How the Gaming Industry Relies on Localization

by Drew Evans
3 Minute Read

The gaming industry is home to hundreds of millions of users worldwide. But as game developers are based in certain regions and locales, the challenges they face when preparing a game for launch start to mount. As a result, they often rely heavily on localization to ensure that their games are primed for international success.

How exactly does localization play into game development, and what are some of the key considerations that developers think about when building their games? We’ll break down a few of the crucial elements to gaming localization below.


More Than Just Text

One of the major differences when localizing games is that the pieces span far beyond just text. While it might be easy to think that in-game subtitles or text are the only pieces to localize, there are plenty of other pieces that need attention as well.

For example, game code itself needs to be translated so teams are able to continue work and development independently of their locale. Flexible design is important - that way, you allow for time formats, units of measurement, special symbols, and more too quickly and easily be updated depending on the locale.

Another key example is relevance. Certain elements of a game, like the visual UI, characters, themes, need to be localized to ensure that all international markets understand the game. Do you need to change the way an environment looks or feels? In some cultures, references to symbols may be considered good luck, evil and demonic, or simply too foreign to understand. Including those may be enough for one local not to feel immersed, leading to a not-so-great game.


Preparation Matters

Gaming localization has so many moving pieces and it’s a long and difficult process. As a result, it requires patience and planning ahead of time. To start, it’s important to understand the steps required: translation, editing, proofreading, integration, cultural adaptation, quality assurance, and possibly more (depending on your specific situation).

Next, understand the tools that you’ll need to be fully prepared. If you don’t have a localization kit (or ‘lockit’ for short), that’s one of the most important tools that you’ll need. This kit serves as the source of truth for your translators as they work on localizing your game. It should include every important detail surrounding the game and its development to make sure that your translators can understand your brand and properly localize.


Look to New Channels

Gaming localization is a more unique case that may require more work than you might expect. Taking a step back from the game itself, the traditional considerations also need to be thought about, like sales, marketing, product manuals, and support materials. Adding those to the already long list of steps needed to localize a game, and you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you.

That said, new locales offer new opportunities for revenue streams. According to Newzoo, the gaming industry is estimated to be nearly $37 billion - and that’s just the United States alone. Combined, the top five markets total nearly $109 billion, leaving plenty of opportunity for gaming companies to grow, if localized correctly. And with the mobile markets growing rapidly, that opportunity continues to grow as well.

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Ultimately, game localization isn’t easy - and it’s something that requires planning and proper execution. But as the gaming community continues to expand globally, it’s all but necessary to ensure that your game can enjoy international success.