Games are designed to draw the gamer into a different world and immerse them into the journey as much as possible.
So, if you want to expand into new markets, effective localization is crucial. But how much does video game localization cost? Which services are involved? Can the costs be reduced in any way? And, what does this mean for online games, mobile games, and board games?
The Translation Cost For Online Games For PC And Console
When it comes to online games, there are two main categories the most translated games fall under.
AAA games like MMO & RPG usually encompass large scale games of high complexity. It involves elaborate storytelling and intricate character development, made for gamers who wish to immerse themselves in realistic scenarios, quests, and storylines. For this reason, localizing these kinds of games will run up a higher bill.
Indie games, on the other hand, tend to function on a different scale. While they can also include MMO and RPG elements, they are developed on a smaller scale and a smaller budget but make up for the lack of flash by introducing more unique features. Localizing them can still be costly considering that even the simpler games consist of multiple content layers and technical and cultural factors will always play a part, but luckily there is a way to keep costs down. More on that later!
The Translation Process For Online Games
Online games for PC and console include the translation of:
- The Under Interface (UI) elements such as player stats, names of items, locations, maps and non-playing characters (NPC)
- Any possible in-game conversation and dialogue between NPCs
- Content regarding quests and any other texts that guide the players through their gaming journey
- Specific instructions or prompts detailing how the players should interact with the world
The translation process itself is achieved through the Translation, Editing, Proofreading (TEP) Process, and is charged per word.
Possible Additional Services
Of course, most games are not a mere text on screen experience. Depending on the complexity, online games can have a myriad of other services attached to the translation itself. The most common ones are:
- Multimedia services such as voice-over and subtitling services. What does this mean for your bill? Voice-Over Localization is complex, and a single quote can encompass Production Hours, Output Hours, use of resources, and so on. The process can involve transcription, which is charged per minute, the translation per word, the prep work charged per hour, and the recording charged by the half or entire day. Subtitling goes from a transcription and translation stage as well.
Pro tip! Learn more about how the costs for voice-over and subtitling services are calculated in our blogs on multilingual voice-over: get in on the action, and, deciphering the cost of your subtitling services.
- Colors and images may also need to be localized depending on local preferences, sensitivities, or even personal appearance, depending on the types of characters your game will involve.
- Don’t forget that your game will also need to be introduced to other markets! For this, some clients also opt to have their marketing materials and packaging localized. For both of these, you will need Localization or Transcreation services. Transcreation is localization with the added spice of a “creative reimagining” of your product. This means you will develop content with real cultural potency that can strengthen the trust between you and your potential gamer.
Pro Tip! Transcreation or Localization? Which way to go? Learn the difference in our blog on when you should go for transcreation services, and when you should not.
The Translation And Localization Of Mobile Games
Mobile games are continuously rising prominence and the demand is increasing steadily in some of the most profitable markets. When it comes to the translation process and the cost, it tends to be of a much smaller scale compared to online games since mobile games tend to be less complex and usually require a fewer amount of additional services.
Here too, the translation is charged per word and the layers of content involved in the process are:
- In-Game Content: this is the content the gamer is exposed to while playing. In-Game content localization is achieved by translating the “Resource File” into each target language. Typically, the resource file is based on JSON, XLIFF or.XML Interchange file format.
- Non-String Content: this is non-textual information such as numbers, audio, currency, and so on. Mind that if you have audio or video, you will need the above-mentioned multimedia services as well!
- Finally, the Game App Store Content covers the marketing content the potential gamer is exposed to when considering the purchase of a mobile game. This includes being mindful of keywords, screenshots, game previews, and so on. Providing well-translated content could make the difference between a sale or no sale.
Pro tip! Speaking of sales, did you know that you can use localization services to get the most out of mobile game monetization as well? Read all about it in our blog Multilingual Mobile Game Monetization: Monetize, Localize And Conquer.
