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May 23, 2019 |

Top 5 Languages for Video Game Translation

The video game market generated revenues of $43.8 billion in 2018, an 18 percent increase from previous years. Thousands of companies develop and launch games in a wide range of international markets, from Asia to North America. With over 2.5 billion gamers always ready to try the latest version of their favorite game, developers need video game translation and localization to satisfy their public.

Video game translation enables game creators to overcome language and cultural barriers and deliver excellent products in multiple languages. There are no borders in the video game market.

The only problem is that end users are a very sophisticated audience. They have high expectations from game developers. From incredible graphics to excellent dialogues, everything needs to be perfect in all languages.

That’s why you should focus on quality, not quantity when carrying out video game translation and localization. A small number of correctly translated versions is way better than a lot of mediocre translations that ruin the game and spoil the atmosphere.

So with that in mind, here are the top languages for video game translation, based on game revenues.

1. Simplified Chinese (Mandarin)

Simplified Chinese is the official language in China, while the name Mandarin describes the spoken dialect. This language can help you connect to a high number of video gamers in the most profitable market.

China alone holds 41 percent of the global revenues from video games. In fact, the Asia Pacific region registered revenues of $51.2 billion in 2017. Even with the Chinese authorities slowing down the market last year, you’re still looking at a gold mine. There are over 600 million gamers living in this country!  

However, selling video games in China is anything but easy. Not only do you have to deal with a different culture, but competing against local video game developers like Tencent is hard. Your approach should involve complete video game translation and localization for the Chinese market.

You can’t simply translate the name of your game and adapt the dialogues. You may need to develop new characters and plots to engage Chinese video gamers. Also, storylines and dialogues should respect the cultural background of the local audience, as well as the rigid rules required by the authorities.

The Chinese video game market is highly regulated. The country is famous for its rigid censorship of video games. Without an excellent team of translators and localization specialists in place, you risk having your game banned from the country before you even launch it.

2. Japanese

Japan is the world’s third largest games market, right after China and the US. The country has around 67.6 million video gamers, who generated revenues of about $19.2 billion in 2018.

The Japanese video game business has its own particularities, as it values specific animation and encourages localization of gaming content. However, that doesn’t mean you need to translate everything. Japanese video gamers are so used to foreign video games that they expect a certain level of English in the games.

They’re familiar with many terms and prefer the original names for places, characters, tools, and weapons. Also, commands like “save” or “cancel” don’t need translation when localizing your game for Japan. On the other hand, you should pay attention to dialogues and tones of voice, which should be adapted to the Japanese culture.

Local gamers prefer both consoles and mobile devices for playing–Japan hosts the headquarters of some of the biggest console manufacturers, including Nintendo, Sony, and Sega.

3. Korean

South Korea is one of the most profitable markets on the planet for games. As much as half of the country’s population plays video games at least once a month, mostly on their smartphones and tablets!

Why else should you consider video game translation and localization for South Korea? The country generated $5.6 billion in revenues in 2018. And your costs of attracting new customers are pretty low since the majority of gamers have an appetite for this social activity.  

The South Korean audience has similar preferences as the Japanese. The gamers are familiar with both Chinese and English, so they expect foreign terms in their video games. Translating everything would be a mistake that could make the game sound unnatural. You should also consider the different styles of speech that vary with every region of the country when translating.

4. German

German is another top language for video game translation, thanks to the 44.3 million players in Germany. In 2018, the local video game market registered revenues close to $5 billion, so it’s worth the localization efforts.   

Germany is also famous for Gamescom, the world’s largest event for computer and video games. So, the local public is aware of the latest trends in the industry and knows what to expect from every new game that gets released.

Germans like their video games to be fun, immersive, and engaging. So, you should involve local experts with a passion for video games to make sure your video game has all these characteristics.

5. French

France is another profitable market for video game developers, with almost 33 million active players that spent $3 billion in 2018 on their hobby. The country is also one of the largest producers of video games, so you need a top-notch localization strategy to make it in this market.

Most French gamers are not teenagers looking to evade reality. They come from all categories, aged between 10 and 55, and play on their computers, smartphones, and consoles. They can play English games, but they prefer translated and localized versions of the video game, for stronger emotions.

When engaging in video game translation and localization for France, remember that the French don’t like change and they’re not particularly fond of English! However, they do enjoy slang, natural dialogues, and familiar cultural references.

Top Languages for Video Game Translation

Video game translation can help you reach broader audiences in foreign markets. However, translating and localizing your product for a multitude of countries and regions may not pay off without a cohesive strategy in place.

Start video game translation and localization with any of the languages above to increase your chances of success. All these countries have business potential, thanks to the locals’ appetite for video games and their willingness to spend on this social activity.