Most developers accept localization as something to think about at some point. But really why should we think about localization and which languages are worth the trouble? Obviously a lot depends on your audience and budget. Let’s cover some of the big questions.
#1 WHAT DOES IT COST?
Use our free localization wizard to estimate the cost for your game and determine whether or not localization can fit your budget. The cost depends on:
- numbers of words
- number of languages
- the type and quality of localization (full V.O. (voice over) or subtitles)
#2 WHICH LANGUAGES?
We like to think there are four different language categories with different priority levels:
- Markets where people absolutely cannot or will not read English such as Spain, Brazil, Middle East, Japan, China. If you’re selling in these markets, localization is a barrier to entry. Compare the cost of localizing into each language against your sales projections for that market and decide.
- Markets where people have a very basic understanding of English, but still need localization to understand the narrative or instructions, such as Germany, France, Poland or Russia. Keep costs low with subtitles or go all out with V.O.
- Markets where English is generally good, but you might want to localize for certain audiences or genres such as Kids Games. Most Western European countries like Sweden or the Netherlands would classify in this category.
- Native language markets where no localization is required, such as US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada for English.
To help you prioritize, use your own social media data or Google Analytics to determine where your audience is based. Alternatively past sales data or general market data might help. We often link to free reports by intelligence firms in the mobile space and Steam has a lot of geographical statistics on their website.
#3 FULL V.O. OR TEXT ONLY?
The choice between V.O. localization or subtitles has a lot to do with budget and audience needs. Going back to our priority list, the top priority languages require full localization. But in any market after the first category you could succeed with subtitles. Whether or not you consider V.O. depends on creative choices, market size and audience needs.
#4 COMMUNITY OR PROFESSIONAL?
If you decide to localize your game, you have two main options: community-driven localization or professional localization. The first option is likely cheaper, but the quality may suffer, it’s time consuming, and you will probably want someone to proof the work before it’s implemented. There are solutions like Transifex, a localization management platform, to make this process a bit more efficient. Professional localization can make your life a lot easier and it’s probably not as expensive as you think. Most importantly the end result will be of higher quality due to the professional nature and quality control checks.
#5 HOW TO PLAN?
Translating 2,500 words takes about a day per language. It’s possible to speed up the process by hiring multiple translators on your game. For instance if you have 10,000 words that need to be translated into French, you can hire one person for 4 days or 2 people for 2 days. Each of them might have a slightly different interpretation of the vocabulary though. If you include voice over recording, obviously this will take longer. But the wizard can tell you based on the hourly fee calculated. Besides the actual translation work you should add some time for the implementation and testing as well.
- never hardcode text in graphics (e.g. buttons, UI elements)
- organize your strings (e.g. in Excel all the source text in the same column)
- properly brief your translators on the game context (e.g. character bios, storyline, objectives)
- properly brief your translators on what should NOT be translated (e.g. character names or locations)
- think about fonts (e.g. support for Cyrillic fonts)
- Keep a 30% margin around the text in containers that do not auto-scale (some words might be longer in other languages)
We hope this post gave you some direction. If you'd like to learn more please try contacting any of our recommended localization professionals, listed on this page.