The same mobile game can have certain differences between certain regions. In one country, the game will have certain elements that match the tastes of the people of that specific country. In another country, the same game will have different elements, which caters to the people from that place.
This is because of the process known as Game Localization.
Game localization is the process of adapting a game to suit the tastes of players from a certain region. The most common game localization technique developers use is translating the game into another native language. But localization efforts also include things like changing elements to match with specific cultures, removing content that may hurt cultural sentiments, etc.
Why Game Localization is Popular
People love games the most when they feel personal. The more personalized a game is, the more the user will love it.
The region/country we are from is one of the main things we personally identify with. So, when developers adapt their game to match the tastes of people from a certain region, the game will feel more personal to the people there. As a result, developers can get a more engaged audience and higher retention rates.
For developers, localization opens the avenue towards emerging markets. Players from these markets would prefer that games be in their native language, rather than in English. So, by translating the game and adapting it to suit cultural differences, developers can attract players from that region, better than if they had released the game just as it was.
To understand the importance of game localization in the current mobile game market, one need only look at some recent trends. Among them, is Apple’s decision that any game that is released on their Apple Arcade, should be translated to at least 14 languages. Epic is another company that has made localization efforts, by translating Fortnite into 12 languages.
The Steps for Game Localization
Game localization requires a planned, step-by-step process. Only then will the game be free of errors and mistakes that can derail the gameplay experience. Only then will it have elements that actually make a difference.
The first step mobile game developers should take when localizing their game is conducting research. During this phase, they must look into two areas predominantly: market feasibility and regional differences.
Market feasibility means assessing whether the game’s market in that language is enough to benefit from getting a translation. Like, would the translation bring in more users? If the answer to this is a no, then developers would be better off not investing in a translation.
When it comes to conducting research about the audience and their preferences, developers have to ask a lot of questions. Like, does the game have any element that is likely to hurt cultural sentiments? Are there any elements in the game that can be altered to better appeal to the players? Can the developers translate the text to the target language, without losing the game’s appeal?
Asking all these questions will help developers cement the decision of whether their game should be localized or not.
2. Plan Beforehand
Mobile game developers can benefit immensely by planning for game localization beforehand. Developers can ponder ‘whether’ they are likely to localize their game in the future, even if they are not doing so at the present. And if game localization is likely, they should identify which languages or regions they will localize the game for.
By doing so in the early stages of game development, developers can take the necessary steps towards making future game localization efforts easier. They can make necessary adjustments to the UI so that it can accommodate the varying text length requirements of different languages.
3. Hire a Native Speaker
When hiring a translator for their mobile game, developers must make sure the hired person is a native speaker of the said language or has close to native proficiency. Only then, will the game be properly translated? If the hired person is a translation specialist, then it would be even better.
Because every language has its nuances. Someone who only has a base understanding of the language will likely not understand or even identify these nuances. Nuances can become extremely important when translating certain pieces of text, like jokes.
A native speaker or professional translator will also be able to identify elements that are sensitive to that culture. Because a joke that is okay in one region might be offensive in another one. Developers must always account for this, during translation.
4. Optimize the App Store
Just like how the game must be localized, so too must the App Store page for each region. This includes altering the screenshots, title, and description to match that region.
The screenshots must be made in a way that appeals to the target region. This may involve changing certain elements or prioritizing others. The title and description meanwhile should be prepared after researching the most used keywords from that specific region.
Lastly, developers must make optimization efforts after looking at the guidelines of each app store. Because the Playstore and the App Store, have their own requirements. Developers must take into account, both of them.
Even with diligent care, there’s always a chance that developers might improperly translate something or miss an element that hurts cultural sentiments.
To remedy this, before releasing the newly localized game to the public, developers must test it repeatedly. Only once they’re fully confident, should they release the game to the public.
Game localization is not always necessary. Plenty of games have become a success without it.
But for the right games, the right game localization efforts can do wonders. It can allow them to garner a new audience and explore new avenues.