How Long Does It Take To Localize An Indie Game?
So you’re planning on localizing your indie game, but you’re not sure how much time to schedule in.
While the timing of a project can vary drastically, you can estimate how long a project might take based on a few factors. Let’s discuss this!
What steps are involved in localizing an indie game?
Before we can explore how long it takes to localize a game, it’s important to be aware of what goes into these types of projects in the first place.
Keep in mind that game localization should be anything but a speedrun. The more time you allow your localization team to work on your project, the better the outcome will be. And the better the outcome, the happier your players across the world will be!
Stage 1: Project Preparation
Your localization team organizes all the proper files in preparation for your translators to get to work. This is the point when you should supply them with a game localization kit.
Stage 2: Translation
Your translators start localizing your strings. During this time, your team should be available to answer their questions as needed. We typically use an online Q&A spreadsheet for this purpose.
Stage 3: Proofreading and Editing
The translators proofread their work. An editor with a fresh look on the translation can also be brought in to polish things even further.
Stage 4: Delivery
The files are handed over to your team for implementation.
Stage 5: Release
Your fully localized game goes out into the wild for your fans to enjoy!
Guidelines to schedule time for your game localization project
Several variables will influence how long your localization project will take:
How many languages are you localizing to?
Are your strings well organized?
How much graphic text does your game contain?
Does your UI take into consideration different sentence lengths for different languages?
Do you need special fonts to localize your languages?
In the right circumstances, you can expect approximately 1500–2000 words per translator, per day.
However, this will take longer if you don’t have a solid localization kit ready for your translators. Make sure you set aside some time to gather all the reference materials you will need before starting the project.
The bigger the project, the more difficult it will be to accurately estimate how long localization will take—think 10,000 words or more.
Allow a minimum of a week for every 10,000 words, but consider scheduling more time, just in case.
A note on expected turnaround time
Here’s one detail you should be wary of: don’t rely too heavily on the expected turnaround time. The results of trying above all else to meet a difficult deadline can be disastrous for your project!
If you’re working with a generalist translation agency, they’ll probably ask their translators to work longer hours or onboard more translators to meet your project’s hard deadline. Both of these solutions will negatively impact the quality of your game.
Sometimes, the variables of your project will result in a longer turnaround time, so you need to temper your expectations.
Of course, the more translators you have on board, the faster your localization will get done! However, the best way to achieve this is by hiring translators who work within the same team. Otherwise, you may get consistency issues and then have to spend more time and money fixing these problems. In such circumstances, an editor is therefore pretty much mandatory in order to avoid such trouble.
When is your game getting localized?
If your text is 100% locked, it will make the process smoother and cheaper.
However, if changes are still being made to the text, expect a longer localization time and a more expensive project, since you will need to pay to translate the changes you make to your text.
How responsive are you with Q&A from your translators?
It will take longer to translate your strings if your team doesn’t answer your translators’ questions promptly. That’s because they will remain blocked until you can help them.
Depending on the time zone differences with your localization team, this can delay the delivery of your translated files.
You should schedule some daily time for your development team to answer questions as they arise so that the localization team can keep up the pace without getting bottlenecked.
The more responsive you are, the more likely your translators can meet your deadlines!
What a perfect localization timeline can look like: A real project example
When we localized Ghost of a Tale, which was a relatively word-heavy indie game, it took us 30 days of work to localize 80,000 words into six languages.
But it could definitely have taken more or less time under different circumstances.
For one, we had a single contact person, which eases communication. Plus, it so happens that SeithCG answered our questions very quickly and thoroughly, which helped us immensely in meeting the deadline.
SeithCG needed the localization ready rather quickly, so we put two translators on each language. This required us to add another editor to ensure consistency, which came at an additional cost.
We handled thousands of files, exchanged more than 10,000 messages internally, and asked a total of 500 questions to the dev team!
The fact that it took “only” 30 days for our 12 translators and six editors to localize Ghost of a Tale is, according to our experience, a good example of a project meeting a reasonably tight deadline thanks to great preparation and smooth communication.