video games, controller

How has video game translation and localisation changed in recent years?

The gaming industry has moved on rapidly in the last thirty years, from simple yellow Pac-Man faces of the 80’s trying to eat dots and avoid ghosts to the sophisticated virtual reality games of today where a player can become fully immersed in a whole different world to take on their own role in the game. With one of the biggest, long-standing producers in gaming world, Nintendo, originating from Japan, translation has been a necessity in this industry for a while. In today’s blog, eSense Translations looks at how and why this requirement for translation and localisation in the gaming industry has changed over recent years.

Popular video games of the 1980s included Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Super Mario Brothers, all from Nintendo (Japan) and Tetris (developed in Russian). Although these video games were hugely popular in the U.K., the need for translation was relatively small. The games themselves required little explanation and although the branding, marketing and manuals required translation, the approach to advertising in the 1980’s was not as complex as that which we are used to today, so the tasks were pretty straightforward.

If you are a fan of video-gaming today, you will understand the vast steps forward that have been made in recent years. Video games can regularly be based around current films and have often scripts that are even more intricate than the films themselves. VR games allow the player to step into the fantasy world of the game, interacting with the characters and undertaking missions with what seems like never-ending possible outcomes. The translation requirements have therefore gone from the straightforward to the extremely complex.

Localisation of video game content also plays a fundamental role today. Gamers have high expectations and want to become fully immersed in the games that they are playing. If they are distracted by awkward, irrelevant translation, then the game is not going to be a success.

eSense Translations have written previously about localisation and the important role it plays in getting customers to buy into your product. If your content does not appeal to the local culture, or worse they are actually offended by it, then your product will certainly fail in that market.

Despite video games and appeal to the global markets being around for decades now, this sector of the translation industry is still considered to be relatively new and therefore not a lot of academic research has been completed in this area. Miguel Á. Bernal-Merino, who has written one of the few academically-recognised research books on the subject, highlights this lack of research and educational training in game translation, but also comments on the industry’s reluctance to allow such individuals into their circles for fear of confidentiality breach in a highly competitive market. This has resulted in some organisations using substandard translators and localisation freelancers and ending up with a product that falls short of expectations. There are many aspects of a video game product that requiring translation and localisation, such as:

  • Dialogue
  • Packaging
  • Marketing content
  • Manuals
  • Coding
  • User interfaces

This reluctance, therefore, to engage an expert could prove to be a costly mistake.

The best solution for gaming companies looking to boost sales in global markets is to use a reputable translation and localisation company with a proven track record. Established translation and localisation companies will use specialists for work in this sector and also have in place non-disclosure agreements to ensure all work is kept confidential.

By Lorna Paice

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