Online And Mobile Games Go Technical: Localization Engineers and QA
Game localization is about more than just language and cultural adaptations. It requires a strong team of technical experts to prevent and fix any possible errors. This is where localization engineers come in. They utilize the Translation CAT Tools to prevent these from interfering with the translation process and the eventual UX. Two main way in which they do this is:
- By preventing Text Expansion or Contraction issues. Certain languages take up more space than others. German, for example, can take up to 30 percent more space than English. The UI could be and even the performance could suffer. The localization engineer will use the CAT Tool to set a maximum characters’ length or limitations for each segment that will be translated into the target language(s).
- CAT Tools can also be used to insert Regular Expressions (RegEx). Non-translatable content is identified and locked so that only the translatable content is editable so that the translators cannot touch the code.
Since the Localization engineer’s job is so varied, this service is charged per hour.
So, what happens once the game is finished? Since games can consist of so many elements, a rigorous QA process applied by in-country natives with extensive subject matter experience is vital. This includes
- Linguistic QA where the language is checked for grammatical, contextual, and cultural correctness,
- Visual QA where any UI or UX issues are resolved including font and graphics
- Functional QA where the overall performance of the game is tested and any coding issues are resolved.
This service is also charged per hour.
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How To Keep Your Game Localization Cost Down
You may be surprised to learn that you can actually have a great effect on the price yourself by prepping in an efficient way, proving your Language Service Provider (LSP) with all the materials they need, and selecting an LSP that works with tools that can streamline the translation process. Here are some key ways in which game localization cost can be kept to a minimum!
- For any preparations on the developer’s end, they should make sure to avoid hard coding since this will make the translation process a lot more time-consuming. On top of that, consistency in the internal string structure will avoid a variety of bugs, and allowing for text expansion for up to 30 percent will boost the translation efficiency and prevent errors.
- Make sure to provide your LSP with a Glossary, Style Guide, and screenshots of any special features. The glossary consists of a list of approved translations, and the style guide makes sure the LSP is aware of any stylistic and linguistic preferences.
- Add comments to the strings if you feel you need to make something clear or there could be any ambiguity in the phrase.
- If you have an RPG game, it would be great if you could add a dialogue list.
- Next to screenshots and reference materials, it will be ideal if the translator can download and play your game to get a true feel for the context.
- Make sure the LSP of your choice uses a Translation CAT Tool enriched with a Translation Memory (TM) and can offer support in continuous translation. The TM will ensure that the continuous translation of your content since you will never pay for the same translation twice.
The Cost Of Board Game Localization
Now, we can’t only think about the online world. Board games have a very loyal global following as well, and accurate, engaging translations are just as important here. Of course, the components and interactions are slightly different.
In the translation process make sure to consider:
- The translation of the rules book, instructions, character descriptions and in-game texts and content. This service is charged per word.
- The packaging/box, cards, or any other visual elements part of the game will need to be fitted into a perfect mold as well. In terms of formatting and the above-mentioned Text Expansion considerations, DTP-Experts will be set the task to make sure the translated texts fit within the design perfectly and the layout answers the local expectations. This service is charged per hour.
- In this context, you may also want to consider graphics localization and adapt the colors and images to whatever market you are targeting. In order to confirm which graphical changes should be made, consult your LSP. They will provide native experts who know exactly what the local gamers will respond to.
Here too, proving reference material is crucial if you want to avoid a costly back and forth of feedback. Provide your translator or LSP with a way to play your game themselves (a physical version or print out could work), or if that is not possible, provide them with a video of someone else playing the game. Also, make sure that you remain available for any questions while your board game is being translated. But even if you provide all the materials and are available for inquiries, it is always good to plan for revisions to avoid timeline pressure and unwelcome surprises.
The cost of your game localization services will depend on the scale and type of game you are looking to translate. This includes the extra services you will need, but also how well you prepare, how translation-friendly your game is, how available you are for questions and the quality of the reference materials you share. But on top of that, it will also depend on the LSP and their ability to streamline the localization process. So, make sure to check their tools and processes before making a choice!
Laoret only employs native, in-country professionals experienced in the gaming industry. We select highly trained linguists located in the region our clients are looking to target, and Localization Engineers who can resolve any possible technical issues and deliver a linguistically, culturally, and technically sound product. In order to streamline the translation process and get the best possible result in the shortest time frame, we develop our own translation tools that can be customized to our client’s needs. This way, the cost of your game localization projects will always be at their most econimical.