5 Expensive Mistakes For Video Game Localization

When it comes to game localization, Glyph has been in the industry for a long time. We‘ve seen a variety of mistakes that game developers make when entering new markets. Partnering with an experienced game localization service provider early in the process can make these mistakes avoidable. For this post, I worked closely with our Solutions Architect, Yufan Yang. We compiled the following list of the top five expensive mistakes for video game localization.

1. Not Conducting Culture Assessments

As a game developer, you need to consider these two questions when you evaluate expanding your game into new markets:

  • Is your content relevant in those target markets?
  • Is your content offensive in any way in those target markets?

These are some of the first mistakes we have noticed when it comes to the initial stages of game globalization. Glyph recommends, just as your concept for a new game comes into focus, and all the ideas start to flow into a vision. That is the moment game developers should consider global markets and their associated languages for the new game.

Games that have violent, adult-oriented, political, and/or religious content, likely won’t be suitable for markets where such content will be perceived as culturally offensive or insensitive. Moreover, it’s not just the risk of violating local values, but an unknowing game developer risks violating local laws. Be certain to do your due diligence. Conduct a proper culture assessment for your game concept. By doing this, you are ensuring that your game is relevant, applicable, and non-offensive in your target markets. Ultimately this will lead to successful localization and better return on investment (ROI).

2. Not Considering Internationalization During Game Development.

Going global is a meticulous process, and a large part of successful game globalization is implemented within the development phase. This is when game developers and scriptwriters begin the design, coding process, and the creation of the storyline. During this stage, it is vital to consider using flexible code that can be adjusted easily, as well as designing the code to be compatible with relevant languages. Early planning can avoid expensive headaches down the road when you embark on the translation process.

Some common internationalization mistakes:

  • Not allowing text expansion
  • Not considering text direction
  • Font selection that isn’t compatible
  • Number formats that aren’t interchangeable or convertible

Text Expansion

Game developers inexperienced in internationalization often only allow enough space for the original source text. However, when the text box isn’t adjustable, you start to run into text quality and placement issues when the translated text requires more space.

Another mistake we often see involves the use of the text wrap function in the original code. This can cause several unintended hard line-breaks within the translated text. This kind of oversight is expensive to correct and usually involves rewriting code.

Text Direction

At the game development phase, it’s a very good idea to consider text direction in your target languages. While many languages, including, English, German, and Romance languages, are written from left to right. Other languages like Hebrew and Arabic are written right to left. Getting this wrong can result in recoding and redesigning screen layouts. So, make sure your code and other aspects of your game support these languages if you choose to enter these markets.

Font Selection

Smart font selection can save time and money. When selecting your font, keep in mind that not all fonts work in all languages. Here’s where an experienced localization partner can guide you to select a well-suited font. One that supports your target markets while still conveying the game’s tone and aesthetic. For universality, we recommend developers choose a Unicode font because there is a wide range of options that support multiple languages. However, if the Unicode font selection is impending creativity for your primary market, a localization partner can help you select several different fonts, each perfect for its target market.

Numerical Formats

Write codes for dates, time, and numbers keeping in mind that your target markets may use different formats. For example, in the United States, a date is typically expressed as Month/Day/Year; however, in China, a date is expressed as Year/Month/Date. Avoid coding numerical data in fixed formats. Another common mistake includes incorrect number formats. In the United States, commas are used to separate numbers every three digits; however, the period is similarly used in many other markets, and in some markets like China, separators aren’t used at all.

3. Not Providing Enough Context and/or Choosing to Skip Testing

At the point when a game is essentially ready for one market, it is ready for localization. There are three common mistakes we have noticed developers make in the localization phase that needs to be addressed:

  • Not providing enough context
  • Not providing sufficient tags within files
  • Opting to not test all target languages

Providing Enough Context

When working with a localization partner, make sure to provide enough context through screenshots or builds that explain precisely what is happening in specific scenes. Glyph often receives spreadsheets containing dialogue between two characters with insufficient information about the characters speaking. Not having a clear distinction on genders and personalities makes it very difficult for our linguists to understand the tone of each conversation. The lack of thorough detail can result in less than optimal translations. It is imperative for RPG games to have a bio for each character to enable our creative linguists to match the source throughout the entire storyline.

