A thousand and one pixels in video game localization

Video game localization is constantly evolving, but a question then arises: what is the future of localization in the ever-changing world of video games?

If translation and interpretation services are constantly evolving with the times, video game localization is undoubtedly one of the fastest growing branches of translation. Indeed, video games are a young medium, which opened to the general public in the ‘70s thanks to early arcades. Since then, the arrival of 3D and the popularization of the Internet have represented technological advances that have metamorphosed this medium in depth. And currently, the appearance of virtual reality and augmented reality announces a future full of promise, as much in terms of gameplay as game experience. A question then arises: what is the future of video game localization in this ever-changing world?

To answer this question, first of all it is important to understand that video games have become versatile. They adapt to the various technological supports available, going from Smartphones to tablets as well as computers and living-room consoles. From now on, we are no longer going to talk about a video game but video games. Is it the same for video game localization? Is there only one way to translate a game or does each type of game require its own localization process?

Tablet and Smartphone games

Video games for mobile devices have experienced the fastest growth in the industry. More than a dozen games are released every day, enriching an already abundant catalogue of software. Localization of mobile games, meanwhile, has its own specificities. It must adapt to a limited display for small screens, a significant limitation in the number of characters, as well as a wide variety of products.

From the famous MMORPG Order and Chaos to the timeless Subway Surfers, the range of the types of games available on the market is extremely large and more than enough to satisfy the curiosity of the casual gamer as well as to indulge the appetite of the most devoted hardcore gamer . The common point between all these mobile games is still the need for simultaneous international release, which imposes extremely tight delivery deadlines on the localizer. In fact, of all the development stages of video games, translation is often the last. As a result, time constraints are unfortunately sometimes not respected at the expense of the product’s final quality.

The Triple A games

Unlike mobile games, PC and console games have the most human resources, financial means and technological power. The flagship of this category, symbolizing the exponential growth that the video game market has experienced, is the so-called “Triple A” game. Because if video games are a young medium, they have reached a certain level of ambition which is undoubtedly inspired by its big brother: cinema. The narration, the quality of the staging and the attention given to the dialogues are parameters which make the border between video games and cinema more and more blurred. Except that video games remain interactive.

The localization of these big productions has become a real challenge for localizers, a challenge flirting with artistic creation. In order to meet a growing demand in this area, specialized studios have emerged in the localization market. Assassin Creed, The Witcher or even Uncharted are all prestigious franchises needing hundreds of thousands words dubbed and a ratio of 2500 words per day for each localizer involved in the project. Where possible, the studio ensures coordination between voice actors and translators responsible for their lines of dialogue.

Virtual and Augmented Reality

Announced at its release as a revolution in progress, the VR headset (Virtual Reality) is trying to get ahead, including the PlayStation VR, which has standardized the technology. In practice, for the localizer, the change lies in the decrease in the amount of textual in game content. Video game localization would then focus on the images and the sound, thus adapting the experience to each audience according to its culture and language. If augmented reality still hasn’t broken into the video game market despite the promises from HoloLense by Microsoft, in the translation field, Google took the lead in 2014 with the development of the technology Word Lens Translator. This allows an instant translation of any text captured from a camera. The tool also supports pictures, voice or even handwriting.

Technology is evolving and in its wake the localization is doing the same. The two are closely linked and it will be very interesting in the future to see the actual impact of these new technologies on the translation market.

Translation into English: Chloe Findlay

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