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The Top 5 Myths & Facts about Video Game Translation & Localization: What Every Game Developer Needs to Know (Part 1 of 5)
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The Top 5 Myths & Facts about Video Game Translation & Localization: What Every Game Developer Needs to Know (Part 1 of 5)
by Karin E Skoog on 10/31/12 11:34:00 pm

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

[Originally posted on LAI's blog.]



Fact: Over 50% of worldwide video game revenue comes from markets outside the US.

 

Despite the importance of making games available in a variety of languages for gamers across global markets, translation and localization is still a source of confusion for many game developers and publishers.  Due to the number of easily-avoided issues encountered by game translation and localization companies on a regular basis, we realized the value to the entire development community to dispel common myths regarding the localization process, thereby perpetuating a network of informed developers to ultimately enhance decisions regarding game translation, producing a global library of games with quality localization.

 

 Our pumpkin features Cats of Zero Wing atop an Angry Birds scene, and his quote infamous to game translation, “All your base are belong to us.”

LAI – Obliterating Translation Errors for Nearly 20 Years.
Our pumpkin features Cats of Zero Wing atop an Angry Birds scene, and his quote infamous to game translation, “All your base are belong to us.” He’s on top of the tower of Angry Birds enemies because he represents the worst scenario in game translation – gamers have spent the last 20+ years quoting Cats when making a point about how little emphasis was placed on video game translation in the past.  It is Language Automation, Inc.’s mission to capsize these poor translation efforts, and we use our blog posts to aid this process through educating developers and publishers about video game translation and localization.

 

 

Myth #1: A translation is a translation is a translation – In the long run, cheaper is better for my company’s bottom line, so I should always be searching for vendor alternatives.

As tempting as it might be to constantly hunt for cheaper translation and localization vendors, not only does the search waste valuable company time and resources but transferring your localization projects could ultimately have a negative impact on quality.  Over time, translators build a deeper understanding of your games and your organization’s needs – commonly used words, company mission, cost vs. quality considerations – all of the factors most important to producing a localization aligned with your company’s global vision.

 

As you spend more time working with a translator, you develop a certain knowledge base that is not immediately transferrable to other translators.  It’s like playing the original NES Mega Man – no save capabilities, no password system… no magical way of skipping forward to avoid repeating hours of work.  Your translators spend valuable time learning the unique aspects of your studio that sets your games apart from others on the market.  Details that you might not consider of primary importance to your game’s translation team (such as your company’s overall vision) are components that specialized game localization companies put at the forefront of your localization projects to ensure consistency with your business strategy. 

 

When switching translation vendors, you are actually squandering company resources.  Think of all the statistics out there about the expense associated with signing new customers.  Some specialists believe it’s 5 times as expensive, some 7.  You should apply a similar financial loss estimate when switching localization vendors due to the time spent learning (and in the case of your new vendor, relearning) the specifications of your unique business needs, and that is a significant chunk of money from your pool of game production capital.  This learning and relearning by multiple translators equates to valuable company dollars and sunk cost for your company.  At the very least, before switching to another translation company, you should ask for the list of terminology developed by translators specifically for your game.  These files legally belong to your company and are directly relevant to current and future iterations of your games.  (See part 3 of our upcoming blog post for more information.)

 

Decision-makers within your organization are looking to cut costs in order to better serve financial considerations.  There is a reason game developer and publisher industry leaders (such as Sony and Ubisoft) repeatedly do business with us and why we choose to remain a boutique company dedicated solely to the video game industry.  When you work with a highly specialized game translation company like Language Automation, Inc., you receive closely tailored services by an organization who understands the specifications and key considerations of the game development community.  We have proven solutions for the common issues most relevant to game developers due to our longstanding and vested interest in the industry:

 

Due to our deep understanding of the cost versus quality battleground and relevant tradeoffs, we work with companies to accommodate these shifting needs.  Unlike vendors focused on providing translations across a wide range of fields (legal, medical, literary, website, etc., ultimately thinning corporate resources for deeper reach into specialized industries such as game development), our game localization services are expansive and are designed to grow with the needs of your company.  If low cost is your priority, we provide a more economical approach to work within your budget.  On the other hand, if schedule is your priority, we developed proven solutions to ensure your needs are met.  We give you complete freedom to achieve your goals according to your specifications.

 

Is there ever a time to change vendors?  Certainly – but switch vendors only if your current vendor doesn’t satisfy your needs or understand the growth path of your organization.  As you’ll read in the next section, not all translation vendors are built the same.  As such, there could very well be another organization better suited to your needs.  If you are unhappy with the quality of your vendor’s translations, encounter communication issues with the translation team, or find that the company simply can’t cater to the business goals and strategies of your company, open the lines of communication.  Talk to your vendor and discuss relevant issues.  Quality problems are frequently due to poor communication or lack of in-game testing (an essential part of the complete localization process, and a component we’ll cover in a future blog post).  These problems are usually easily resolved with a phone call or meeting.  The key to remember is that translation vendors are on your side and want you to be successful.  However, if you’re looking to switch translation vendors due to a minor or even moderate difference in price per word, it’s likely you won’t save your company anything by jumping ship.  You could even be costing your company in ways that may not be immediately transparent on your financial statement.  Check back on our blog Nov. 6th for part 2 in order to gain a better understanding of these nuances and learn which kind of translation company best fits in with your organization.

 

 

Here’s a snapshot at next week’s blog post:

 

Myth #2: Translation vendors are all built the same.  There’s no difference in one agency versus another.

  • Without a broad understanding of the quality issues you may encounter with some translation vendors, you are risking financial loss due to consumer drop off.

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