The objective in localizing a game is to sell it to game players in other territories. Game players are a smart and demanding group. No matter what language they speak, or where they live in the world, game players expect the best.
Localizing a game requires stealth. A good localization does not draw attention to fact that the game has been translated, it just works elegantly and seamlessly in another language. The purpose of localization is to immerse the player in the game, no matter what language they speak. In the localized version the UI must be as intuitive to use, the story must be as polished and the audio must be as engaging as it is in the original.
Determinates in game localization
There are two determinates in game localization - word count and audio file count.
Small games with approximately 20000 words and 500 audio files can be localized in four weeks of well planned translation, recording, engineering and testing. Medium games between 20000-50000 and 1000 audio files need planning and 5-8 weeks. Large games with more than 50000 words take 5-8 weeks in production but you also need to add a week of translation time for every 10000 extra words.
Models of Game Localization
There are two models in game localization - sim-ship localization and post-gold localization.
Sim-ship localization is the process that will give the game a simultaneous worldwide release date in all supported languages, it is a marketing event and is usually AAA territory, but it can be achieved for any game. Careful planning and a keen eye on costs are essential in the process. The localized versions are usually completed and in manufacture within two weeks of the gold date of the original version. It is best to plan the task at least six months in advance, but the real work of localization happens during the last 4 months of the development of the game. Translation begins 4 months before the gold date, audio recording happens 3 months before gold and full production is underway during the final 2 months of the development project.
Post-gold localization is the process of localizing a game after the original version has been completed. It is a more straightforward, it easier to cost and if you have a game with a small word count or flexibility on your worldwide release date then you can have a sim-ship too.
Levels of Game Localization
The level of localization a game receives is predominantly dictated by sales projections for the game in the targeted territory, thus the required level of localization can be determined by a country-by-country cost/benefit analysis. The genre of game also has an influence on how easy it is for players to understand the objective of the game and the level of localization may be dictated by this factor.
Shipping a game with a translated manual (a “doco” version) might be considered sufficient for a arcade racer but it will not engage and assist players of a story driven RPG. An RPG that is targeting a large language market might benefit from a “full” localization (user interface, in-game text, spoken audio, manual and support documents), a similar game targeting a smaller market might be better shipping as a “sub-titled” version (user interface, in-game text, manual and support documents), thus contributing to the bottom line by saving the cost of audio recording.