LAI Interviews IndieDevs: Why More Indies Now Pay for Professional Game Localization

With the world increasingly more global and games reaching broader audiences than ever before, indie developers are localizing their games at higher rates.

In this blog post, we interviewed two indie studios, both of which used professional localization services to localize their games.

IndieDev Game Localization - Stupid Stupid Johnny Graves - MegaDwarf Games God of Word
 

As a localization & publishing company, we were curious to understand why more indie developers are starting to make the leap in paying for professional game localization.

LAI Global Game Services - Best AAA & Indie Agile Game Localization
 

Let’s face it – game development is expensive…and localization alone can cost upwards of $0.20 per word…per language! Yet, more and more indie developers are seeking out localization service providers in order to bring their games global.

 

Contrast this with popular localization methods in the past, where indies frequently used:

 

  • Crowdsourced translation

  • Bilingual friends (without localization training)

  • Machine translation or even Google Translate

 

Quite often, these localization attempts often leave players longing for a properly done localization. In fact, in many cases, attempts to keep localization costs down end up resulting in game text of such a low quality that it ultimately hurts the game’s overall ratings.

 

Screenshots from Legends of Localization’s Funky Fantasy IV show just how bad something like machine translation can turn out:

Final-Funky-Fantasy-IV-Video-Game-LocalizationFinal-Funky-Fantasy-IV-Video-Game-Localization

We pray to Thor that no developer – ever! – uses machine translation or Google Translate…

 

One of our most popular blog posts at LAI covers the Top 5 Myths of Video Game Localization, where we cover the very unfortunate, Google Translate option. We wish it was a blog post we never had to write!

LAI Global Game Services - Top 5 Myths & Facts about Video Game Localization - Blog Post - Article
 

But why would indie developers use professional localization services when other (free!) options are available?
LAI Global Game Services - DFC Intelligence - Video Game Market Infographics - World Game Markets - Top Countries

Click image to view full infographic from LAI & DFC.

Why do more indie developers now see localization vendors as a legitimate way to bring their games global…despite the fact these companies require some amount of money in return?

 

We spoke with two indie studios about their reasons for choosing game localization services for their games:

 

  • We interviewed Stupid Stupid Games of Helsinki, Finland about action-shooter game Johnny Graves – The Unchosen One.

    We found out why they localized into 2 languages (Russian and German), what made them choose those languages, and whether they felt professional localization was worth it.

    Stupid Stupid Games - Video Game Localization
     

  • We also interviewed Mega Dwarf of Canada about their recently released typing/word game God of Word into 6 languages (French, Italian, German, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, and Polish).

    We found they would gladly do it again…and even add more languages!

    MegaDwarf - Video Game Localization - Indie Localization

 

Indie Interviews
Stupid Stupid Games

Website

Based in Helsinki, Finland.

Founded May 2013.

Stupid Stupid Games - Video Game Localization

Johnny Graves -The Unchosen One

Steam page

Johnny Graves -The Unchosen One - Video Game Localization

An action-shooter released June 16, 2016 on PC and Steam.

 

What made you decide to use a localization company?

We wanted to make the game more accessible and easier to use for non-English speakers. Also we felt it is good customer service to give people the option of using the game in their native tongue. It also saves time and money if you get solid technical advice early on.

 

Which languages did you localize into? What made you decide to use these languages?

Russian and German. Johnny Graves is our first title and we wanted to try out localization with just couple of languages first. Russian and German made sense since they are large markets with many non-English speakers.

LAI Global Game Services - DFC Intelligence - Video Game Market Infographics - Eastern Europe - Russia and cis countries

Click image to view full infographic from LAI & DFC.

Which languages were “worth it” for your game? Which languages weren’t worth it?

Both languages were worth it. It is difficult to say whether people would have played the game in Russia or Germany without the localization, but I’d like to think so.

LAI Global Game Services - DFC Intelligence - Video Game Market Infographics - Western Europe - Germany

Click image to view full infographic from LAI & DFC.

Why do you think these languages were worth it/not worth it? Any insights as to why certain languages worked/didn’t work for your game?

Localization was also worth it in terms of marketing. We had the option of posting about our game in German and Russian Facebook pages and contacting YouTubers. Building a customer base can take a long time and we have laid a foundation by making contacts with YouTubers. Let’s play-videos have been our most effecting marketing channel. Russian YouTubers have been particularly active.

 

Would you use these languages again in the future? Which other languages would you consider, and why?

We will use these languages in the future. We have considered expanding to French, Spanish and Portuguese. Chinese might also be an option, since we have quite a few Chinese players.

LAI Global Game Services - DFC Intelligence - Video Game Market Infographics - Asia - China

Click image to view detailed info on the Chinese game market.



Would you use a localization company again in the future?

We will use a localization company in the future. There is quite a lot of work involved and you want to have it done properly.  It is better to hire a pro.

LAI Global Game Services - DFC Intelligence - Video Game Market Infographics - Western Europe - Spain

Click image to view full infographic from LAI & DFC.



What do you think of indie developers using free crowd-sourced translations, bilingual friends (non-professional translators), or machine translations/Google Translate?

Making indie games is always a struggle with limited resources. Developers are always trying to make things cheaper and quicker. Personally, I think, if you can’t afford to do it properly, then you shouldn’t do it. Poorly done features creates an image of false promises and it could hurt your sales and company brand.

 

Anything that surprised you about the game localization process?

I was surprised how integrated it has to be to the actual software development. Early on I thought we could add localization after the game is finished. It turns out it would have been a lot harder. It was fortunate I received pro advice early on.

