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How to Develop a Winning Game Localization Strategy


A winning game localization strategy involves much more than just translating your game. It actually begins way before the translation step and doesn’t end with it. Do you want to have a better grasp of everything you need to make your localized video game succeed? Don’t be afraid and follow us in this adventure!

Level 1: Before Translating

So, you have just started working on that long-term video game project! There’s a lot in your mind right now, we know, but still, localization should be a part of it. While localization is often an afterthought for many game developers, especially for small, indie teams, it should be part of your plans from early development. This way, you will avoid stepping into a series of issues that could otherwise become a nightmare. Let’s see!

Make an internationalization effort

What is internationalization, anyway? Internationalization, aka i18n, is the process of designing a game or app for different regions, languages and cultures at the same time, meaning that no engineering changes will be needed at a later stage to adapt it.
In practice, this means paying attention to a series of elements, such as the size and shape of the containers where your text will show, or even your color palette to avoid using any colors which may be perceived as offensive by certain cultures. The specifics are as unique as each different project!
Let’s see a very common example of internationalization. Your buttons should accommodate short strings of text in various languages, right? If you are originally writing them in English, you should know that their Spanish or French translations will expand up to 25%. But wait, there’s more! If you translate to Arabic, it is written from right to left. You get it, right?

Don't hard code text strings

Wow, your game writers are doing an amazing job, congratulations! Do you know what you should do with it? Keep it separate from your code. Never, ever hard code text strings.
By creating resource files (.xml or .json, to name a couple of them), you will keep them clean and tidy, you will easily find them and make any necessary changes, and most importantly, your localization provider will love to work with you. Oh, and don’t forget to assign descriptive IDs to every string!

Analyze the market

In other words, define your needs and budget, and choose which languages you are translating your game into.
Imagine you are a small mobile game publisher from Italy. You probably know
your biggest markets in terms of revenue are the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, and Germany. Then focus on localizing your next game for those markets! Oh wait, but your budget is low at the moment… No worries, try 2-3 languages first, and add more after you have some ROI.

Choose the right localization provider for you

This doesn’t need to be the last step of this section. Actually, if you are lost or have questions, you should begin here. An LSP (language services provider) will be able to guide you through the previous steps.
But how does the right localization provider look like, anyway? It depends on your needs, of course. If you make AAA games, you might want to work with a bigger localization company, as they have the resources to manage massive and extremely complex projects.
However, is that the case for indie video games? Let’s take the Italian mobile game publisher from our previous example and think about it. For you, being a priority for your LSP, working with a small team of trustworthy linguists, or having a single point of contact with your provider are essential needs. We could say that the human touch is key for you. If this sounds like you, a small localization agency can be your best friend
Once you have chosen your partner, create a localization kit (or lockit). This is, gather your translatable contents and reference materials, and share them with your LSP. Or ask them to help you create your lockit!

Level 1: Before Translating

Level 2: During Translation (and Editing)

Congratulations, you’ve beaten Level 1! But the real challenge begins now. Fortunately, you have a team you can rely on. Don’t send everything to your localization partner and forget about it though. This is your project, and you should be involved all along the way.

Communication is key

Maybe you should be worried if your LSP doesn’t ask you anything… Sure, they are the experts in all linguistic matters, but still, they will need some additional context here and there, you will have to clarify some technical features, or you may even need to take a look at a damaged file. There are many things your localization provider may need your input with, and a smooth communication from both sides is essential.
Similarly, you want to ask your localization team about their progress, any potential issues they foresee, or even last-minute changes. Remember: a good game localization agency will respond to all your queries promptly and transparently.

Pay attention to the query sheet

A query sheet is a common feature for video game localization projects. It is usually a spreadsheet set up at the beginning of the translation step, and it not only contains cells where linguists can ask their questions and you can respond to them, but also for the string ID, date of the query, source text, or even additional context (e.g., screenshots).
It is an effective resource for linguists to communicate queries and issues directly to you, as long as you keep an eye on it and respond promptly. Otherwise, there could be delays or some errors could slip into your localized game.

Set a clear schedule

Especially for long-term projects, you shouldn’t just say “I need this done by the end of April” and forget about it until then. Instead of doing that, work closely with your localization agency to set a series of priorities and deadlines.
Are your expectations realistic? What is your top priority? How flexible are your deadlines? All these questions and others should be addressed during your conversations in order to have a clear and manageable schedule to work with.

Level 2: During Translation (and Editing)

Level 3: After Translating

Welcome to the final level! Now that your game is fully translated and edited, let’s take a look at some additional steps you can take to complete your game localization strategy. We will focus on last-minute updates, LQA (i.e., language quality assurance) and feedback.

Last-minute updates

Have some of your texts changed since you were handed your translations? Did you forget about graphic elements with embedded text (a nightmare for your localization team, by the way)? Or maybe you have created brand new marketing materials? Communicate these last-minute updates to your LSP as soon as possible and tackle these issues together. This is something that happens quite often, so both of you should be ready for it.

Language quality assurance (LQA)

Maybe you have your own LQA workflow, or maybe you need your localization provider to set up one for you. In either case, experienced LQA testers and specialists should see how everything looks in game, usually by playing it and filling up an LQA report.
“Shouldn’t a professional localization ensure linguistic quality?” you may ask. Yes, it should. But LQA deals not only with translation errors, but also with how your localized game looks and feels in general. Do you remember how French or Spanish translations expand up to 25% compared with English source texts? LQA specialists will let you know if certain strings take too much screen space, for instance, and help you fix it.

Give feedback

Did your localization agency provide you with a top-notch service? Tell them, they will love it! Is there room for improvement here and there? They also should know, so they’ll be ready for your next project together. You can even ask them for their feedback, to make your game localization strategy even better!

Level 3: After Translating

Final Thoughts

Now that you have learnt the basics to create a winning game localization strategy, you just need to put it into practice. Remember that different projects and companies have different needs, so don’t follow this guide blindly and make it work for you. Oh, and don’t forget to ask your localization provider for the names of all the linguists involved in your project and include them in your game credits!
If you still have questions about how to create your localization strategy, do not hesitate to reach out to us. We’ll be glad to hear from you, and we’ll do our best to understand your unique needs and concerns.

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