What exactly is video game localization?

We have often talked about video game localization and how to avoid the most common mistakes, but what exactly is video game localization?




In this blog we’ll go over:

 – What is video game localization

 – What are the differences between translation and localization

 – Why is localization so important in video games

 – The benefits of localization

 – FAQs

What is video game localization?

Language localization is the process of adapting a product’s language to cater to a particular country or region. Localization is much more than just translation, as it involves a full adaptation of the product to reflect the linguistic nuances, cultural norms, and legal requirements of the target market. Video game localization aims to adapt game content for different languages and cultures, to ensure that content is accessible, enjoyable, and culturally appropriate. Video game localization is crucial for developers and publishers that are looking to venture into international markets.

Video game localization encompasses elements like:

 – Text translation: This includes all in-game text, such as dialogue, menus, user interface, instructions, and any written content.


 – Cultural adaptation: Adapting content to fit cultural norms and expectations, which can involve modifying character names, costumes, gestures, and in-game references to avoid cultural insensitivity or misunderstandings.


 – Voice over and audio localization: Dubbing or subtitling in-game dialogue into the target language, which may or may not include casting voice actors, depending on the game.


 – Visual and graphical localization: Adapting visual elements to reflect cultural preferences, which might include changing artwork, icons, or even character designs to be more appealing or appropriate for the target market.


 – Legal compliance: Ensuring the game meets the legal and regulatory requirements of each target country, including age ratings and content restrictions. Games that don’t meet these requirements may face censorship or even bans.

Translation vs Localization: What are the differences?

Translation and localization are two closely related processes, but they have many differences. While translation addresses merely text elements and it’s based primarily on language, localization on the other hand, involves the adaptation of many other aspects, based on culture, traditions, customs, and taboos. 


While a good translation still values meaning and intent, it may fall short in providing an immersive experience, which is crucial for video games. That is why localization is so valuable for website and online businesses, as it helps provide an engaging experience for customers and visitors.

Why is localization so important in video games?

When talking about video games, it’s all about player immersion and experience. The video games that are closest to our hearts, are the ones in which we get lost in, where we don’t feel the distinction between the real world and the gaming world. When a video game feels as if it was made just for you, you can reach the highest level of engagement.


Localization ensures that the video game is not only suitable, but accessible and resonates with each one of the target markets they intend to reach. 


Imagine playing a video game, where you don’t fully understand the dialogues because they are poorly translated, you struggle to navigate through the menus because the translated words don’t fit into the designated spaces, and you don’t understand puns and wordplay because they are culturally and linguistically based. Logically you would feel like an outsider, like you don’t belong there.


That’s when localization comes in, localization providers adapt puns and wordplay in a way that feels familiar, funny and understandable to you, they make sure that the translation is accurate and that after the translation the words still look crisp inside the UI.


They take all those culturally and linguistically bound elements, and adapt them to your specific culture, making the game accessible and enjoyable. Additionally, they adapt marketing content, to appeal to the different markets and make sure that the game is culturally sensitive and appropriate.

What are the benefits of localization

With localization, come numerous advantages, both for players and developers/publishers.

Player’s benefits

Good localization should not only make a video game accessible, but also engaging and enjoyable. The benefits that players get from localization are many, all revolving around engagement and immersion. 

Thanks to localization, players can feel as if the game was made specifically based on their cultural background, language and preferences, making them feel part of the game. With skillful adaptation, players can truly enjoy every aspect of the game, laughing at puns, enjoying wordplay, relating to their characters and their story.   


Developers/Publishers’ benefits

One may think that the benefits of localization extend only to players, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Localization, when done correctly, can yield significant returns both to developers and publishers.

Increased visibility

Localization can have a huge impact on the visibility of a video game. Platforms like Steam will favor localized games, and will recommend them based on the language preference of users. On a platform where over 60% of its users don’t speak English as their native language, localization can be a difference maker. Additionally, search engines as well will show results based on language preference, so having localized content will significantly improve a game’s visibility.

Improved reputation

Localization aside from extending your reach and fanbase, will have a positive impact on your game’s reputation, and consequently on your brand. When localizing your video game for different audiences, you’ll show potential customers and players that you care about them and their culture, granted the localization is carried out carefully and respectfully. Conversely, a lack of localization or a poor translation could put your brand on the bad side of reviews.

Impact on sales

Don’t call me captain obvious on this one, but did you know, and surveys can prove it, that language plays a significant role in customers behavior? A study called “Can’t read, won’t buy” it was observed that:

 – A significant portion of consumers rarely or never buy from English-only websites.

 – A large percentage of consumers are more likely to purchase products or services if the information is available in their native language.

 – Consumers are more likely to repurchase from a brand that offers post-sales support in their language.


In the end, we can see why video game localization is so important for both players and developers/publishers. The magic of localization is all about making games more than just playable; it’s about making them relatable and enjoyable on a personal level. 


For developers and publishers, diving into the world of video game localization isn’t just a nod to inclusivity; it’s a smart move that opens doors to global markets. Next time you find yourself lost in a video game, hooked to its characters and story, think about the complex work behind it, and the localization specialists that made that possible.


What's the difference between translation and localization?

Translation involves converting text from one language to another, focusing primarily on language accuracy. Localization, however, goes beyond this by adapting the game's content to fit the cultural context, norms, and preferences of the target audience, to ensure the game is fully accessible and enjoyable to players from different regions.

Why is localization considered crucial for the success of video games on the global stage?

Localization plays a pivotal role in ensuring a video game resonates with players across different cultures and languages. It enhances player immersion and experience by making games more accessible and engaging, thus widening the potential market reach. Well-localized games can significantly increase a game's appeal and success in international markets by making players feel valued and understood.

What are the main benefits of video game localization for developers and publishers?

For developers and publishers, localization can lead to increased visibility, improved reputation, and higher sales. Localized games tend to perform better on platforms that cater to a global audience, as they can be recommended to users based on language preferences. Furthermore, offering games in multiple languages can attract a broader audience, fostering a positive brand image and loyalty among players.