Profits, not loss: who to trust with your game's localization

Article Localization
Time to read: 8 minutes

How to spot a bad translation?

Are chatbots your friend in the game localization process from the Chinese language? Should you get a cheap translator? How to spot a bad translation? How to do high-quality game localization? Our specialists from the Chinese office answered all these questions and more.

China's gaming market is constantly growing. This is especially true for mobile games: according to Statista, the total revenue in this segment is expected to reach $34.66 billion in 2024. However, the rapid growth of the nation's gaming industry has a downside: more new games means greater competition for players’ attention. To get a game noticed, more has to be spent on advertising and promotion — but even this doesn't guarantee success, and the potential sales failure becomes even more painful.

In this situation, one effective way to reduce risks and significantly expand your potential audience is to explore new foreign markets. This means translating both the game itself and its store description as well as accompanying promotional materials.

How to enter a new market?

The first and most important thing to know about Europeans and Americans (both North and South) is that for them, the text is part of the product you're selling — especially when it comes to games. A poor translation often triggers a flood of negative reviews on Steam, Google Play, and the App Store, even if the gameplay and storyline are engaging. Players won’t bother spending hours trying to decipher incoherent character dialogs; they’ll move on to something else — after all, there’s plenty of choice.

The same goes for ads and store descriptions: they must attract the player. European players won't simply accept the developers’ claims that the game is amazing, immersive, gripping and so on. If the description doesn’t clearly explain what to expect, or if the protagonist’s story is presented in awkward language with silly mistakes, they will simply close the store and your marketing efforts will go to waste.

So how can you avoid the pitfalls of poor localization and capture the attention of players across the world? Let’s discuss together.

Chatbots are not your friend

Chatbots are not your friend

The first thing you'll probably think is: how can we do localization faster and keep the costs down? Naturally, you’ll start looking at automated translation systems: native solutions like Baidu or popular options in Europe and America like ChatGPT, Google Translate, and Bing Translate.

True, you’ll get quick results — but that's where the advantages of such services end. And then the disadvantages begin: your beautiful store descriptions that easily hook Chinese audiences will evoke boredom, confusion, or even laughter in translation; the in-game text will be so frustratingly unclear that it will barely hold the player's attention for a few minutes.

The thing is, automated systems can translate words or even sentences, but they can’t handle the three key tasks of translation: evoking the right emotions, considering cultural context, and perceiving texts as a whole.

Emotions are the key to successful marketing. Advertising and game descriptions appeal to the potential buyer's feelings, encouraging them to engage and invest — both financially and emotionally. In some genres, it's also important to create a sense of empathy for the characters. Unfortunately, even today’s best neural networks and machine translators still lose or distort the emotional component of the text.

Communication traditions differ from country to country, even within Europe. Germans expect strangers to address them with a special polite pronoun, while for Italians, such a form of address is "only for old people." Colleagues might address each other by first names in one country, by last names in another, and in some places even by job title. These nuances are well understood by people familiar with the culture, but automation cannot grasp them — and so a straightforward auto-translation can end up being funny, inappropriate, or even offensive.

Finally, neither a chatbot nor a machine translation service can have a holistic view of your game. They will treat it as a set of disparate text fragments, not caring about maintaining continuity between events and characters.

Automated translation systems are indispensable when you need to quickly understand the general meaning of something written or spoken in a language you don't know. However, they are completely unsuitable for translating a product you intend to sell successfully.

Get a cheap translator?

OK, you say: if the human brain is better for this task than AI, then let's find people who can translate everything quickly and cheaply. Even schoolchildren around the world speak English these days! And other languages are not anything new for them.

However, it's not that simple. In practice, "quickly and cheaply" usually means one of two things: either you’ll get the same automated translation (hopefully at least slightly edited), or the work will be done by low-skilled workers without any quality control. There have even been cases when cheap translators took on jobs in languages, they didn't know at all! In both cases, the result will not be much better (or even any better at all) than if you had run the text through Baidu or ChatGPT yourself.

Specialists who are proficient in both Chinese and one of the European languages, familiar with the cultures of both China and the West — these are people who have studied and traveled extensively. The best translations come from native speakers of the target country who have specialized education and work experience. They are highly valued in the market, and their services are not cheap. But their translations are the ones that lead to breakthroughs and profits in new markets.

Get a cheap translator?

How to spot a bad translation?

