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7 Tips for Successful Game Localization

Localizing mobile apps is already a challenge and it’s even more so when it comes to games. We interviewed both clients and translators and got their notes on how to best handle game localization.

The most popular category in any appstore is the games category. When you see a businessman sitting in a train deeply absorbed in his iPhone, most chances are you’re seeing a 35 year old kid, playing a game. It’s a much better way to start a busy day, or to take a break from the endless worries.

But games are not fun if they’re in a different language. You want to have them in your own language and enjoy the experience fully. And, when translated, games need to be natural. They should look like they were created especially for me, in my language – not translated from English.

ICanLocalize localizes dozens of iPhone and Android apps every week. A large number of those apps are games. We interviewed clients and translators and asked a simple question:

How do you handle game localization?

The short answer is:

Get the translators involved in the game and let them be creative.

For the complete answer, we wrote a game localization tutorial and named it BESMART (visit it to see why).

As a developer, the most important point to remember is that it’s not a fire-and-forget process. The translation is going to cost you more than 0.09 USD / word. That’s just the money. You must also be prepared to spend time and work with your translators.

When done right, the reward is worthwhile. A well-localized game can multiply your revenue. It’s not just translation. It’s like having new games for new countries.

The complete localization process looks like this:

Prepare material about the game
Don’t assume that the translators have access to it. Instead, you should prepare offline material that allows your translators to learn about your game. Even if translators do have the right mobile phone, having a written reference goes a long way in helping you get great results.
Choose translators that get it
Many translators will apply to translate your game. Take your time, interview them and choose the ones that understand the essence of your game. A game is fun and translators need to be players.
Communicate with your translators
As they work, translators will have questions and suggestions. Set some time aside to answering them in a timely manner. Remember that your translators are on a deadline. They would feel better about sending you questions if you respond quickly. The more information you give, the better work you get.
Review and review again
Once translation is complete, your translators and reviewers must go over it in the final application. Going over strings of text is not enough. You and they must see how it looks like in the app itself. If possible, let them play the game. Otherwise, take screenshots and send them.

You’re probably thinking now that this is pretty standard stuff for translating any mobile app, and you’re right. It’s just much more critical for games, where a few small glitches can ruin it, turning a fun game into funny.

Have a look at the complete game localization tutorial, to see what challenges others have had and how they overcame them.