” (Masashi) and “I knew it” or “of course” (Yahari) and is the source of a number of jokes within the game, such as “when something happens, you know it’s Yahari.”  If this name had not been given a lot of thought in localization efforts, the character would have lost a major component of who he is, and fans would have been incredibly displeased.  In English, his name became Larry Butz, which was specifically developed to be the source of a number of jokes (as in the Japanese version of the game), some literal and one due to a mispronunciation of the name altogether.


This is where the translation of creative works gets interesting.  You wouldn’t find a legal or medical translator in Starbucks, racking their brain to develop a name that can easily lend itself to literal jokes and an intentional mispronunciation.  Video game translators are likely to come across unique translation puzzles such as the one faced by the translators of Phoenix Wright – cleverly coming up with a name that can work in a variety of very specific contexts.


Immersion into Creative Works via Language

I’m sure a select few are heavily invested in legal and medical documents, but there is no widespread audience quite as invested in translatable material like the fans of creative material.  Books, films, and games have an extensive network of followers with incredible emotional investment.  Just as J.K. Rowling, Steven Spielberg, and Square Enix’s original works are closely followed by their fans, so too are their translated works.


It’s not just the original language and the target language that translators have to consider with books, films, and games.  Often, new words, idioms, pieces of fantasy languages, even entire languages are developed by authors, screenwriters, and game writers to add another layer of depth to creative works.  William Shakespeare invented an estimated 1,700 words in his writing (a good number of which English speakers currently use in everyday speech, such as the word “accommodation”).  In addition to inventing a wide variety of words, J.K. Rowling created many idioms that play off of “Muggle” expressions, which arguably immerse readers and movie viewers deeper into her fantasy world, such as “I’m so hungry I could eat a hippogriff,” “I wouldn’t come near you with a ten-foot broomstick,” and “What’s got your wand in a knot?”


And while some authors, scriptwriters, and game writers develop fragments of new languages (such as certain languages in the Star Wars universe), others – like Tolkien – develop entire languages for their fantasy worlds.  Even specific languages in Star Wars that were once pieces of a language have since been turned into fully-functioning languages, such as the Mandalorian language, Mando’a, further expanded by Star Wars author Karen Traviss.  Even Star Trek’s Klingon language transformed from the initial sounds and scattering of words created by actor James Doohan into a full-fledged language.  This adds another set of challenges for translators, as there is generally no frame of reference for the development of new words and particularly for the newly developed languages of fantasy worlds.


While entire languages will likely remain the same for translated versions of creative works, other devised languages add extra thought for translators, such as the Japanese-to-English localization team of Final Fantasy X.  Since the Al Bhed language was based upon a letter substitution system, the English translators had to develop an equivalent system so English players could share in the same gameplay experience – hunting down different language “Primers” to unveil letters translating Al Bhed.  According to a Final Fantasy X translator who served as the language reference for actors speaking Al Bhed, Welsh letters were used to make up for the lack of vowels in the English language, since Welsh includes more “w’s,” though the language was spoken with an Arabic pronunciation due to the desert setting of the Al Bhed people.  The role of the Al Bhed language couldn’t simply be dismissed by localization teams, as that would have eliminated an entire element of gameplay from Final Fantasy X.  Therefore, translators had to use some of their own creativity to recreate the same gameplay experience for players in the target language.


Immersion into Game Worlds

Like books and films, games are expected to immerse players into another world.  This is highly important to keep in mind, as even small translation errors can result in a jarring experience for the player.  As such, translations are heavily critiqued by fans, and if the game translation isn’t up to par, they experience decreased enjoyment of the game.  For example, in a forum on Blizzard’s Starcraft II page, a fan states:


Czech translations of terms like “Terran Dominion” (“Terranské dominium”), “Queen of Blades” (this one is very funny; it’s translated [sic] as “Královna dlouhých nožů” – literally “Queen of long knifes”), “Brood War” (“válka o nástupnictví” – in English “War of succession”) and others sounds very strange.  I think that people who translated this don’t really know the Starcraft universe.


Regardless of whether this person was “right” or “wrong” in their assessment of Czech-English words in Starcraft, the fact of the matter is that this person experienced a reaction contrary to what translators ultimately strive for – an immersive gameplay experience that translates across languages and borders.  The last line of the paragraph expresses the importance of having translators knowledgeable not only of gamer lingo but also of particular game worlds.  The last thing these translators would want is for anyone to perceive that they are anything but an expert of the Starcraft universe: translations that remain true to the original are key.  This is why translators typically play the games before translating, especially for content-rich worlds like RPG’s (40+ hour games) and MMORPG’s (essentially never-ending games).