 

Is there anything else you’d like to add? (…Other things indie developers may find useful when considering whether or not to use a game localization company?)

 

  • Don’t do it if you can’t do it properly.

  • Once you have implemented localization in your game engine adding new languages is easy.

  • Try with one or two languages first to gauge the benefits.

  • Localization is also a great marketing opportunity.

 

___________________________________________________________________________

Mega Dwarf

Homepage

Based in Canada.

MegaDwarf - Video Game Localization - Indie Localization

God of Word

Steam page

GodOfWord - Video Game Localization

A typing/word hybrid game released September 28, 2016 on Steam for PC and Mac.

 

What made you decide to use a localization company?

We decided to use a localization company since we essentially had 3 choices when it came to localizing our game: use a localization company, use the community, or localize it ourselves. Between the three developers we only speak English and a bit of broken Quebecois French, so that wouldn’t do. Using the community is a solid method, but we didn’t have a great social presence yet and we didn’t want to run into any issues with delays if we couldn’t find people for every language. So we decided on using a localization company. It’s a sure way to get high quality translations within a few days, and done highly professionally.


Which languages did you localize into? What made you decide to use these languages?

God of Word was originally written in English, and was then translated into French, Italian, German, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, and Polish. In order to decide which languages we wanted to localize into, we consulted the Steam Hardware survey. It lists the most popular languages used by Steam user by percentage, so it’s a great way to estimate which languages will have the best return on investment. Ideally we would’ve liked to take advantage of the popularity of the Chinese and Russian languages, but since we made a word game with Latin letter tiles, we weren’t able to swap letters out for entirely new alphabets.

LAI Global Game Services - DFC Intelligence - Video Game Market Infographics - Western Europe

Click image to view full infographic from LAI & DFC.

Which languages were “worth it” for your game? Which languages weren’t worth it?

This is an interesting question, as it’s tough to quantify what “worth it” means, and hard to get definite sales numbers per language. As a general statement, I would say every language we localized in was worth it. As game developers, our main objective is to get our game into as many people’s hands as possible so they can play our game and have fun. The more languages we have, the more easily accessible our game is, and the further we can spread fun to the world. That being said, game devs need to eat too, so there is a financial aspect to localization. We got a great deal with our localization company, so it really wasn’t that expensive to have our game, store page, patches, and Halloween update localized.

 

As I mentioned earlier it’s hard to tell exactly how many people are playing our game in different languages; the only data we get from Steam are which countries are buying our game, so we can only assume those countries are playing the game in their native languages. That being said, we also sold a lot of copies to China, and we don’t support the Chinese language in God of Word, so it’s clear people in countries with non-supported languages would still have purchased our game regardless of the languages it was localized into. Obviously English was our biggest success, and didn’t cost us a dime, since it was our native language. German was our next largest success, with Germany being the country that generated us the second most income. French was another runaway success, with France coming in at fifth for overall revenue. Italian, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, and Polish were all pretty similar when it comes to revenue, and they are currently sitting right around being a financial success.

LAI Global Game Services - DFC Intelligence - Video Game Market Infographics - Western Europe - France

Click image to view full infographic from LAI & DFC.

Why do you think these languages were worth it/not worth it? Any insights as to why certain languages worked/didn’t work for your game?

I think I mostly answered this question in the last question, I sort of got carried away explaining things there :)

 

Would you use these languages again in the future? Which other languages would you consider, and why?

German and French are going to be staples in every game Mega Dwarf develops in the future. They are both very popular languages and were both undoubtedly financial successes for God of Word. Ideally we would like to localize in Italian, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, and Polish again, though that may depend on financial and time restraints for future products. We would also love to investigate Russian and Chinese for our next game, since they were only left out of God of Word since it was a word game with limited dictionaries. We’re even looking into Turkish, Korean, Thai, and Japanese for our next game in an attempt to reach as many people as possible.

LAI Global Game Services - DFC Intelligence - Video Game Market Infographics - Latin American - Brazil - Brazilian Portuguese

Click image to view full infographic from LAI & DFC.

Would you use a localization company again in the future?

We will absolutely use a localization company for future games. We had a great experience, translations were high quality, returned within a day or two, wonderful correspondence; I can’t think of any complaints whatsoever.

LAI Global Game Services - DFC Intelligence - Video Game Market Infographics - Asia - Japan - Japanese

Click image to view detailed info on the Japanese game market.

What do you think of indie developers using free crowd-sourced translations, bilingual friends (non-professional translators), or machine translations/Google Translate?

It’s an interesting concept, and definitely something that we considered doing ourselves. The idea is solid, it’s a way to save money, which is very important when developing independently, but you really need to check and re-check all your translations for quality. I’ve seen far too many Steam store pages with brutally written descriptions that really make you hesitate to purchase a game. If a description is written with improper spelling and grammar, how can you assume the rest of their game will be developed professionally? I would almost never use Google Translate for anything except for single words. If you need to know what the word “Go” is in another language for a menu, then by all means Google Translate will suffice. But never use it for entire sentences, or words that have multiple meanings, like “Resolution” where it could mean screen size or resolving an issue. If you have faith in your bi-lingual friends or find community members with good reputations, then go for it, it’ll save you some money and develop a good network. Ideally just try to find multiple people with a proficiency in the same language so they can double check each other’s work.

 

Anything that surprised you about the game localization process?

