How Does Localization Impact Video Game Discovery and Reviews?


Video games are a global phenomenon, transcending borders and cultures. But for a game to truly resonate with players worldwide, it’s not enough to have an engaging storyline or cutting-edge graphics; it also needs to speak their language, both literally and figuratively. Localization, the process of adapting a game for different markets, plays a pivotal role in achieving this connection.  

Let’s explore how localization impacts video game discovery and reviews, shedding light on its importance in the gaming industry. 

How Localization Amps Video Game Discovery 

Before we delve into the impact of localization on reviews, let’s first understand its role in expanding a game’s reach. Localization enables early discovery by tailoring the game and its related promotional content to specific regions, thereby increasing its accessibility. Quality standards and Localization Quality Assurance (LQA) testing ensure that the community can focus on enjoying the game when it’s released, free from language barriers. Investing in localization, aligned with market demands, is crucial for capturing new audiences effectively. 

The Impact of Good and Bad Reviews 

Localization isn’t just about making a game accessible; it’s also about creating a consistent gaming experience. Positive reviews serve as an essential channel for spreading the word faster, attracting content creators who may want to try and broadcast their gaming experiences. These specialized peer reviews, apart from official ones, provide valuable insights into the game’s appeal. 

Reviews hold immense significance in the gaming world, serving as feedback, influencing game ratings, and impacting a game’s position in digital stores and suggestions. Positive reviews can lead to more players enjoying the game, spending more time and money on it, recommending it to others, and eagerly awaiting subsequent releases. 

On the flip side, negative reviews often point to bugs or issues with localization. In fact, about 16% of user reviews mention localization in one way or another. Whether it’s the absence of localization or poor execution, such problems can have dire consequences. Gamers may abandon a game if they cannot immerse themselves in its world due to language barriers. If the localization is subpar, players may complain in their reviews, forums, and social media, leading to a lack of recommendations and, ultimately, abandonment.  

How Video Game Localization Can Go Wrong: Examples 

Localization can be a double-edged sword. When done right, it can open doors to new markets and enhance the gaming experience. However, when done poorly, it can lead to disastrous outcomes. Here are some examples of where localization can go wrong: 

  • Weak cultural references: Most video games rely on a compelling storyline to engage players emotionally. If the localized content fails to convey the essence and emotional impact of the narrative, it can alienate the audience. Furthermore, overlooking language nuances, like slang and cultural references, can make the game feel disconnected from the local culture, hindering the building of a loyal following. 
  • Getting banned: Some markets have strict regulations governing what can and cannot be depicted in video games. Ignoring these local policies during localization can lead to legal issues, delays in launch, and missed market opportunities. For instance, the United Arab Emirates and Japan have stringent rules that developers must navigate carefully. 
  • Poorly executed censorship: In some cases, local regulations may require game developers to censor or remove certain scenes or plot elements. Simply cutting out content without proper replacement can disrupt the storyline and result in a less enjoyable gaming experience. This can frustrate players and deter them from future releases. 

A real-life example of a localization mistake can be found in the game Call of Duty. In one level, the English line, “Remember, no Russian,” serves to prevent terrorists from blowing their cover while they massacre an airport full of civilians. In the Japanese version, it was translated to “Kill them, they’re Russian,” causing confusion among players. 

The Takeaway 

The impact of localization on video game discovery and reviews cannot be overstated. It’s not just about translating words; it’s about creating an immersive experience that resonates with players worldwide.  Positive localization feedback often correlates with overall positive game reviews, higher ratings, and better positioning in digital stores and charts. When players encounter quality localization, they also tend to give higher ratings. Localization is a win-win for everyone.  

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