Final Fantasy XII makes a particularly interesting case study for immersion, as you wouldn’t think a renowned company like Square Enix would mispronounce a word like “marquis,” yet you can find disgruntled fans all over the internet who protest at the pronunciation of the word as “mar-kwis.”  Well, Square didn’t get it wrong – it was a very intentional decision on their part.  The translation and localization team wanted to convey the influence of Britain across that part of the world, so instead of using the American “mar-key,” “mar-kwis” was used instead.  Since there were an incredible number of fans who didn’t pick up on that distinction, Joseph Reeder, translator at Square, said that is one of the choices he would go back and make differently if he could.


People will always have varying opinions of what “works” in translation and what “doesn’t work,” but game translators work towards what is best for the game world and what will translate best across a widespread audience.  This is particularly important to consider when the target audience spans across vast regions such as English speakers in Australia, Europe, and North America; Spanish speakers from Mexico and the U.S. all the way down to the tip of South America in addition to Spain; French speakers in Canada, some parts of South America, Africa, and France; and Portuguese speakers in South America, Europe, and beyond.  (On a side note, be sure to watch for our upcoming blog post about the linguistic differences between these regions.)  The wide spanning reach of languages necessitates that translators possess a thorough understanding of the target audience in order to make the best decisions possible and deliver a game experience on par with that of the game in the original language.


To ensure as much as possible the immersive nature of a game, linguistic QA testing should also be made a priority.  This helps guarantee that translation decisions make sense within the context of in-game environments and gameplay.


When Games Stand Alone

You may be thinking that video game translation can’t be all that different from the translations of novels and films, after all, they incorporate similar vocabulary and fictional worlds.  However, in addition to the gamer-centric vocab referred to at the beginning of this article, there is one very distinct difference – games are interactive.  How does that make video games different from other visual modes of entertainment such as TV and movies?  Well, there’s the UI, menus, control mapping, and a host of other issues to consider when it comes to the interface and gameplay modifications.  (At the very most, DVD’s have extensive interactive menus.)  These are each critical areas to consider when bringing a game from one market to another.


For example, German words require roughly 30% more space than English for each UI element, whereas European languages are generally “twice as long as English, which is twice as long as the Japanese.”  Fortunately, certain tricks can be used to test these facets of localization, such as testing the UI with Pig Latin due to its length.  If Pig Latin fits in the allotted space, longer languages like German should as well.


These aspects of localization are considered to be part of internationalization.  A properly internationalized game is one which can easily be localized for any target locale and language without having to change the code or make special customizations.  When graphical elements must be changed, it can hold up time to market in order to fully localize each component.  While larger organizations now know to account for these differences, translation, localization, and internationalization may not be at the forefront of indie developers’ minds, particularly when they are concentrating on getting their first game to market.


Small developers new to the game space may be trying out their ideas and hoping for success…though without expecting their game to do well in their region and abroad.  As such, independent developers may be less likely to build a game that is properly internationalized, resulting in future difficulties with localization and greater time to global markets.


I recently spoke with a Localization Manager at Yahoo! who cited the importance of educating programmers on the internationalization of strings, since even products that are initially built for certain markets may someday go international.  According to him, there is a lot less time and cost associated with building in the ability to internationalize a product upfront, as opposed to going back in and changing the code later to adapt for foreign markets.


Why Focus Only on the Translation and Localization of Video Games?

At Language Automation, Inc., we focus our efforts exclusively upon the translation and localization of video games to ensure a high quality of localization through a stringent set of translator qualifications.  There are not only the language-to-language capabilities to consider but also the translator’s ability to fully immerse and engage players in another world (and therein lies the distinction between simple translation and full localization efforts, as outlined in our previous post “When to Forgo the Culturalization of Video Games”).  Therefore, we require that our translators reside in the country of their target language, since they will be knowledgeable about current linguistic trends (such as slang), the evolution of the language (how specific mannerisms and patterns of speech relate to historical periods and themed worlds), and the nuances of language integral to an immersive gameplay experience.  Since this sense of immersion is contingent not only upon the translator’s linguistic skills but also upon a writing style and vocabulary specific to certain games genres, it is also necessary that game translators also have creative writing ability and a deep understanding of gamer culture and game worlds.