I think the initial cost of localization can be surprising to some people. Heck this answer alone would cost you multiple dollars to get translated into a single other language, and we had six languages to localize everything into for God of Word. You have to keep in mind though that they aren’t just reading a sentence and quickly translating it into another language. They have to really get a sense for what you mean, if words have other meanings, trying to make the sentence as concise as possible, and then running it through multiple other translators for quality purposes. Most localization companies boast percentages of accuracy around 99%, so the price you pay is for quality becomes a lot less surprising.

 

Is there anything else you’d like to add? (…Other things indie developers may find useful when considering whether or not to use a game localization company?)

  • Localize your game, not a lot of indie companies do it, and there are a ton of indie games out there. So if you localize your game into other languages, that gives your game a huge leg up on the competition that doesn’t localize.

  • Try to localize as many simple words as you can yourself. There are great resources out there for game dev specifically that have simple words already translated for you. Pretty much everything that would appear on a standard main menu or pause menu is already localized, so don’t bother paying extra to get them re-done for you when the information is already readily available for you on the internet. In union with that advice, try to use symbols or visuals instead of text whenever possible. Instead of having a button that says “Back” just use a symbol; in a game with multiple languages you just saved yourself almost a dollar for a single word. That being said, make sure your tutorials and other important information are in depth enough that your players can still easily understand them. Don’t make overly simplistic tutorials to try to save money at the cost of your players not being able to understand how to play your game.

  • Shop around, there are dozens of localization companies out there that all want your business. Don’t just take the first company that shows up on a Google search, shop around, negotiate, and negotiate some more.

  • Check, double check, and triple check your word lists before sending them off. Check through your code to see if you hardcoded any text in there that you may forget about. Localization companies tend to give you a discount if you send in a lot of words at once, but will really cost you if you have to send in a small group of words that you forgot. Obviously if you miss a handful of words most companies will localize those for free if you already paid for the bulk, but if you miss 50+ words, that’s going to cost you a pretty penny for a silly mistake.

 

Looking for More Infographics?

 

Indie Developers – Future Interviews

If you are an independent game developer who has experience working with game localization (either via a professional localization vendor, crowdsourced translation, or some other method), reach out to us at info@lai.com!
 
We would love to speak with you about a potential, future interview!

LAI Global Game Services - Best Video Game Localization Podcast Episodes - AAA & Indie Game Developers Publishers

LAI’s Game Localization iTunes Podcast


____________________________________________________________


About LAI Global Game Services
LAI Global Game Services is a full service game localization, marketing, and publishing company with 25 years of experience in the video game industry.


LAI opened its doors in 1993, back when the original Doom was released!


About LAI’s Game Market Analyzer (GMA) iOS App
LAI recently launched the Game Market Analyzer app, in conjunction with strategic partner and leading market research firm DFC Intelligence.


This FREE, iOS app helps game developers assess the best global markets for their games, based on ROI estimates for the game’s target platform and genre.


Additional features include a publishing matchmaking system, exclusive infographics of 40+ global game markets, and drill down capabilities at a country level.


GMA is the world’s ONLY, ACCURATE game localization ROI predictor!
 
LAI_GMA_Market_Statistics_Free_App_Global_Game_Markets

Check out LAI’s Official GMA Contest for a chance to win FREE game localization!


LAI’s Official GMA Contest – Win FREE Game Localization!

Calling all game developers & publishers!

You may have heard of an app we developed called GMA – the Game Market Analyzer. Well, we’re looking for feedback and giving YOU the chance to win FREE game localization!*

 

The top 3 submissions will receive FREE localization of app descriptions (of up to 200 words) for 3 languages of your choosing! See the Official Contest Graphic below for more details.

 

The rules are laid out in LAI’s Official GMA Contest Graphic below, but it’s really simple! All you have to do is:

  1. Share/RT LAI’s Official GMA Contest Graphic below & follow LAI Global Game Services (on Facebook and/or Twitter).

  2. Download GMA & try it out!

  3. E-mail us with feedback – gma@lai.com. (Include a link to your share/RT in order to qualify!)

We’ll select the top 3 submissions and notify you by e-mail after the contest closes:
 

October 31, 2017

 

Note: Even if you’re not among the top 3, we still have a special surprise for you!

 

That’s it!

 

LAI’s Official GMA Contest Graphic

LAI's Official GMA Contest Graphic - Win FREE Game Localization
 

What is the Game Market Analyzer?

Leading companies in the industry spend thousands of dollars for this information, but DFC and LAI are sponsoring the app to make this data accessible to smaller developers who typically cannot afford industry research data.
 
GMA is an app we developed in conjunction with DFC Intelligence, one of the leading market research firms in the game industry.
 
DFC Intelligence

DFC provides key global game market data for the app, and together, we packaged the data into one really neat (in our opinion) – and FREE! – tool.
 
This tool addresses the questions we hear developers ask most frequently:

  1. Which languages should I localize my game to?

  2. Is game localization even worth it?

GMA takes these questions and runs with them, allowing developers and publishers to easily input information about their games, such as genre and platform, and view which markets globally would yield the highest return on investment.

 
LAI GMA Free Game Market Analyzer ToolLAI GMA Free Game Market Analyzer Tool
 

You can read more about GMA’s capabilities on the AppStore, but here’s the gist:

 

  • Easily discover the best global markets for your game.

  • Analyze global markets down to the country level OR have the app select the best markets for you!

  • Learn localization cost estimates for your game.

  • Quickly determine which markets and languages are best for you.

  • View 44 infographics, covering countries and regions.

  • You can even find publishers and partners within target markets using our exclusive matchmaking system!

Video Game Global Market Infographic - China

Why are we running this contest?

If you recall, we released an early version of GMA for the iPhone fairly recently.

