As part of our recently published feature on the complexities of localisation, we asked Iris Ludolf of translation/localisation specialist Partnertrans what advice she would offer a developer setting out to localise its games for overseas regions in today’s market.
“Obviously it depends on the size of ?the game and the platform,” she says. “I’d give MMOG developers different advice than a developer of a small mobile game. But I’d tell both that localisation is indeed very important ?and that text run through online ?translation programs just doesn’t ?cut the mustard.
"A lot of developers translate their text with Google Translate and similar tools, resulting in marketing texts on iTunes that might make the potential buyers laugh, but they won’t prompt them to buy the game – actually, that is something I’ve already experienced myself. The same thing goes for screenshots on iTunes with localised text or ads/marketing text for Facebook games. If the potential buyer sees how bad the translation is, he is much less likely to buy the game.
“Also, it’s very important to use ?only translators who are native in the target language and know the local customs and who know gamers’ terminology – or agencies who pay attention to that detail with the translators they assign to projects. Otherwise you can find the word ‘chip’ in your poker game translated as ‘chips’ to eat, or the ‘plate’ part in your plate mail translated as the plate you eat from!
“And, as I say, for big titles, either a potential triple-A game or a big MMOG, I would tell the client to seek help from a culturalisation specialist, which should be involved as early as possible, even in the game planning process, so that their title will be a success in all targeted markets and doesn’t have to be pulled from the shelves after the release.
"One example ?I know of is where the player had to choose his country within the game ?and Taiwan was listed as a country – including the official flag. This really didn’t sit well with the powers that be in China, so that game was taken off the shelves over there. If you only send out the texts to the translators, these issues would never be noticed until it’s too late.”
While Ludolf's advice relates to any unfamiliar territory, Japan remains a traditionally difficult market to break in to for western developers. So with that in mind, what are the most popular types of game in Japan today? It's no real surprise that roleplaying games are the number one choice in Japan – and RPG elements feature heavily in other genres, such as action games – but firstperson shooters, although increasing in popularity year on year, still don’t break the top ten, appearing at a Master Chief-denying 14th place, just behind love simulations at 13th.
01. Roleplaying games
04. Strategic simulation
06. Nurturing simulation
07. Fighting simulation
08. Rhythm-action (music/dance)
13. Love simulation
14. Firstperson shooters
15. Sound novel (story with sound)
Source: 2009 CESA Games White Paper