The necessity of these aspects is discussed in Heather Maxwell Chandler and Stephanie O’Malley Deming’s The Game Localization Handbook (2nd edition), as they state that “vendors who specialize in localizing games […] are the best choices for a game developer” (93):


Since popular culture is constantly changing and evolving, translators located in-country are good barometers of what translations are needed to convey the context of localized games.  Additionally, translators who have experience translating for games and playing games will be more effective.  They have an immediate understanding of what the developer’s translation needs are and can quickly understand how to convey the “fun” factor of the game in the localized versions (103-104).


Chandler and Deming also cite the importance of using a creative writer to polish game translations and note the benefits of selecting a translator who is also a skilled writer, as it is preferable not to “[pay] twice for something that could be done by just one person, a translator with creative-writing skills” (108).


Each of these components – linguistic and cultural knowledge, an understanding of games and gamer culture, and writing abilities – are essential skills for game translators to bridge differences between various regions, thereby creating an immersive experience that translates across borders.



As you just read, video game localization is vastly different from other types of translation and localization – from the user interface level down to the nitty gritty of gamer lingo.  It requires a specialized localization team supported by a good QA process.  Even the best intentions of game translation can go unappreciated by gamers, such as the pronunciation of “marquis” in Final Fantasy XII to convey a deeper level of cultural influence and acclimation.  Ultimately, like books and movies, games seek to immerse players into another world, and it is the job of translators to accurately convey the entire world and narrative to gamers, which means giving justice to the original work and speaking with gamers through their unique jargon.

Insights Learned from Indie Game Developers in Latin America & the Middle East

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For nearly 20 years, Language Automation, Inc. (LAI) has been tracking global video game markets in our mission to make games accessible to a wide array of players through our extensive network of worldwide game translators. While statistics and reports provide fantastic overviews and targeted data for these markets, we set out to gain a more detailed and deeper understanding of regional players and their perspective of the industry at the local level.

Through research and analysis of game industry trends around the world, we discovered gaps in game development that a handful of game developers and publishers are now filling – the creation of culturally-sensitive games that maintain an extraordinary level of local relevance – a.k.a. culturally-focused and regionally-inspired games. While large players in the US, Europe, and Asia focus on the development of games that will achieve high sales in proven markets, game creators in developing regions of the world see a need for a new type of game, that addresses the lack of games made specifically for their regions – regions in which individuals pour more money into gaming and have tremendous market potential.

To paint a fuller picture of the potential of video games in Latin America and the MENA region (Middle East & North Africa), we will first provide an overview of the two markets. (This overview is also outlined in the introductions of our two video interviews. Please check out our interview with Mexican developer Phyne Games and our interview with Lebanese-based developer Game Cooks). We will then share with you the insights of organizations that were largely successful due to their targeting of developing regions via culturally-focused and regionally-inspired games, and finally, we will provide highlights of our new interview series in which we speak with game developers that create games in this emerging genre.



An Overview of the Video Game Markets in Mexico and the Middle East

VGChartz provides data about the video game industry at large, specifically tracking weekly sales of video game software and hardware by region and developing analysis of the data, so it is not to be taken lightly that the organization cited Mexico as a region with incredible potential. Here’s what they said last year about the Mexican video game market:

With 110 million people, a strong university system, a trillion dollar economy, free trade agreements with countries housing major video game companies, and roughly half of all people under the age of 25, we at VGChartz believe that Mexico is currently the fastest growing retail video game market in the world.

In addition to the sheer size of this booming market, Mexicans “pay 30-60% more than their American counterparts for legally purchased (non-pirated ) software and hardware.” (And I thought roughly $65 for a new game in the US was excessive!) If that isn’t enough, VGChartz also cites data from Gamer’s Paradise , which reported that Mexico doubled the size of its video game market in just 4 years from $600 million in 2007 to $1.2 billion in 2012 while annual growth rates averaged 30%.

The Middle East is just as promising. Reuters’ article “Demographics, local tastes fuel Arab video game industry” reflects pertinent data to understanding the game industry in the Middle East:

About 60 percent of the 350 million people in the Arab world are younger than 25, with internet penetration in the region at about 70 million users — over 300 percent growth in the last five years, according to numbers from United Arab Emirates-based entrepreneurship research portal Sindibad Business. Internet penetration is expected to reach 150 million users by 2015, said the portal’s founder Bahjat Homsi.