 

Our intention was to create a free tool, to provide the highest possible benefit to developers and publishers looking to bring their games global (indie & AAA alike).

 

To continue delivering the best benefit to you, we need your feedback! You can help us decide the direction of the app by answering questions like:

 

  • How can we make the UI clearer?

  • Are there any confusing aspects of the app?

  • Any additional information you would find useful on infographics or within the app?

  • What other features would you like to see? (Go crazy with this one – tell us your dream features in detail.)

  • Anything else you think would help us make GMA even better!

 

Remember – we have the power of both a 25 year old game localization & publishing company PLUS a 20+ year old leading marketing data provider behind this amazing app!
 
That’s a WHOLE lot of combined industry knowledge we’re packing into a free app tool!

 

Any information and feedback YOU can provide will be invaluable as we consider our next steps in taking this app even further.

 

The power is in your hands!
Video Game Global Market Infographic - Western Europe - UK, France, Spain, Germany, Italy

View more infographics on GMA!

 

Questions?

E-mail us at anytime at gma@lai.com, and we’ll do our best to answer your questions!

Or, feel free to send us a message on Facebook or a tweet @LAIGlobalGame @TheGMAApp.

Don’t forget to rate GMA on the AppStore!

Game-Market-Analyzer-App-iTunes-Rating
 

Looking for More Info?

Curious to see what else we have planned for GMA? Stay in touch!

@TheGMAApp

@LAIGlobalGame

 

GMA on Facebook

LAI on Facebook

 

www.gmaapp.com

www.lai.com

 

You can also check out LAI’s CEO David Lakritz’s presentation on GMA at Casual Connect.

GMA-LAI-Casual-Connect-Game-Market-Analyzer-App-Only-Free-Tool-ROI-Predictor

GMA – The world’s ONLY, ACCURATE game localization ROI predictor.

LAI_GMA_Market_Statistics_Free_App_Global_Game_Markets
 

Which Languages Should I Localize my Game to? – Here’s an Easy Step Guide!

Congratulations! – You made a game (or are nearly done making your game)!

Now what?!




At this stage in development, many developers wonder if they should localize their game at all, and if so, which languages they should consider for localization.

If you fall into this category, you may have done some preliminary research and found out that there are these things called FIGS (French, Italian, German, and Spanish) and CJK (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean), both of which are popular language groupings within the game industry…

…but localizing into 7 whole languages

Do you really need that many languages?

Would people in Italy bother installing and playing your game? Do French gamers even like your game’s genre? (If you’re going to shell out your hard-earned money for localization, you want to be sure it’s profitable!)

Localization is COMPLICATED!

 

Not long ago, developers were saying markets like Russia weren’t worth the cost of localization because your game would simply be pirated. Now, developers are finding Russia to be a viable market:

There’s a lot to learn when it comes to global markets! Did you know gamers are likely to post negative reviews of your game simply for leaving their language out?

There are a whole lot of countries in the world, and it is a tremendous amount of work to:

  1. Find out if your game’s genre is popular in country X (i.e. France).

    • “Do French gamers like shoot-’em-up zombie games?”

  2. Figure out if your game’s platform (iOS, Android, etc.) is popular enough in country X to even reach gamers.

    • “Lots of people in France must have cell phones…but do many of those French gamers who happen to like shoot-’em-up zombie games also have an iPhone?”

  3. (Optional) Decide if only individual parts of your game should be localized for country X, i.e.:

    1. UI elements only? - “Maybe I can get away with only localizing my Start/Quit Game menu? Will French gamers care if I have minor dialogue with mostly swearing in English? They won’t mind missing a few swear words, right?”

    2. Subtitles only (no dubbing)? - “Will I offend French gamers if my zombie game only has French subtitles?”


    3. Changing art, etc. so your game appeals more to the local population? - “Do French gamers – or the French government – mind the over-the-top gore in my game?”

    4. Etc.

  1. Finally, assess whether the cost of localizing language A is even worth it.

  • “All right, I did all this research. I found out X number of gamers in France will play my game on platform Y. At a price of €Z and a set cost-per-install, I would barely break even.”

  1. Repeat for each country!

  • “Ugh – all this research is so tedious. Forget localization! (misses out on large profits across the globe)”


How Can I Discover the Best Languages for My Game?

There’s this new, nifty (and FREE!) app that can help you assess which languages to consider for localization – the Game Market Analyzer. It was designed by nearly 25 year old game localization and publishing company LAI Global Game Services and is powered by actual data from leading market research firm DFC Intelligence.

The Game Market Analyzer analyzes anticipated return-on-investment by language and is intended to help game developers identify key languages and markets for game localization.

(Disclaimer: I helped design this app, so I do think it’s a pretty awesome tool! Although I am an indie developer, I do freelance marketing work for the company behind this app – LAI Global Game Services.)

 

How it Works

Here is a step-by-step guide of how the Game Market Analyzer can help a developer looking to localize their game:

  1. My team heard that FIGS (French, Italian, German, and Spanish) and CJK (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) are popular languages for game localization, so I assume I should localize my game into some of these languages, but I’m not sure which ones. We decide to use the Game Market Analyzer app to learn a little more.

     

  1. I input my game’s platform and genre. (I’m using a mobile puzzle game for this example.)

(Sidenote: I could also input my target market’s age, gender, and my monetization model if I wanted to find out about appropriate publishers and third party providers in the region.)

 

  • As this is a newly-released app, this feature currently contains a small but growing list of providers and is continuously updated.
  • Publishers and third party providers should feel free to reach out to us if they would like to be added to this section! – gma@lai.com)
  1. The Game Market Analyzer tool reveals the top regions for this genre.