So, if the localization is no good, what will the player find? Many mistakes can be spotted immediately, even if you don't know the particular localization language. If the translation contains one or two of these errors, alarm bells should be ringing — and if there’s a whole "bouquet" of them, you can bet on the product failing in the target market.

  • Chinese punctuation marks (quotation marks, periods, and other such symbols) in the translated text. Remember that in European languages, both the symbols and the norms of punctuation are different from Chinese.
  • Untranslated fragments. During automated translation, technical glitches can occur, causing certain fragments of text to remain in Chinese. A hasty, careless translator may also skip some words or even whole paragraphs.
  • Incorrect text layout due to differences in length. The Chinese language is economical when it comes to screen space. What can be expressed in one or two characters in Chinese requires many more characters in European languages. Therefore, it often happens that translated text doesn't fit on a button, menu bar, or speech bubble. The text is cut off mid-sentence or overlaps with the next block. This is irritating for players.
  • Different translations of the same words. It can become very confusing if, for example, a weapon is called one thing in the "Training" section and another in the character's inventory. The more text in your game, the bigger the scale of this problem.
  • Grammar and spelling errors. These usually don't affect the meaning, but they can still spoil the player’s impression: your text will look like the work of a sloppy schoolchild, not a finished commercial product.
  • Hasty or emotionless speech of voice actors. A translation made on the cheap won't be suitable for dubbing. Firstly, phrase lengths won't be the same length as the original, and actors will have to rush. Secondly, if actors are struggling to even understand their lines, they won’t be able to fully immerse themselves in the character and draw the player into the game world.

And that’s not to mention semantic errors, terrible grammar and poor word choices that all make your text into a cryptic riddle. Nobody will want to meditate for hours trying to grasp the meaning hidden somewhere deep under strange constructions. If it's the game description for an online store, the players won't learn about everything your game has to offer and won't want to download it. And in-game texts are no better: if players can't understand what they need to do when completing tasks and feel blind while navigating the interface, they quickly lose interest in the game and write devastating reviews about the developers and publishers.

How to do high-quality game localization?

Have you spotted some red flags in your translators’ work and want to change them? Or have you decided to use quality translators right from the start, but not sure where to find them? The easiest option is to turn to a company specializing in localization services. You can learn more about high-quality localization and what it requires in this article.

Logrus IT employs high-class specialists, and translations are done by native speakers. Localization undergoes mandatory quality control: editing, checks using software tools, and, if desired by the customer, testing as well. This is how we deliver translations that ensure the same great gaming experience for everyone, regardless of their country. If you need localization not only of text but also of sound, Logrus IT can help with that too.

We continuously work with clients from China, and moreover, we have an office in Chengdu. We’ve already localized a range of successful projects including Lost in Blue (Volcano Force), Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (Moonton), Nova Empire (GameBear Tech), and Little Witch Nobeta (Pupuya Games, Justdan International).

Will game localization pay off?

Are you still wondering whether quality localization is worth the cost? Perhaps you're considering just sticking with Chinese after all? Or maybe only translating your game into English? Or simply put off expanding to global markets?

Despite its growing popularity worldwide, the Chinese language is difficult to learn and practically closes off access to your game for foreigners. As for English, proficiency levels vary greatly between countries. Where the level is low, not having a good localization means missed profits.

And consider this: many Chinese games have turned out to be more successful abroad than in China itself. Here are just a few examples:

  • The game Nova Empire has attracted players from the USA (38% of total revenue, 19% of downloads), Russia (9% of revenue, 25% of downloads), and Germany (12% of revenue, 6% of downloads).
  • As for Lost in Blue, the profitability breaks down as follows: USA — 32%, South Korea — 12%, China — 10%, while downloads are led by India (14%), Brazil (13%), and Russia (11%). This disparity is explained by the fact that players in some countries have considerably more spending money than in others. However, it's clear that, even in places where players are less accustomed to making in-game purchases, there is still interest in the game.
  • Mobile Legends: Bang Bang went down well in Indonesia (14% revenue, 39% downloads), Malaysia (13% revenue, 5% downloads), and the Philippines (12% revenue, 15% downloads).

Lost in Blue is the only game on this list to have generated any significant income in China itself. So, localization does pay off, but only if it's done well: by professional native translators working under the supervision of a company with many years of localization experience. And if you decide to translate your project into multiple languages at once, there's a bonus in store: Logrus IT works with all the world's major languages, and our managers will take on a significant portion of the organizational load.

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