Video Game Translation Services: Why are they so Challenging? Why Localization is Key?


Aug 1, 2023
In October of 1958, Scientist William Higginbotham designed what is believed to be the very first video game. This game was a basic tennis simulation, resembling the iconic 1970s title Pong. It garnered considerable attention during an open event at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. As you can see, video games have had a very humble beginning. Arcades were the most common grounds for playing video games. But, as time progressed the popularity of video gaming increased considerably. And today it is arguably one of the biggest industries in the world with no signs of slowing down.

As gaming consoles came into the fold, things became even more expansive. The PlayStation 2 alone had over 8000+ gaming titles and these are the ones that were registered. There were countless other games as well. Currently, with enhanced mobile phone technology, gaming is for everyone with a smartphone. This globalization and emerging demands from different regions around the world have increased the demand for video game translation services.

Moreover, simple translation doesn’t really get the job done. Game companies prefer to hire professionals who can also provide localization services. Because games need to be relatable to keep the gamer's retention. Moreover, games are also like movies and seasons, they have a continual storyline, which means they need to be accurately translated.

Understanding Video Game Localization?​

A game that has undergone localization is more likely to strike a chord with players. Resulting in better player engagement, positive word-of-mouth promotion, and ultimately, an increase in sales and revenue. Furthermore, localization shows audiences that they are valued and so is their cultural sensitivity. This cultivates a favorable reputation for both game developers and publishers.

This approach enables players to discover reflections of themselves within the virtual realms they explore, resulting in a gaming experience that is more immersive and relatable. Game localization includes different aspects of game development, including linguistic changes, cultural relevancies, and functionalities within the game at times.

Linguistic adaptation guarantees the precision of in-game text and conversations. Whereas cultural adaptation is focused on references, wit, and societal norms to align within the intended culture. Functional adaptation, on the other hand, includes modifying aspects of gameplay and mechanics to match the culture of the targeted audience.

Why are Game Translation Services so Challenging?​

Any translation agency would tell you that among the most difficult fields for translation, gaming has to be right up there with the worst. Most importantly because of deadlines, reputation stake, and since games are meant for millions of people as target audiences. Let’s discuss some of these challenges in detail:
  • Culture & Grammar​

When adapting games for a global audience, game developers confront various obstacles. Constraints in terms of time and budget occasionally result in rushed or substandard localization attempts. Thereby jeopardizing the ultimate quality of the product. Often, translating idiomatic expressions, jokes, and wordplay bring about linguistic hurdles that require the attention of specialized localization teams. Cultural differences also give rise to challenges. What might be deemed acceptable or amusing in one cultural context could be deemed offensive or misinterpreted in another. Attaining the proper equilibrium between cultural adjustment and upholding the game's core essence requires careful navigation. Additionally, technical difficulties emerge when transforming text into languages. Especially, with distinct character sets or structures, potentially influencing game performance and visual components.
  • The Un Translatable / Non Translatable​

The majority of translation tasks entail particular phrases, words, or ideas. That inherently lacks direct translations in the specific target languages. The better the creativity of your content, the higher the likelihood of encountering this issue. This situation is common in games featuring intricate narratives, scripts, and in-game conversations. For example ‘’the Witcher’’ or the ‘’Far Cry’’ series for instance. When confronted with elements that resist translation into your intended language. It becomes crucial to come up with alternatives that do.
  • Loss of Creativity and Blandness​

The non-translatable phrases are not the only problem here. More than often, you will find plenty of funny references, creative language, and concepts. That makes no sense when you translate them or they lose their edge. Gaming translation is not a direct system, here the translator must possess local culture language. This includes history, slang, and creative concepts that can completely replace those bland translations. In these cases, it’s more about knowing the cultural references than directly translating something.
  • Keeping Consistency​

Adapting a game through translation can necessitate alterations across various aspects of the experience, including user interfaces, icons, and symbols. Furthermore, it may include localizing other gameplay elements. Such as jokes that don't translate effectively or characters, along with storylines that might not align with specific markets. Moreover, it can be just downright offensive. The extent of the modification of language and game aspects depends upon the complexity of the language used. On one hand, certain users want a completely authentic experience, while some users prefer something more relatable to their culture. The key is to find the right formula of balance to create something, that has something for everyone. And for best results, you should hire game localization services.


As you can see video game translation is a highly important aspect of globalizing your games. Also for reaching larger audiences consisting of millions of people. The translator themselves must possess creativity, a thirst for games, and most importantly the patience to deal with the project in a professional manner. Time constraints also further add pressure on translation service providers. But when all is done and dusted, companies can rack up millions of dollars as a result. Just look at PubG, FIFA, Call of Duty, and many mainstream titles adopting this strategy. Joyfreak is amazing platform to get information about gaming tips, game pricing.

Latest content