    1. It looks like North America, Western Europe, and Asia are good regions to consider.

  1. I click on Western Europe and see that the UK is the forerunner here (25% potential market penetration), in addition to Spain (at 18%), Germany (17%), and France (12%).

    1. Hm, okay. Maybe I should localize my game into Spanish, German, and French?

  1. I click “Show Localization Costs” and input a word count of 1000 words.

    1. My game isn’t very text heavy (not like an RPG!), so I don’t feel like I need a localization review for British English.

    2. Spanish, German, and French are available for premium localization of $220 each, but I don’t know whether I want to tackle that many languages initially. Maybe there’s a better option?

 

  1. I’m curious to see what the “Localization Optimizer™” does, so I click on “Cart Actions” and “Localization Optimizer.”

    1. Okay, this tool will help me choose optimal languages. Let’s give it a shot. Ideally, I’d like to reach about 50% of the market, so I set the slider to 50% and hit “Run the Localization Optimizer™”.

    2. The Localization Optimizer™ shows I only need to localize into 2 languages to achieve 50% market penetration – Simplified Chinese and Latin American Spanish…and it will cost less than the 3 languages I selected before – $230 total.

  1. Let’s give this a shot then. I select “Cart Actions” and “Check Out”.

    1. I see there is a pretty good cost difference between “Standard” and “Premium” quality, so I read about the difference on the info tab. I want to make sure my players don’t notice a quality difference in other languages, so it seems worth it to stick with premium.

  2. I click “Send Localization Request to LAI” after making sure I’ll be able to speak with a representative before localizing with each of these languages. (The info button confirms this.)

  3. A representative from LAI Global Game Services gets in touch with me, and we talk over what I’m looking for from localization.

  4. Since my game is both on iPhone and Android, LAI agrees that these languages are a good fit for me, although they point out that the rules in China have become more complicated this past year and explain what is now involved in bringing a game to the Chinese marketplace.

  5. For the time being, we decide to wait on China. It sounds like a promising market, especially now that mobile revenue in China has surpassed the US, but we would have to make additional changes to our game as well as submitting our game to the Chinese government for review. We’ll wait until we get sales in other parts of the world before tackling China.

  6. We decide to return to our original plan of choosing the most popular European languages instead – European French, Italian, German, and Spanish, while still including Latin American Spanish.

    1. (We don’t want the potential negative ratings to affect our game by not localizing our game into both Latin American and European Spanish!)

    2. LAI informs us we’ll have to make a few art adaptations for the German market since the game includes a few references to World War II, but we decide it’s worth it since we won’t have to change too much in the game.

  7. We also decide to have our press kit and e-mail to the press translated into French, Italian, German, and Spanish so we get more coverage on European and Latin American mobile game sites.

The Benefits to Using the Game Market Analyzer App

While the Game Market Analyzer tool isn’t 100% foolproof, it is a fantastic FREE tool, allowing developers the chance to see more data behind their game’s platform and genre…without buying expensive reports.

We listened to the key concerns of game developers in assessing global markets. You weren’t sure whether localization could:

  1. Help you achieve market penetration in international game markets

  2. Yield the monetary return you want!

In response, this tool gives you:

  1. Estimated market penetration by region (for your game’s platform and genre!)

  2. Estimated market penetration, drilling down into specific countries (for your game’s platform and genre!)

  3. The confidence to take your game global!

The Benefits
  • App data is powered by leading market research firm, DFC Intelligence.

  • A real game localization team (with nearly 25 years of experience!) is on the other end of the app, able to answer your questions about game languages and markets.

  • Infographics by country and region with additional information. Here are a few examples from the app:

The Drawbacks
  • The app doesn’t currently drill down into specifics (Android vs. iOS, monetization model, etc.), but this is something LAI Global Game Services can help you with when you reach out.

  • It also can’t tell you current market trends that can help or hinder your entry into a given market (i.e. new regulations in China), but again, that is something you can learn by reaching out.

Conclusion
  • GMA is a tool that helps you see your game’s potential in different markets, clearly showing you the best case market penetration that can be expected, based on real world data. It’s a great starting point in planning your localization strategy!

  • However, we recommend that you speak to LAI to understand other factors of the target market such as cultural taboos, regulatory requirements,and monetization conventions, that could be key in making your game globally successful.

We wish you the best of luck in bringing your games to global markets! We’re more than happy to answer any questions you might have about game localization.

 

Check out the GMA app, now available on iPad! (iPhone release early 2017)

- GMA updates are available on both Facebook and Twitter.

Want to Release Your Game in China? Find Yourself a Quality Partner!


By Karin Skoog (@KarinESkoog) & Michelle Zhao (@MengxueZhao)

We frequently see articles about Chinese regulations on Gamasutra and across industry sites, with talk of consoles being banned and then reintroduced. The Chinese games
market is a complicated space, particularly if you don’t have local ties to China.

If you’re a mobile games developer, you may have noticed that the market became even more complicated this past year.

Yet another regulation introduced will prohibit your mobile game from being released in China unless you navigate very carefully.

Market Opportunity in China

China represents a huge market potential, but it is likely most mobile game developers who try to enter the Chinese market in the near future will fail.

  • China is currently the “most valuable [mobile games market] in the world” according to GamesIndustry.biz.

  • A recent report from Niko Partners estimates 465 million mobile players in China by the end of 2016, generating $1.3 billion from mobile game exports, nearly doubling to $2.1 billion by 2020.

