The need for localization
Around 64% of households in North America own a video game console, add the fact that one out of every five Americans primarily speak a different language other than English in their own homes. According to statistics, the majority of these gamers tend to favour playing the games in their native language; this situation presents as both an issue as well as an advantage to many game developers.
In recent times, releasing games in English only format to non-native English speakers has been met with uninspiring market results. Nonetheless, using free and accessible machine translation services did not fare any better. The constant reformation of local colloquialism and slight nuisances on native languages can essentially be properly localized by native speakers or experienced bilinguals or polyglots. Games have been outright banned in certain countries due to the failed attempt in accounting for these variables and the massively differing cultural sensitivities of each region.
A few examples of how a properly localized game has avoided negative reception are:
- Winemaking mini-game converted to a Juice party
In an Arabic localization of a cooking game on mobile, the minigame was translated to a juice party since alcohol is a cultural taboo in Arabic regions.
- Gay relationship re-written into friendship
In the western world, it is widely accepted for a couple to be in a gay relationship. However, that is not the case in most traditional or religious regions.
The most prolific example of this is Final Fantasy 9 by Square Enix. In most of the regional versions, the main character’s name is Zidane. However, in the French, Italian and Spanish version, the character’s name was translated into Djidane, Gidan and Yitan respectively. This was done to avoid any misplaced association with the famous football superstar Zinedine Zidane.