Following suit with Mexico’s higher than average individual expenditure on game hardware and software, youth in Arab Gulf countries feel as though they have “few entertainment outlets,” resulting in an average daily revenue per user at one of the highest in the world. Not only that, but CMO of Saudi investment firm N2V states that “[Arab video gaming] is interesting because it is following internet growth in the region, which is among the fastest in the world.” It’s no wonder companies that focus specifically on the MENA region experience extraordinary success!


Companies that Target Developing Regions with Culturally-Focused Video Games

After just a year and a half of targeting the MENA and Turkish game markets, Peak Games achieved a position as “one of the three largest social gaming platforms in the world.” What makes Peak Games and other regional developers and publishers successful? By focusing on games that will sell well in the area – meaning creating and selling games that are culturally-focused and regionally-inspired.

According to Peak Games’ co-founder, Rina Onur, “People want to see their national days, their special dishes reflected in these games. People who look like they’re from the region, not just blonde with a cowboy hat.” This sentiment is echoed by others within the region, such as CEO of Jordan-based Taktek Games, who believes that in order to gain consumers in the Middle East, it is necessary to create games that are in Arabic and are culturally sensitive.

Our forthcoming information about the MENA market and its gamers stem from our interview with Lebanese-based game developer Game Cooks, a company that created an inspiring run and jump game in which a boy runs across the Arab world, spreading peace to each country he passes. In our interview with General Manager Lebnan Nader, we stated:

We at LAI wholeheartedly believe that Game Cooks sets a thematic standard integral to modern society, a society in which the general population sees video games as inherently evil and views the Arab world from less than flattering news coverage.

The necessity of games that promote peaceful cohabitation as opposed to the disproportionate amount of games that promote violence is cited by prominent organizations within the MENA region. Semanoor published Unearthed: Trail of Ibn Battuta, the world’s first Arabic language video game developed for the PS3 and Xbox by an Arab company, and the company’s founder believes, “Games are being used to ruin the image of Arabs. We went into games because we want to reach the youth who use them and show them a different picture.”

The Iran National Foundation of Computer Games funds regional game developer start ups as long as their games steer clear of political topics. Games like Garshasp: The Monster Slayer have seen global success. The game presents the mythological tale of a Persian hero and became a hit in the UK, Germany, New Zealand, and Russia.

Due to internet infrastructure in Africa and the prevalence of young programming talent heading for high paying jobs abroad or in large corporations (such as banks), it may be some time before Africa gains an influx of game developers creating culturally-focused and regionally-inspired games. However, that doesn’t mean the need for this type of game has gone unnoticed. Kenyan developer Gwimgrafx Studios Limited released a game called Adventures of Nyangi, an action adventure PC game in which the protagonist, Nyangi, collects rare African artifacts. There was even a plan between a US programmer and the grandson of a Ghana king to create a MMO about Africa, incorporating 13th century African civilization and mythology. (Note: Subsequent searches for this MMO were conducted to no avail, so it’s likely the game was never brought to market after the referenced article written in 2006.)

Zynga even discovered that culturally-focused content does well, not within the culture to which the content is most relevant but across other markets as well. In fact, this kind of cultural content does even better than culturally non-specific content. For example, in this video from Casual Connect, Zynga shares the following findings:

One of the assumptions for a long time that we were making was that generic content would kind of play better to a global audience [such as when] you’re playing Cityville or you’re playing Farmville, and you’re offered something that is kind of culturally non-specific, so just a typical building or a typical crop.

As we started doing testing around international content, we found out that content customized for the global markets performed better by a significant margin and not just in that local market, so if we were to have Indonesian-themed content going through our games, it would perform, as you would expect, not only disproportionately well in Indonesia but then it would also perform extremely well in all other territories also. So, there’s a real appetite for this kind of culturally-specific content.

These findings led Zynga to begin developing culturally-focused content on a wide scale beginning in 2011.

Thus, there is serious demand for culturally-focused games not only in Latin America and the Middle East but across all other markets as well, and companies that take advantage of markets hungry for these kinds of games reap incredible rewards. These global trends led us to dig dipper within these markets in order to gain a better understanding of the start ups in Latin America and the Middle East that see merit in this new trend.