  • Just yesterday, TechCrunch posted an article stating China has surpassed the US in iOS App Store revenue, with Chinese mobile games consumption far exceeding the US (driving 75% of App Store revenue!).

Graphic from TechCrunch’s “China overtakes the U.S. in iOS App Store revenue.

An Overview of Video Games in China

To understand the new regulations, it helps to take a look at the evolution of video games in China:

Although Mario games were widely played in China beginning in the 1980s, it was World of Warcraft that kicked off computer games with its beta in 2005.

It took time for computer games to take off in China due to slow internet connections, but when they did, they quickly drew the attention of Chinese authorities, causing a number to be censored or banned. As creative products (like video games) gain in popularity in China, Chinese authorities crack down and regulate.

Now that mobile games have exploded in popularity – even surpassing PC game popularity in China – we are starting to see the repercussions. (See the graph below from our partner, DFC Intelligence, showing the rise of mobile gamers in China vs. PC gamers.)

Mobile games snuck up on Chinese authorities at an even greater rate than PC games of the prior decade – suddenly appearing and then rapidly spreading to the masses. To the government, games seemed to come with a host of problems due to their widespread popularity, including an influx of lawsuits and IP issues with international entities.

As with PC games from decades before, mobile games have entered a period of careful scrutiny, which brings us to new, present-day regulations.

New Chinese Regulations

China’s governing body of creative media (the State Administration of Press, Publications, Radio, Film, and Television) is the organization responsible for bans on select books and movies, game consoles (in prior years), excessive gore in games, and now, mobile games.

According to this new regulation, any game perceived as being a “story-based game” is subject to review by the State Administration. The approval process can be time consuming due to the limited number of people currently reviewing submissions.

This is big news because this approval process is the biggest barrier ever imposed on video game developers looking to enter China. The vast number of mobile games flooding the marketplace quickly drew the attention of Chinese authorities and led to the biggest crackdown on games in China to date.

The new regulation was put into effect in July, and since the start of 2016, only 22 non-Chinese mobile games have been released in China (according to a list updated by the State Administration on August 29th).

Among the foreign games approved and released this year, the majority were MAJOR foreign IPs, such as Temple Run, Candy Soda Legend, Angry Birds, Subway Surfers, Fruit Ninja, and Monument Valley.

When The New Regulation Comes into Effect

If you go to China and check out the App Store now, you will find thousands of unapproved games. The original plan was to pull unapproved games from the marketplace October 1st (but the deadline was extended to December 31st), meaning that any games released in China before this year are likely to be pulled if they don’t attain approval from Chinese authorities.

There has been speculation over whether China’s State Administration has the resources and time to pull so many games from the marketplace. However, the new regulation made such big news this summer because many believe China will follow through on this regulation.

It may take some time for unapproved games to be pulled (possibly longer than the anticipated end of year deadline), but it is something developers should take note of, to ensure their own games aren’t at risk of being pulled from the Chinese market.

Submission Process

There are currently two types of approval processes – an expedited approval process for games without a storyline and an extensive approval process for games with any kind of a storyline.

- Simplified/Expedited Approval Process: Non-Story Based Games

Here is a brief look at what is required for the simplified approval process:

  • No storyline or an extremely simple storyline.

  • Regulations currently state that the copyright must be owned by a Chinese individual or entity.

This means you absolutely must have a Chinese publisher to assist in bringing your game to the Chinese marketplace.

  • No political, military, nationalities, or religious content.

- Extensive Approval Process: Story Based Games

All other games must undergo an extensive approval process, often taking 2-4 months for approval (in some cases, approval can even take up to 6 months!). If the studio has a good relationship with the government, it is possible to get approval within 40 days.

Here is what’s required for the approval of story-based games:

  • Submit games 20 days before launch.

  • Submit an extensive amount of paperwork.

  • Send a smartphone to Chinese authorities with a build of the game, functioning SIM card, and data plan for each version of the game (i.e. Android and iPhone).

  • Within one week of launch, submit additional paperwork and details to Chinese authorities.

Where Does this Leave Indie Devs?

Based on the games released in China this past year, many publishers in China are focused on bringing over games they know will be a hit – games that already made it big and are guaranteed to bring in the big bucks.

This means that it is increasingly more difficult for mobile game developers without an already established IP to launch a mobile game within the Chinese market. This isn’t to say it can’t be done or that developers shouldn’t target China – the Chinese mobile market alone brings in more revenue than the US!

China has already surpassed US revenue from mobile games!

This simply means that foreign developers looking to release mobile games in China must find a reputable local partner interested in publishing their games.

It is now essential for mobile game developers to work with local partners, as foreign entities are no longer allowed to publish in China. With larger Chinese publishers appearing to support only well-established IPs (i.e. Candy Crush), it may take some time to find a partner willing to publish your game, but quality partners do exist.

A Few Words of Caution

It can be difficult to conduct business in China as a foreigner. It isn’t uncommon encounter scams and to receive false information from people who claim to be looking out for your best interest.

We want to provide you with a few words of caution:

  • Be wary of scams – there are many scam artist “publishers” or “agents” who are more than willing to take your money.

  • Some people may try to convince you they are an “authorized agent” who can take care of the review process for you. This is not the case! These kinds of scams are a known problem for foreign developers trying to enter the Chinese market. Chinese authorities already released an official answer to clarify that no such “authorized agents” exist.

  • Some developers claim this entire process is one big ruse for corruption, forcing developers to share revenue with already large, local publishers. As with any part of business, don’t enter into any deals you don’t feel comfortable with!

