Since they appeared in the 1970s, the video game sector has grown, to become one of the most popular entertainment formats in the world.
For a game to be a hit worldwide, it has to be adapted to local in-country cultures and that can be a harsh endeavour –and of course potentially costly. This process is what we call “localization”. Not only the instruction manual, labels and packaging, but everything in the game must be translated and adapted to each country targeted by the publisher.
People prefer playing in their mother-tongue language, especially now with the “casual” games that are released on social platforms like Facebook. The target audience has broadened since the 1980s, when video games were made by fans for fans (or “hard core” gamers) mostly males in their teens or 20s. Now there are games specifically designed for kids (even toddlers), boys and girls, women, casual gamers, and so on.
The Asian market is experiencing huge expansion, with excellent titles released from Japan (from publishers like Konami, Square Enix and the monster Nintendo of course) and Korea, where professionnal gamers are celebrities. When the games coming from these countries always find an audience in other continents, it doesn’t work the same the other way around, more often than not.
Activision Blizzard had this problem with one of World of Warcraft’s expansions, Wrath of the Lich King (2008), that had to be modified quite importantly because of cultural symbolism around the living-dead (no showing of walking corpses or bones on playable characters) in order to adapt to the Chinese market.
Same thing for the First-Person Shooter series “Castle Wolfenstein” (formerly published by Muse Software, but now by Bethesda Softworks) with Germany: the game taking place mostly during the 2nd World War, it had to be modified for the German audience for obvious reasons, and the result was that the swastika appears only twice in the master game.
It’s a story of legislation and cultural differences. While the USA are okay with blood and gore, Germany for example forbids it in games released within its borders.
Moreover, a good localization would prevent your game from being famous for the wrong reasons, like Zero Wing (Taito, 1991) and the unforgettable “All your bases are belong to us”.
In short, localization is key if you want to export your game successfully.
Want to know more about Global Voices’ localization services? Click on the link! We are looking forward to working with you!