Some ways to overcome this issue is to develop a style guide, character design and bio library, and a glossary for terminology. When creating a style guide, write one that describes the background of the scenes, the different settings, distinctive characteristics, the relationship of the characters, and other important elements of the game. Having a thorough guide available to follow is an effective way to guarantee successful localization.

File Preparation

Localization service providers typically receive content from clients via properly prepared source files. One mistake we have frequently encountered is developers not adding sufficient tags within their files to identify locations and characters. This makes it difficult for our linguists to understand exactly what is happening in a scene and can cause mistranslations. To avoid this mistake, be sure to add tags that describe who the characters are in the dialogue, as well as the specific locations.

Another major consideration is an identifying tag that states whether a particular string needs translation. By doing this, it will help not only the game studio writers identify new or changed content, but also the localization service provider to design software filters to extract them. These tags precisely identify the source content to be moved from the studio to the localization partner and usually reduces the file size.

Testing Usability

One of the steps in game localization is usability testing. An expensive mistake we have observed includes clients limiting the usability testing of their games to only one language. The assumption that it’s a one-size-fits-all situation needs to be avoided. This is very risky and can result in undetected functionality issues (bugs) going into the target market. Unfortunately, this is when those issues are identified by the game players. Game players aren’t particularly shy about logging negative feedback on public forums and/or game reviews.

In the most economical scenario, Glyph recommends companies to use a Pseudo-localization method to test a dummy version of the game that displays the target language. If employed early in the localization cycle, this process can save you a lot of time and money. It is also an efficient way to check the display and to verify that the game functions properly in all target languages. An experienced localization partner can easily help you with the file imports to go through this translation functionality test.

4. Not Evaluating Your Games’ Performance in New Markets

Launching a game is not necessarily the end of the localization process, gathering feedback from players is very important for long-term success in the market. Knowing if your end users are satisfied with your games’ localization can really give you insight for future patches and advancements.

Some methods for gathering feedback include:

  • In-game surveys
  • Reviews in the app platform (e.g., App Store and Google Play)

We recommend that you continue to monitor these feedback platforms to see how users are interacting with the game post-launch. If the feedback is in a market native language, your localization partner can help you understand your users by performing a monthly review and compiling a report of relevant data. This is a great method to see if any changes need to be made and to better engage with your users.

What Glyph provides post-launch:

  • Keyword research and optimization
  • Ranked traffic scores for all keywords
  • In-market reviews and insights
  • Crafting promotional content

One of the ways Glyph helps clients with game evaluation is by using keyword research. Not every keyword used in the source language will be optimal in different markets. Glyph also looks at a variety of performance indicators to truly optimize your game in each specific market, ie., the number of people that have searched for the game, how many downloads in a specific period, their search patterns, what keywords were used, and more. Gathering this data provides great insight into what works, and what we can do to help you increase conversions and ROI.

We also help with crafting promotional content that is tailored specifically to each market. This, for example, might include a limited sales promotion for specific holidays in specific markets. Naturally, it wouldn’t make sense to promote a Fourth of July sale in Asia or Europe. We are more than happy to help create market-specific promotion packages to help you succeed.

5. Not Choosing the Correct Localization Partner

When choosing the best localization partner for your company, a variety of criteria should be satisfied:

  • Consistent quality output
  • Excellent customer service
  • Dedicated production managers
  • High-level of creativity
  • Competitive pricing for sustainability of localization
  • Extensive knowledge of the gaming industry

Choosing the wrong localization partner can result in expensive mistakes that require backstepping into the initial stages of game development. Glyph delivers on these expectations. We have assembled a team dedicated to game clients. We will walk you through culture assessment, game development, localization planning, all the way through the game launch, and over time market longevity. When scoping for a localization partner, in addition to factors like technology platforms, customer service is a key consideration. Your localization service provider’s desire to help you succeed will make a difference. We urge game clients to find a true partner for this endeavour, aim for something more than a transactional vendor relationship. It takes a partnership borne of thoughtful and coordinated effort, industry know-how and open communication to build the successful long-term venture.

If you are not sure where to start, we offer free consultations to help you learn more about going global. Feel welcome to contact us or request a quote, we’d be thrilled to explore the exciting world of games with you!