What We Learned from Indie Developers in Latin America and the Middle East

We at Language Automation, Inc. (LAI) started a new video interview series this summer, beginning with Phyne Games of Mexico City and then Game Cooks of Beirut, Lebanon. Phyne Games created Mictlan – a tower defense mobile game based on the Mexican festivity Day of the Dead, including the integration of common elements such as ofrendas (altar of food for the dead) and calaveritas (“little skulls” or trick-or-treats). Game Cooks first developed Birdy Nam Nam, a tap-to-shoot mobile game about mutant chickens that attack the Middle East and then Run for Peace, a run and jump mobile game about a boy who fulfills the dream he had since he was 3 – spreading peace throughout the Middle East.

We spoke with both companies about artistic and musical selection, the influence of local culture and its integration into their games, local video game markets and player preferences, and the portrayal of their regions by AAA game developers. You can check out the full interviews on our blog, but here are some of the highlights. (The links below connect directly to the specific talking points referenced within the interview, so you can easily find the area in which the topic is discussed.)


Arturo Nereu, Game Programmer and Software Developer at Mexico City’s Phyne Games sees a need for culturally-focused games in Mexico and around the world and believes there has been “an explosion of culturally-based games,” citing Journey and Grim Fandago as examples. However, just because his first game, Mictlan, integrated Latin American cultural elements, by no means confined its success to only the local region. The game was graced with widespread appeal, in fact topping charts in three other countries before Mexico – #1 the US, #2 China, and #3 Taiwan. This was something Phyne Games hadn’t predicted, especially as the game was released only in English. Arturo said:

At first, we were really confident that English was the universal language, everybody speaks English, or at least everyone with a smartphone speaks English.

This led them to rethink their strategy when it comes to the global market and place Spanish and Chinese at the top of their list for future translation, and there are other countries besides for which Phyne Games wants to distribute the game into the local language. In fact, according to Arturo, China is showing keen interest in the Latin American market, as a Chinese organization came to Mexico at the beginning of the summer, searching for potential partnerships and recruiting opportunities.

While the video game industry has been growing in Mexico (including the development of console games), Arturo expressed the desire that the industry maintains its distance from political strains, allowing the industry to continue its steady growth. Mobile players in the region are likely to play a locally-produced game due to the diminished gap in price and quality faced by console-based games. Console games from Latin America and the United States are roughly the same prices, yet American-made games have the backing of multi-million dollar investments, yielding a significant advantage in quality. Arturo states, “Developers must understand that their quality must go up because we can’t stand a chance with big companies if we don’t raise the bar.”

An area in which Phyne Games and other local developers can compete, however, is cultural influence. The game Grim Fandago gave rise to the perception of heightened opportunity for Phyne Games to succeed, as Grim Fandago has figures reminiscent of Day of the Dead, plus Phyne Games is a Mexican company, so they understand Mexican culture better than Americans. Beyond sales and revenue, Arturo does see the potential for culturally-focused games to serve as a source of inspiration and education about other regions of the world, stating that he himself may be more likely to visit an area whose culture he has already explored virtually, in-game.


Lebnan Nader, General Manager of Game Cooks, cited AAA developers’ dismissal of the Arab world as a potential for a specific type of game – games for the Arab players:

The region here is a big, big region. It has a lot of potential. Everybody just closes their eyes on this region. Nobody [from the US, Europe, and Asia] produces anything for our region, so we thought, ‘Why not? Let’s do something for our region.’ We don’t want to do only international games. We want to do games with an Arabic twist […] It’s not a game that is Arabized; it’s a game that is for an Arabic user. So the behavior, the language, the music, the dialects, are all Arabic.

Contrary to the number of larger developers creating military games with Arabs as “the bad guys,” Game Cooks saw the need “to secure peace” in the region, “to spread peace.” Not only does their newest game physically involve the spreading of peace from one Middle Eastern country to the next, but the protagonist’s name – Salim – is inspired from “salam,” the Arabic word meaning “peace.”

