Multilingualism is increasing in the United States and there are no signs of it slowing down. In fact, one in five American residents primarily speak a language other than English at home. In sheer numbers, this is a 94 percent increase since 1990, and a 32 percent increase since 2010. Chinese, Spanish, and Arabic speakers are the fastest growing groups in the United States, and the number of French speakers is increasing dramatically worldwide – particular on the continent of Africa.
The European Union boasts 24 official languages, along with more than 60 indigenous regional or minority languages. Examples include Basque, Yiddish, Catalan, Saami, Frisian, and Welsh. The EU has budgeted funds to ensure these minority languages continue to be taught, and the EU has specific multilingualism goals. Specifically, the EU wants every European to speak at least two languages in addition to his or her native tongue.
As the diversity of language grows, forward-thinking video game designers know that the best way to maximize game sales is by translating and localizing games for these various global markets.
The Impact of Video Game Localization on Global Sales
In the United States, 64 percent of households own a video game console – from brands like XBOX, Playstation, or Nintendo – and Americans spent a total of $36 billion on gaming in 2017. However, this is just a small percentage of the global gaming market. At the end of 2016, there were 2.08 billion gamers worldwide, and that number is expected to grow to 2.73 billion by 2021. However, a majority of these gamers prefer to play in languages other than English, which presents both a challenge and an opportunity for video game designers.
The traditional strategy of selling English-language-only games to non-English-speaking consumers was only somewhat successful. Using basic word-for-word translation services is not much better. Today’s most successful video game franchises, however, offer an immersive experience for players around the world, which means that cultural sensitivity is key – and failure to consider audience sensibilities has even resulted in certain games being banned in some countries.
In one notable example, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter 2 was banned in Mexico based on its negative portrayal of Ciudad Juarez. Other examples include a ban on both the electronic and the card versions of The Pokémon Trading Card Game in Saudi Arabia because the games energy symbols closely resemble the Star of David. China banned Command & Conquer: Generals, because the action including blowing up important Chinese landmarks, and Denmark banned EA Sports MMA. Interestingly, EA Sports MMA wasn’t banned for violence. Instead, officials elected to ban the game because it features in-game advertisements for energy drinks, which are illegal in Denmark. All of these issues could have been prevented with a comprehensive localization effort.
The Benefits of Getting It Right – the First Time
Chinese players are becoming a particularly critical market for gaming, and they are vocal in their demands for localization. In April 2017, sales for action-RPG Nier: Automata were going strong. Six weeks after launch, the game surpassed one million sales, and reviews were overwhelmingly positive. However, that trend took a rapid nosedive when the game was released in China without Chinese language support. Chinese players took to social media and feedback forums to voice their displeasure. Nier: Automata developers quickly course-corrected.
Fortnite developers learned from the mistakes of others. Instead of prematurely releasing the game in China without Chinese localization, they waited until translation and localization specialists had an opportunity to complete their work. Fortnite is now available in China, adding to the game’s global success by tapping into China’s $228.1 billion entertainment and media industry.
Remember – as a game developer, if you don’t localize your game, chances are that someone else will. In February 2018, five Chinese nationals were arrested for illegal translation of Japanese media. Pirate translator groups are glad to meet international demand when game developers won’t, which can be a huge loss for game developers.
Dynamic Language's team of video game localization experts want to help you ensure that your game is accessible worldwide and as successful as it can be. For more information, or to get started on your video game localization project, contact us here.