Why is a Partner Key to Success in China?

 

China is a country where personal relationships (guan-xi) hold an incredibly amount of importance. Without going through ‘relationship-based channels,’ it is very possible the game you spent so much time and effort developing (and even localizing) for the Chinese market may end up never being released in China.

Find Yourself a Quality Partner

It can be challenging, to say the least, to know which companies you can trust. We would like to take the time to introduce our company – LAI Global Games Services – as we have been helping game developers navigate the global marketplace for decades. LAI has long-standing roots in China and thorough knowledge of the marketplace, as well as localization considerations for the region.

LAI’s office in China.

LAI has decades of experience in the Asian games market. We started out localizing content for Japanese companies back in 1993, and today, we have offices in China, Japan, and the San Francisco Bay Area, offering game publishing services and 35+ languages for game localization.

Due to our long-standing relationship with companies in China, LAI is in the unique position to offer game developers advice on entry into the Chinese market, as well as the best opportunity to actually launch your game in China.

How LAI Global Game Services Can Help You!

We work directly with local authorities and experts in the Chinese market to ensure games have the best opportunity to succeed. This includes:

  1. Helping your company understand the rules within the Chinese marketplace and localization considerations (such as eliminating ALL English characters in the game to diminish the possibility of rejection by Chinese authorities);

  1. Navigating the local market to help you find the most suitable Chinese publishers to match YOUR NEEDS, saving you time and money;

  1. Working as a liaison with the publisher in China to oversee and assist with any operations as needed, including:

  1. B2B business tips in China.

  2. Process interpretation.

  3. Assistance to help avoid misunderstandings, errors resulting from miscommunication/culture shock.

Reach Out to LAI!

We are always more than happy to assist with any questions you might have about current regulations or partnerships in China.

You can reach out to us @LAIGlobalGame or info@lai.com, or better yet, you can contact our CEO, David Lakritz, directly at dave@lai.com! We look forward to your questions and comments!

Visit www.lai.com for more information.

关注主机游戏:中国上海自贸区文化市场开放细则

1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。4月21日,上海市政府公布了《中国(上海)自由贸易试验区文化市场开放项目实施细则》。LAI在此转载,内容摘自上海市政府网站:

http://www.shanghai.gov.cn/shanghai/node2314/node2319/node12344/u26ai38861.html

英文版请查看:

Detailed Implementation Rules for Cultural Market Opening in the China (Shanghai) Free Trade Zone

 

市政府办公厅印发市文广影视局等制订的《中国(上海)自由贸易试验区文化市场开放项目实施细则》

沪府办发〔2014〕18号
上海市人民政府办公厅关于印发市文广影视局等五部门制订的《中国(上海)自由贸易试验区文化市场开放项目实施细则》的通知

各区、县人民政府,市政府各委、办、局:
市文广影视局、市工商局、市质量技监局、上海海关、中国(上海)自由贸易试验区管委会制订的《中国(上海)自由贸易试验区文化市场开放项目实施细则》已经市政府同意,现印发给你们,请认真按照执行。
上海市人民政府办公厅
2014年4月10日
中国(上海)自由贸易试验区文化市场开放项目实施细则


根据《国务院关于印发中国(上海)自由贸易试验区总体方案的通知》(国发〔2013〕38号)、《国务院关于在中国(上海)自由贸易试验区内暂时调整有关行政法规和国务院文件规定的行政审批或者准入特别管理措施的决定》(国发〔2013〕51号)和《文化部关于实施中国(上海)自由贸易试验区文化市场管理政策的通知》(文市发〔2013〕47号),制定本实施细则。
一、允许外资企业从事游戏游艺设备的生产和销售,通过文化主管部门内容审查的游戏游艺设备可面向国内市场销售。
(一)中国(上海)自由贸易试验区(以下简称“自贸试验区”)内取得工商部门核发的营业执照且营业执照经营范围载明“生产游戏游艺设备及销售其产品”的外商投资企业,可向市文广影视局申请内容审查。
(二)向国内市场销售的游戏游艺设备,应当具有合法知识产权,有利于传播科学、艺术、人文知识,有益于青少年健康成长。不得含有《娱乐场所管理条例》(国令〔2006〕458号)第十三条的禁止内容,不得含有押分、退币、退钢珠等赌博功能。设备外观、游戏内容、游戏方法说明应当使用我国通用语言文字。
(三)从事游戏游艺设备的生产和销售的外商投资企业申请内容审查时,应当提交预装游戏内容的游戏游艺设备和以下材料:

 


1.《游戏游艺机市场准入机型机种内容审核申请表》和《游戏游艺机产品内容审核材料登记表》;
2.企业营业执照复印件;
3.与游戏游艺内容相关的知识产权证明材料,包括该游戏游艺产品的知识产权证明文件或者该游戏游艺产品的知识产权授权文件;
4.游戏游艺设备中内容全过程的视频文件或者游戏游艺软件的视频演示(DEMO)文件,视频文件或者视频演示文件是指游戏游艺设备最终上市版本中的所有游戏游艺内容,包括不会在正常游戏进行过程中出现的内容的视频文件(以CD-ROM或DVD光盘为载体);
5.能够反映产品整体外观并与实际销售产品一致的电子图片,其中,一张正面图,两张侧面图,格式统一为“*.JPG”,图片分辨率不低于800×600;
6.游戏游艺使用的音频文件、名称列表和歌词的电子文本,电子文本应当是游戏游艺设备中使用的全部背景音乐、歌曲的名称列表、音频文件和歌词的中外文对照文本;
7.游戏游艺内容中全部对白、旁白、描述性文字以及操作说明的中外文电子文本;
8.为游戏游艺设备提供游戏游艺内容的方案,其中,在网络上为游戏游艺设备提供游戏内容的,应当提交提供游戏内容的企业的《网络文化经营许可证》。


