How To Save On Game Localization
Developing an indie game is tough on the wallet - we get it.
And that doesn’t even include the cost of localizing your game in order to grow your audience.
While localizing an indie game can initially seem worthwhile - after all, there are so many more potential players you can reach - it also requires quite a big upfront investment.
However, there are ways you can mitigate the cost! Here’s how to get the most from your money when you localize your indie game.
DOs and DON'Ts to Keep Localization Costs In Check
1. Don’t start your project without first considering localization
Here’s the truth - localization will end up being much more costly for you if you leave it as an afterthought when planning out your game development.
If certain parts of your game aren’t designed or coded with localization in mind, you’ll either have to redo entire chunks of your game, or worse still, localization could be impossible!
In either case, the cost will be much higher than it needed to be.
2. Do keep localization in mind - starting right at the conception stage of your indie game
The best way to start any indie game project is by asking all the localization questions early on - and yes, bringing in a localization team!
Although various solutions exist to help indie developers localize their games, ranging from free to high-cost, we recommend onboarding professional game translators right away.
And while choosing a costly option may sound counterintuitive to saving money, you’ll actually save money in the long run by going with professional translators.
Why? Professional translators, when brought in early, will be able to better understand your project and notice potential localization pain points, which will give you the opportunity to address them before localization actually starts.
If you choose lower-cost options, you could end up with a poor-quality translation, because most low-cost localization agencies have the following drawbacks:
Agency translators are generalists and don’t specialize in games, which means they aren’t as familiar with the unique process of game development;
Most low-cost agencies pay their translators low wages and spend very little time understanding what your game is about or what context clues there are, which does not create the best conditions to deliver quality translations;
Your strings may get localized by different people, which could cause inconsistencies in the translation.
In addition to bringing on professional translators early, you should also figure out what needs to be localized and what doesn’t so that you can plan accordingly. Some examples to consider are:
In-game localization (character names, locations, etc.);
Marketplace content localization (game/app description, keywords, screenshot captions, etc.);
Press kit translation.
Keep in mind that you may be able to skip some of these elements depending on which languages and cultures you’re localizing to.
For example, if you’re localizing from English to French, you may not need to change the cultural aspects as much as if you were localizing to Chinese.
3. Don’t skimp on allocating time for localization
Yes, localizing your game is your translating team’s job.
However, it’s important for the core members of your development team to have some time allocated to collaborate with the translators.
If you don’t, two things could happen:
Either you’ll need to spend time with the translators anyway, which will put you behind schedule since you didn’t allocate time for it…
Or, your team won’t have any time to help your translators, which will result in a poor-quality localization.
This will be the case even with the most professional translators available! That’s because no one knows your game better than your team does, and your translators will need context tips from time to time to ensure you’re getting the best result possible.
4. Do create a localization kit
A localization kit will help your translators be more self-sufficient, which means less time is needed from your team to help guide them.
In order to plan the most cost-effective localization, create a game localization kit right from the start.
Here are a few pointers of what to include to help you get started:
Specify your target players;
Include your formatting preferences;
Describe the tone;
Provide character introductions;
Provide details about your game world;
Provide context hints;
Allow time for questions and answers.
5. Don’t hard-code strings that need to be localized
Remember this: game translators are not programmers.
If you hard-code your strings, your translators won’t be able to easily go in and do their work. Hard-coding makes everyone much too reliant on your programmer.
6. Do make your strings easily editable by non-developers
It’s important not only to avoid hard-coding strings, but also to avoid storing them in developer tools.
So what’s the best way to store your strings? Keep it simple by using spreadsheets or other word processors. Spreadsheets are the best way for a professional localization team to work with your strings.
7. Don’t create separate strings for words in one sentence
Speaking of strings, remember that sentence structures don’t work the same in all languages.
This means it’s better to localize sentences as a whole instead of breaking them up into separate strings.
Here’s an example: if you have weapon and item names with adjectives or attributes, translating them as standalone strings wouldn’t always make sense. If you’re translating to a language that uses gendered words, your grammar will be off.
For instance, if you have the following standalone strings:
the correct translation to French would be:
Blue potion = potion bleue
Blue shield = bouclier bleu
Blue arrows = flèches bleues
But if you were to translate “blue” as standalone, it would give you “bleu, which means the translation would be incorrect for “blue potion” or “blue arrows.”
In short, there’s no one fit-for-all translation when it comes to game strings. Keep sentences as a whole from the beginning, or risk having to make time-consuming changes during the localization process. Time is money, remember?
Other tips and tricks to help you mitigate your costs
Typically, localization teams charge per word. This means you should optimize your text and ask yourself whether every word is necessary.
If you find unnecessary text, cut it!
Additionally, find ways to communicate information in other ways, like using pictograms instead of words. Pictograms will work universally and won’t require localization.
Finally, make sure the source material is well written in the first place! If a non-native speaker - or someone on your team whose forte isn’t writing - is in charge of writing your text, make sure to have a proofreader look at it before handing it over to your localization team. This will save everyone lots of time and trouble.
Which languages should you localize your game into to get the most from your money?
Don’t just pick any random language to localize your game into!
Depending on what type of game you’re developing and what platforms you’re developing for, certain languages will be hit or miss.
If you’re developing a mobile game, consider:
If you’re developing a console game, consider:
If you’re developing a PC game, consider:
Apart from platforms, you should also consider the genre of your game. For instance, racing games, logic games, and board games are the most popular in Poland, while action games, platformers, and fighting games are the most popular in Spain.
So if you only have the budget to choose one language, pick according to your genre!
Lastly, consider what monetization model you’re using. For example, the free-to-play model is highly popular in China, whereas premium games are not. So even if you’re developing a mobile game, China wouldn’t be a good choice if your game is premium.
Be sure to read our DIY Market Research post to get more insight into which language you should pick for your localization!
Save money and offer the best localization for your global audience
With all these strategies in place, you can save a ton of money when localizing your game. But the most important way to get your money’s worth is to get a high-quality localization that your fans will actually love and recommend to their friends.