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Localization and Transcreation in Video Gaming

Localization and Transcreation in Video Gaming

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Gaming localization and transcreation have played a huge role in shaping up the gaming industry into the massive, multi-million-dollar sector that it’s known to be today. But now it’s high time they helped you build a global gaming empire for your game and business too.
If you are getting started and want to know what these processes entail (or how leaving them as mere afterthoughts can actually lead to trouble), this article is for you.

What’s Video Game Localization?

Gaming localization is the process of adapting a video game to make it more accessible to players from different regions around the world. In other words, it involves re-creating an entire gaming world to make it feel true to each and every player.
There are multiple elements that undergo alterations when localizing a video game, including:

In-Game Story Elements

The best type of game is one that draws players and keeps them fully engaged. Making changes to the in-game story elements, from locations, character names and weapons, is crucial, since those will impact how realistic or relevant the game script will feel to players. Sometimes, changes can be made to the game’s subtitle or the title itself.

Technical Elements

Localization of technical aspects such as times, dates, and units of measurements is key when it comes to video game development. This helps create a seamless and immersive gaming experience. You wouldn’t want to confuse a European player, because you neglected to convert pounds to kilograms in your American game’s adaptation, for example.

Marketing Elements

When your game has been localized, your overall marketing surrounding your game needs localizing too. However, market localization goes beyond graphic designs and advertisements. In most cases, it will include localizing the entire monetization process, since players from different localities practice different purchasing habits.

The Video Game Localization Process

Depending on the size of your project, target regions, and the number of culturally subtle elements, the localization process can be pretty straightforward or complex. The process overall entails the following stages:


By planning, you will be better positioned to complete your project timely and on schedule. Planning entails determining the countries (and the locale) you’ll be targeting and getting to know the culture of the players within that jurisdiction.

Creating a Localization Kit

This is a comprehensive data package that serves multiple purposes for your localization team. It provides them with the files that need translating and instructions on how they should go about your project. Additionally, it helps them gain a general feel about what your game is all about.

The kit should cover everything from intel on the characters, backstory, theme, and tone, to technical aspects such the format, font size, and the coding string. Remember that the more comprehensive the localization kit, the faster and more accurate the process.

Extract String into the Translation Management System (TMS)

The Translation Management System is a software used to help the localization team, including the project managers and game localizers, collaborate on the project. It helps make everyone’s job easier, guaranteeing your game will be translated faster, more accurately and consistently. After extracting text strings from the game, they are loaded into the software to address technical aspects specific to the project.

Translating Text and Non-Text Features

During professional gaming translations, the translators work on the text strings fed into the TMS, optimising them to meet the target audience’s jurisdictional requirements. Non-text features that might need also localization include themes, clothing, colour schemes, background, and other in-game features.

Localization Quality Assurance

During this stage, your team of experts wil test the game, evaluating it from a linguistics, UI/UX, and compliance perspective. It’s the final step in the video game localization process and perhaps the most important. It’s your final opportunity to assess where you might have gone wrong and fix it before you’re faced with the gnarly consequences of an improperly localized game, like bad PR to name just one.

For a more comprehensive look into the process all the way from A to Z, check out our Game Translation and Localization Definitive Guide.

What’s Transcreation in Video Gaming Localization?

Transcreation is the process of incorporating creativity and individuality into the game’s translations. It involves the effective adaptation of cultural references and in-game elements to the target audience’s language and culture.

When Does Transcreation Come into the Picture?

Transcreators are trained to adapt all audio and text language used in video games. Therefore, the list of items that can be transcreated is pretty extensive. Some major considerations include the names of powers, character names, jokes, character restrictions, weapon names, and cultural references.

Failure to replace those features to make them more culturally relevant and appropriate to the players can result in confusion. Subsequently, they might not find the game as thrilling or immersive. And as we’ve emphasized enough already, that’s not something we want.

The only caveat, however, is that transcreators must keep the localized version as close to the original as possible. In the end, the video game should not lose its originality appeal in pursuit of authenticity. The key to game transcreation is learning how to balance these dynamics out, something only true experts that have practiced the craft over and over can successfully achieve.

The Effects of Transcreation on the Video Gaming Experience

Besides making video games accessible to all gamers from different cultures globally, transcreation helps augment the overall gaming experience. The best game localization agency will go all the way to ascertain that the game meets the different markets’ needs and expectations.

But when the video game localizers fail at their job, the joy of an immersive gaming experience turns into the joy of …humour… in the worst way possible!

Video Game Transcreation Fails or How Context is Not King

Fatal Fury is one of the most humorous video game localization fails that made millions of fans howl with laughter at the sight of this:

Localization & Transcreation in Video Gaming

It’s so tough that “Your fists of evil are about to meet my steel wall of niceness”. Yet, nothing could ever beat the famous line “Blood is thick, but syrup’s thicker. Think about it”. Now that’s something to ponder on. The complexity of this statement alone must have used up about 61.5% of the overall contextual capacity of the game, don’t you think?

The next context buster is Aero Fighters 2 “I never thought I’d be frying over a jungle”. Whaaat?

Localization & Transcreation in Video Gaming

The script of this game is pure gold for its “bloken Engrish”. The humorous effect of typos is augmented by the fact that Spanky, the character speaking that line, is a dolphin… frying in a plane above the jungle canopy. 

But in the end, “A winner is you”- and no one could have said it better than the Pro Wrestling hero.

Localization & Transcreation in Video Gaming

This is perhaps the most popular mistranslated video game line in history. Because of its hilariousness, this line has made its way into gamers’ favourite memes.

Bottom line: When translating a video game, it is vitally important to walk into the shoes of the gamer. That’s what the translators and localizers toiling with the mis-localized games presented above failed at. They did not have a thorough understanding of the context.

Video game translators first need to view/play the game themselves to grasp the context at the deepest level possible. Only then can they re-create the story effectively in the target language.

If you are searching for game localization services, Pangea Global has both the tools and the manpower to take your video game global with gaming localization and transcreation – the right way. Our processes involve gaining a deep understanding of your game’s context through situational judgement. Contact our experts and find out how you can localize your video game in 75+ languages today.

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