World Wide Sourcing

A brief look at gaming localization

Author: Maciej Sobolewski

Although the beginning of the gaming industry dates back to the 1970s, it wasn’t up until the last decade that the industry exploded into the Internet Age and became a worldwide sensation.

During the 1970s, technology limitations made it impossible for developers to create complex games. Because of this the games often presented simple mechanics and graphics. Lack of any in game linguistic content resulted in games having only the original language. This changed drastically during the 1980s, when the biggest videogame companies in Japan such as Nintendo, Sony and Sega saw a huge opportunity to ship their games to other markets, especially to the English ones. With more linguistic content, games became available in two languages – Japanese as the original and English as the localized one. However, lack of experience in this field led to the birth of a completely new language – Engrish, which haunted the translators and produced quite a lot of funny mistranslations such as all your bases are belong to us or Conglaturation.

The 1990s were characterized by revolution and rapid development in gaming, ranging from graphics and bigger environments to vast, branched out plots with more character dialogues. This, combined with the growing demand for localized content coming from non-English markets, drove the necessity in having a specialized branch of software translation – gaming localization.

The following decade saw the consolidation of the gaming market and the emergence of well backed, AAA studios associated with major entertainment companies. Game publishers realized that the best way to grab the market was to ship a game alongside its localized versions in different languages rather than localizing a game after releasing the original version. Thus the simultaneous shipment was designed. This was the start of interactive online gaming.

Nowadays, the gaming industry has grown immensely, thanks in great part to improved broadband access that led to the explosion of online games. Game localization is a vital function of the ever-expanding global game industry as it’s responsible for half of the industry’s total revenue stream and according to Newzoo games market will reach $102.9 billion in 2017.

The future does look bright for the gaming industry.

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