Should I Localize My Game into English First?


Video games are created worldwide by diverse teams and can originate in any language. However, when developers want to go global, they often consider localizing their games into English, even though it isn’t the most widely used language in gaming. Not choosing the right localization focus can be a big mistake and it’s important to explore whether starting with English localization is the right choice for your game.  

Let’s take a closer look together.  

Should I Begin by Localizing My Game into English? 

When you decide to localize your game into different languages, you’ll encounter some challenges. Imagine your game was initially developed in Japanese and you aim to translate it into ten languages. Finding skilled translators proficient in both Japanese and the target languages, along with knowledge of your game’s theme can be tough. The costs for these translators can also vary significantly due to the availability of experts in specific language pairs. 

Starting by translating your game into English might be a wise move as this source content is more readily translatable into other languages. It’s usually easier to find translators who can translate from English into their native language. However, this step requires caution since errors in the new version may affect other translations. To ensure quality, make sure you hire an experienced vendor and try to create resources that document the game’s original intentions, name meanings, cultural references, and changes made during the translation. This information will be invaluable, especially for languages that offer more flexibility in preserving the game’s intentions. 

Why Cultural Adaptations Matter 

Let’s go back to the example of a game developed in Japan and localized into English. Beyond language translation, cultural adaptations are required to resonate with the new audience. These adaptations can vary for each target language, emphasizing the need for a native language consultant. This consultant can be an in-house resource or a designated point of contact to address cultural nuances in the project. Understanding each culture’s subtleties ensures that the game is not just linguistically accurate but also culturally relevant, making it more engaging for players worldwide. 

Considering the Reach of Games in English 

Starting with English localization is a good beginning, but it shouldn’t be your final step. Consider the following: 

  • The ultimate goal: While starting with English can be beneficial, it’s essential to remember that localization shouldn’t end there. The conventional approach of thinking about localization priorities is evolving. Different language markets are growing, providing opportunities to reach a broader audience
  • Varying proficiency: Out of the 1.35 billion English speakers globally, only 360 million are native speakers. Non-native speakers who aren’t fluent may face difficulties when playing games in this language. This can impact their gaming experience and affect their reviews and perceptions of the game. 
  • Realistic localization: It’s impossible to localize a game into every existing language. To maximize your game’s reach, prioritize languages based on your target audience and market analysis. 

The Takeaway 

In the dynamic world of game development, the decision to start by localizing your game to English is a significant one. While it offers advantages like a broader pool of translators and potential players, it’s essential to remember that English isn’t the exclusive language of gaming. The cultural adaptations and linguistic nuances needed for successful localization should not be underestimated. Furthermore, view English localization as just the initial step in making your game accessible to a global audience. Ultimately, your decision should align with your game’s target audience, budget, and commitment to delivering an immersive gaming experience for players worldwide. 

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