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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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!

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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.


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