Lebnan doesn’t blame the way AAA developers portray Arabs and Africans in video games since “people believe what they see on the media, and when you look at the media worldwide, you seen that the Arab/Middle East region and Africa is all about wars and wars and wars.” However, Lebnan does have a recommendation:

Open your eyes, come visit the region. We are Arabs, we don’t develop American games, we don’t develop French games. We are developing Arabic games because we understand the region, so why would an American developer develop Arabic games without understanding the region? […] Visit the region, understand a little bit about the behavior of people there, and then, you know, go ahead and develop whatever you want to develop. But assuming Arabs all are terrorists, all of them, that’s just wrong.

Aside from the practice ostracizing of Arab players with culturally insensitive content, locally-produced games will not only be received well on the basis of its culture content, according to Lebnan but also because Arabs will be “proud of you because you developed something from scratch, developed something for them.” Plus, Arab game developers of course understand the cultural nuances of the region, such as the distinctions in speech patterns (since different Arabic-speaking regions also have their own unique dialects, which Game Cooks replicated in their first game Birdy Nam Nam).

Fortunately, investors and publishers are gaining interest in the region (such as Ubisoft, which opened an office in Abu Dhabi), as the demand for games is really high, according to Lebnan, “everyone wants to play, but the offer is really low,” only a handful of small developers create these games. While Lebnan predicts an influx in MENA game development rather imminently, he believes that a good way to go for smaller developers is focusing on “niche markets,” like Arabic content for indie Arab developers and Latin American content for indie Latin American developers. He says:

It’s very hard to develop a really new, fresh idea, so maybe the direction is to go focus more on niche markets […] [Indie developers] do not have big budgets to do a lot of marketing and advertising for our games, so we have practically zero percent chance to succeed in a global way, but if you focus on a really concentrated idea, [a] cultural idea, this might be the way to go.



More and more, indie game developers in particular see a distinct competitive advantage in creating culturally-relevant content that other largest developers may not pursue.  However, culturally-based content has a proven advantage around the world, such in Zynga’s example with Indonesian content doing better both in Indonesia and across all other markets.  We cited a number of companies that focus specifically upon the MENA market and their subsequent success, particularly Peak Games, which reached a position as the 3rd largest social gaming platform in the world due to this strategic approach.  In addition to the extraordinary success experienced by game organizations with cultural basis, individuals both in the Middle East and Latin America spend more money on games than those in other markets.  Plus, experts have cited the tremendous growth and large young-population segments (among other statistics) in both regions as reason for the incredible potential of these two markets.

As we have kept our eye on worldwide video game markets for almost 20 years and are watching the emerging trend of culturally-focused content unfold, we are keenly interested in upcoming and future games of this new genre.  In fact, we are currently conducting our own study on player interest in culturally-based content by different demographics, as well as the type of content and specific cultures that hold the most interest for gamers.

Actions You Can Take to Help Us with Further Research

Thanks for reading!  Let us know what you think here or on our Twitter feed.


~ Language Automation, Inc. (LAI)

Transforming Game Localization

What’s the Video Game Market Like in the MENA Region? Check out our EXCLUSIVE Interview!

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New this month is an interview we conducted with Lebanese-based game developer Game Cooks.  After describing the state of the video game market in the Arab region, we sat down with Lebnan Nader, General Manager at Game Cooks, to learn more about the company’s regionally-inspired games and his take on MENA gamers.

We discussed topics critical to developing a deeper understanding of the cultural nuances and preferences of local players.  Central to the discussion was the importance of localization and the need for culturally-sensitive video games.

INTERVIEW BELOW!  Some hot topics include:

  • How much of your games were influenced by the Arab region, and how have players responded to the integration of Arab elements?
  • What music was selected for Birdy Nam Nam and Run for Peace, and why was that music chosen?
  • What is the video game market like in the MENA region, and how has it evolved?
  • Are other game developers in the region creating culturally and regionally-focused games, and would you like to see more developers within the MENA region and around the world create culturally-focused games?
  • What do you think about the way in which AAA developers portray Arabs and Africans in video games?
  • Do you believe MENA gamers prefer locally-produced games or games made abroad and then localized for your region?

Check out our three part video, and be sure to sign up for our company newsletter to stay up-to-date with future interviews, blog posts, and industry conferences & updates!

Part 1: An Overview of the Video Game Market in the Arab World

Part 2: An Introduction to Lebanese-Based Developer Game Cooks and the Integration of Arab Game Elements

Part 3: An In-Depth Discussion of MENA Gamers, Local Preferences, Regionally-Inspired Games, and AAA Developers’ Portrayal of Arabs and Africans