(四)市文广影视局应当自受理申请之日起20个工作日内作出审批决定。符合规定条件的,出具《游戏游艺设备内容审核确认单》,并报文化部备案;不符合规定条件的,书面说明理由。
(五)外商投资企业取得《游戏游艺设备内容审核确认单》后,可以向国内市场销售其游戏游艺设备。游戏游艺设备的游戏游艺内容、机型、机种有升级、改版等实质性变更的,应当重新向市文广影视局申请内容审查。
(六)外商投资企业应当对其生产及销售的游戏游艺设备的产品质量负责,产品应当符合国家和本市有关标准和规定。在向国内市场销售的产品及其包装上,应当用中文标明产品名称、生产厂厂名和地址。
(七)向国内销售其游戏游艺设备的外商投资企业在办理游戏游艺设备内销手续时,除按照正常管理规定办理海关手续外,还应当向海关部门一并提交市文广影视局出具的《游戏游艺设备内容审核确认单》。
(八)在网络上为游戏游艺设备提供游戏内容的企业应当遵守文化部发布的《互联网文化管理暂行规定》、《网络游戏管理暂行办法》规定,取得《网络文化经营许可证》;游戏产品应当取得文化部的批准文件。通过其他途径为游戏游艺设备提供内容的按照国家有关规定执行。
(九)工商部门、质量技监部门和海关按照各自职能,行使相关管理职责。自贸试验区管理委员会(以下简称“自贸试验区管委会”)负责有关外资企业的日常监管。


二、取消外资演出经纪机构的股比限制,允许设立外商独资演出经纪机构,在上海市行政区域内提供服务。
(一)自贸试验区内取得工商部门核发的营业执照的外商投资企业,可向市文广影视局申请演出经纪机构《营业性演出许可证》和演出场所经营单位备案证明。其中,设立合资、合作演出经纪机构和演出场所,不受外国投资者的外资股比限制。
(二)外商投资演出经纪机构申请《营业性演出许可证》的,应当提交以下材料:
1.《设立演出经纪机构申请登记表》;
2.企业营业执照复印件;
3.3名以上专职演出经纪人员的资格证书。
(三)市文广影视局自受理申请之日起20个工作日内作出审批决定。准予许可的,核发《营业性演出许可证》;不予许可的,书面说明理由。
(四)外商投资企业在自贸试验区服务贸易区域内设立演出场所的,应当自取得营业执照之日起20个工作日内,向市文广影视局申请备案,并提交以下材料:
1.《演出场所经营单位备案表》;
2.企业营业执照复印件;
3.消防、卫生等行政管理部门的批准文件复印件;
4.演出场所的方位图与内部平面图。
(五)自贸试验区内依法设立的演出经纪机构举办营业性演出活动的,按照下列规定办理:
1.在自贸试验区内举办营业性演出的,应当向自贸试验区管委会提出申请。其中,对举办国内文艺表演团体与演员参加的营业性演出的,自贸试验区管委会应当自受理申请之日起3个工作日内作出决定。对举办涉外及涉港澳台营业性演出的,自贸试验区管委会应当自受理申请之日起20个工作日内作出决定。
2.在自贸试验区外、上海市行政区域内举办涉外或涉港澳台营业性演出的,应当向市文广影视局提出申请,市文广影视局应当自受理申请之日起20个工作日内作出决定。举办国内文艺表演团体与演员参加的营业性演出的,应当向演出举办所在地的区(县)文化行政部门提出申请,区(县)文化行政部门应当自受理申请之日起3个工作日内作出决定。
(六)自贸试验区内依法设立的演出场所在本场所内举办营业性演出的,应当向自贸试验区管委会提出申请,自贸试验区管委会应当自受理申请之日起3个工作日内作出决定。
三、允许设立外商独资的娱乐场所,在自贸试验区内提供服务。
(一)自贸试验区内取得工商部门核发的营业执照的外商投资企业,可向自贸试验区管委会申请《娱乐经营许可证》。外商投资娱乐场所在筹建阶段,可向自贸试验区管委会咨询,自贸试验区管委会应当依法为外资企业提供指导。
(二)外商投资企业在自贸试验区服务贸易区域内设立娱乐场所的,应当符合《娱乐场所管理条例》(国令〔2006〕458号)、《娱乐场所管理办法》(文化部令〔2013〕55号)等法规、规章规定的设立条件,并向自贸试验区管委会提交相关申请材料。自贸试验区管委会自受理申请之日起20个工作日内作出决定。准予许可的,核发《娱乐经营许可证》;不予许可的,书面说明理由。


四、外商投资企业从事游戏游艺设备生产和销售情况、外商投资演出经纪机构、演出场所、娱乐场所的经营活动情况,纳入上海文化市场经营主体诚信管理体系。
五、香港特别行政区、澳门特别行政区、台湾地区投资者和在国外居住的中国公民在自贸试验区内设立企业从事游戏游艺设备生产和销售、设立演出经纪机构、演出场所和娱乐场所的,适用本实施细则。
六、本实施细则自印发之日起施行。
上海市文化广播影视管理局
上海市工商行政管理局
上海市质量技术监督局
中华人民共和国上海海关
中国(上海)自由贸易试验区管理委员会
2014年3月31日

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

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

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

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

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. 

 

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

 

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.