Mobile Game Localization is more than just Translation

Mobile game localization transcends a nuanced orchestration of cultural, linguistic, and contextual adaptations!

There are multiple definitions of the word ‘localization’. And their main ideas are mostly the same: Localization is a complex process of adapting a product to the demands of a certain market. It covers not only linguistic features, but also cultural, legal, and technical ones. Anna Matusova, Linguist Editor, shares why this is vital to remember when introducing mobile game localization to new markets and how it is done at ZiMAD

What you need to know about localization before the release 

Adapting a product goes beyond the mere translation of the text. It is certainly one of the key stages in preparing a product for a global launch, but there are plenty of nuances that may be critical for this or that region.

For instance, the formats of dates and times, price formation and payment methods, as well as measurement units, vary depending on the location. Taking account of as many factors as possible increases the chances for your game’s success in the new market.

Key areas in preparation for mobile game localization 

There are three main directions for the team to work on in product adaptation: translation of texts and UI elements, technical updates, and reworking the content to the legal requirements of a specific region. Let’s look into each of them:

  • High-quality translation. The interface, storylines, dialogues, and guides available in the audience’s language are the ticket to success for the game getting ready for the global launch. This is what makes the game easy to understand and accessible.

When translating the game, it’s essential to follow the rules and consider local customs, traditions, humor, dialects, set expressions, idioms, and wordplay. Grammar and punctuation errors, typos, inconsistent terminology, and inappropriate content will likely drive users away.

ZiMAD Mobile Game Localization
Mobile Game Localization by ZiMAD (Image via ZiMAD)
  • Technical aspects. Different cultures and regions use different formats for dates and times, measurement units, currencies, and formatting rules. Some languages may require additional space in the game interface, so prepare more time to test the correct display of strings and prevent text truncation. If you plan to localize your product to such languages as Hebrew, Arabic, or Persian, beware that it may require extra effort. 
  • Legal requirements. Pay thorough attention to the local rules of the region you plan to enter. Some countries may restrict certain types of content or the usage of certain symbols. It is also important to abide by rules and laws that regulate the processing and protection of personal data and copyright, as well as to consider age limits and game ratings.

Preparing for localization and analyzing the market: ZiMAD’s experience

Before the global launch, the team always sets a specific goal. For example, they want to present the game to as many players around the world as possible. And they begin to analyze the potential audience by studying the distribution of users and the volume of localization. Decisions are made only based on the statistics: high-quality product adaptation is an expensive and labor-consuming process.
Localization expenditures vary by product.

For instance, if we compare a hyper-casual game and a project with a prominent storyline that has characters and dialogues, the difference will be more than evident. The key metric here is ROI (return on investments), although, in the context of localization, the indicator is calculated indirectly.

How to calculate ROI

  1. ARPU (average revenue per user) forecast is formed. It considers the number of potential users in separate regions, the average income level of the population, and the number of competing products in the region.
  2. A hypothesis on ROI is derived, based on which decisions are made about expanding the geography of the existing project.
ZiMAD Mobile Game Localization
Mobile Game Localization by ZiMAD (Image via ZiMAD)

Let’s say, some Tier 2 and Tier 3 countries demonstrate an elevated interest in the product, but the costs for preparing an additional localization surpass the estimated income, or the payback rate is insufficient. In such a case, adapting the mobile game for these regions is not considered. 

Creating a game localization team: How to make the best choice

The modern world offers more and more solutions for localization-oriented tasks. Here are the most optimal variants of cooperating with specialists:

  • Creating an in-house team
  • Cooperating with multi-language localization companies
  • Hiring freelancers through searching for specialists at freelancing platforms and marketplaces

ZiMAD’s portfolio has lots of various apps, so we opted for a combined approach for entering new markets:

  • Our in-house Localization Department performs operational work and localizes materials from the product, marketing, HR, and legal teams. 
  • Additionally, we cooperate with a reliable multi-language vendor, thanks to which such a project as Jigsaw Puzzle Villa—with its fascinating and dynamic storylines, tons of dialogues, and text descriptions—is rapidly becoming available in Europe, Latin America, and Asia.
  • We also work with a whole team of trusted freelancers who can advise on the language, cultural, and legal specifics of specific countries in real time. Some developers still resort to machine translation and AI services, but we are convinced that these tools cannot cover our needs entirely.

Pitfalls on the way to localization

Ideally, it’s advisable to always work with the same team of specialists on a specific project—they are already aware of the game’s context and have its glossary. This approach provides for maximal narrative and logical coherence.

But sometimes, this is simply impossible. Thus, when hiring new external service providers, it’s necessary to equip them with as much detailed project information and materials as possible: screenshots, style guides, glossaries, and test builds, if applicable. If your partners don’t have access to the game they are working on, a lack of context will inevitably lead to misunderstanding and mistranslations.

ZiMAD Mobile Game Localization
Mobile Game Localization by ZiMAD (Image via ZiMAD)

When we work on separate characters, we thoroughly describe their background, speech patterns, and modes of address so that translation, in turn, conveys the full picture envisioned by the narrative designer.

Choosing the specialists to work on the project is another factor vital for localization. It is crucial to adequately assess the company’s capabilities and needs as early as during the planning process, as well as to analyze the available formats of interaction with specialists.

Perhaps the combined approach we apply at ZiMAD will bring you the results you want, or, more likely, you’ll create your formula for success by going through all the steps of preparing for the start of the work.

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