As the global popularity of video games continuously grows, so do local gamers’ expectations for an authentic experience in their own language. Video game localization has become such a critical component for ensuring game profitability in new markets that it’s more crucial than ever to ensure your video game content is translated without linguistic or cultural error. If not, you risk compromising the user experience and decreasing your game’s initial profitability. Additionally, your product could end up being flagged on popular gamer sites such as Legends of Localization or The Gamer, resulting in irrevocable proof of your translation failure. Learning from previous video game localization examples can help you understand the importance of implementing a strong localization strategy to avoid becoming the newest embarrassing localization example.
While the following video game localization examples are all successful, some aren’t the best models of high-quality localization.
Good Video Game Localization Examples
The following video games are examples of localization success provided by ensuring all necessary scenes and descriptions were correctly translated. They all ensured localization strategy was as involved as necessary for the amount of translation needed:
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Localization for this video game is so good that it could pass as a locally created game instead of an adapted one in some markets. The localization producer hired to help produce high-quality translated content to various markets was so devoted to the localization process that they temporarily moved to the country where the game was being developed for a more authentic localization result. Since The Witcher is an RPG, it requires more translation, including voiceovers. It has been highly regarded for its voice-acting for each translated version.
This series is considered an excellent example of video game localization because they planned for localization during the initial development process as opposed to after the English version was completed. Although there were minor translation discrepancies initially in the series, the localization has gotten better with each new release and is now considered to have first-rate translations and voiceovers for a more genuine gaming experience.
Ratchet and Clank Series
Ratchet and Clank is ranked among the best-localized video games in various markets. The translation quality made it competitive enough to become a global fan favorite. The localized versions ensured the various English expressions and phrases were translated to protect the meaning and resonate better with specific markets. The translated versions have felt so authentic to gamers that although it was developed in California, it was adapted as a Japanese manga two years after the initial video game release.
Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
This video game required less translation than most of the other games that were released in 2017. The game’s spoken rhetoric occurs only during the cutscenes and requires less translation since the main character has no speaking lines. The localization process was easier with less material to translate, lowering the chances of disrupting the gaming experience. Although some consider translated versions of this game to be less personable than the original (earlier iterations had little to no spoken rhetoric), the translated meanings are still very similar to the original text.
Following the examples of any of these games, whether it be having a very involved localization strategy or creating a game that requires little translation, can help you successfully adapt your video game to any given market.
Bad Video Game Localization Examples
Although the following examples are best-selling franchises, they also had enough translation errors to be known across markets as bad localization examples.
Skyrim is considered a large open-world RPG with a high level of language difficulty in English. Most gamers have to remind themselves and others not to be stressed out if they don’t understand the meaning behind translated text right away because of the number of mistakes. There is also awkwardness associated with clunky “Bard” character songs in Japanese translations that some have referred to as “mangled translation.” The translation mishaps were noticeable enough that many players who didn’t speak English as a first language opted to buy the English versions instead or create translation projects to play English versions with Japanese subtitles.
Because this game is notorious for having excessive audio and text, the sheer amount of translation required is noteworthy. Unfortunately, there is an excess of translation errors throughout the series. Some translations, like Portuguese, are even considered “awful” by various gamer threads. Japanese translations of the game had certain players that used male speech patterns but had female speech patterns during voiceovers, highlighting inconsistent translations throughout the game.
While both games are still widely successful, poor translation quality has been a notable topic of discussion amongst the gaming community.
An Ugly Example of Video Game Localization
Again, while this game is widely popular, it made some very controversial translation errors, earning its spot in the ugly example category.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
One translation error in this game was so notorious that it actually sparked various angry articles and feedback. In a mission (censored in the Russian version due to its controversy), there is a quote, “Remember, no Russian,” that meant that Russian wasn’t to be spoken during the mission but was translated in the Japanese version as, “Kill them. They’re Russian.” Even though this is the most controversial translation error, the game is so filled with them that gamers frequently ask for help to understand cutscenes and missions to finish the game.
The company had to release a remastered version of the game to fix the translation errors and lost profits when Sony Russia decided not to release it in its PlayStation store. This translation mishap was so well-known that it is constantly mentioned when discussing localization fails and used as a lesson for why video games agencies should pay more attention to localization.
Take a Better Approach to Video Game Localization
The examples above show the overall reception to good and bad video game localization. The best way to become a good example and a leading competitor in new markets is to work with a localization management platform. Better still is to partner with a platform that provides linguists that are subject matter experts to make the right translation decisions for the context of the game.
A strong platform can offer you in-house options or assist heavily with project management while giving you transparent knowledge of the entire process. Because video game localization can be a very complex process, working with an agency can simplify the process and make it more cost-effective.
Bureau Works can help you implement video game localization processes to ensure your consumers have an authentic user experience and expand your fan base. Contact our team to learn more about the tools we offer.