In 1958, Physicist William Higinbotham created what is widely considered to be the world’s first video game. An early version of the classic game called Pong which consisted of two bars moving vertically and a dot (ball) that bounced off the bars and players had to keep the dot from going out of their side of the screen.

Since then, however, there have been many innovations and advancements in the technology used for making video games. Better graphics, faster processing, real-world physics and often times a rich and fulfilling story filled with lore to accompany it means that gamers get a fully immersive and genuinely engaging experience.

The video game industry is booming with the total revenue for each year in the past decade surpassing the total revenue of the movie industry and the music industry combined. A major contributing factor to this success is that video games are now being accessed, played and experienced globally. One of the biggest reasons for this global success is video game localization.

What is video game localization?

Video game localization is the process of preparing an application or game for sale in a new and different region or area. It allows developers to customize the gameplay experience to match the preferences of the target audience for which it’s intended. One might think this is simply the act of translating text or speech but it is far more complicated than that. Different regions speak different languages that are true but they also follow different cultures and have different laws regarding censorship. For developers of video games, localization is one of the key factors that determine whether a given product will be successful in foreign markets.

Video game localization usually deals with:

  • Changing idioms to reflect cultural understanding
  • Replacing slang with regional equivalents
  • Changing dates and other formats to locally used ones
  • Localizing cultural and historical references which would otherwise alienate the target audience
  • Adding voice overs or dubbing by entirely new actors
  • Changing audio, music and soundtracks to more culturally appropriate ones
  • Changes and removal of unsuitable plotlines
  • Character redesign
  • Changing whole scenes
  • Adjusting to meet local censorship or content rules, such as the removal of blood and gore
  • UI or game menu edits (to accommodate right-to-left languages, for example)

Methods of Video Game Localization

The process of video game localization does mean some additional work for game developers. The best approach is to stay organized by separating the elements that will need adjustments during localization.
In many cases, studios will hire localization project managers to oversee the entire localization process. The duty of the project manager is to keep all facets of localization running smoothly.
Typically there are two methods game developers use for a global release.

1 – The simultaneous shipping method
The simultaneous shipping method requires a lot of planning ahead of time, as the localization process (translation, foreign voiceover, and content changes) needs to begin in the last 4 months of the game’s development.
This means the localization is happening at the same time as the final stages of production of the game for the primary market version.

2 – The post-gold localization method
Post-gold localization means the game has already been released in its primary market and the game is subsequently adjusted and modified for shipments to new international markets.

Benefits of using Video Game Localization

Localization is undoubtedly one of the most effective ways to tap into the global market and reach out to more gamers. A large number of gamers don’t download a game unless it is in their native language. Also, only around 30% of the world’s gaming community speaks English.

The benefits of Video Game Localization:
Increase in Sales
Increase in Downloads
Makes Game Players Feel Valued
Helps You Stand out in the Fierce Competition
Helps to Keep Control of Your Game
Secures a Higher Ranking in APP Store

Localizing a game correctly takes some extra work, but if you have a great product that international audiences will enjoy, it could very well be an increasingly rewarding endeavor.

The end goal of localizing a video game is to make it fit into the cultural sphere of the person using it so well that it seems completely intrinsic. This results in dramatically improved engagement, use and sales. With video game localization giving developers such huge returns on their investment, it can no longer afford to be seen as an afterthought.