Adding a Local Flavor to Global Success

Art

Localization is a vital element of the success of video games such as regional hit “The Witcher” by Poland’s CD PROJEKT RED.

Photo by charnsitr / Shutterstock.com

Most Hungarian localization professionals adapt English language international video gaming products into the steadily expanding Hungarian market, characterized by the business model of continuous content delivery. Besides machine translation, high quality localization of story-driven video games is still based on the simultaneous teamwork of human language experts and hardcore gamers, market players tell the Budapest Business Journal.

The global video gaming industry is showing marked growth, especially during the present coronavirus-induced shutdown, according to leading provider of games and esports analytics Newzoo. The research company estimates the 2020 worldwide market revenue reached USD 159.3 billion, a 9.3% increase compared to the previous year.

The main driver of the growth besides the lockdown is the launch of next-generation consoles on the market, Newzoo says. Asia-Pacific generated 49% of game revenues with USD 78.4 bln. North America is the second largest region with USD 40 bln, while Europe is the slowest-growing, producing USD 29.6 bln in revenues in 2020.

In order to capitalize on these intensely growing markets, game developers and publishers have to find a way to adapt the linguistic and visual aspects of their products into a variety of different target languages, meaning that game localization outperforms most other language industry segments since the start of the pandemic, according to Latvian translation and localization firm Adverbum.

The main goal is to keep the tone, feel, style and experience the game conveys to its users. There are a variety of different fields that require translation in a game: UI information including location, map and non-player characters’ (NPCs) names, in-game dialogue, quest texts, instructions in multiplayer games, subtitles or dialogue in cut-scenes.

Bad translations, or inadequate contents, usually leads to a low-quality user experience (UX) and destroys players’ immersion into the game, professionals say.

Looking at the European video game market in terms of languages, the main translation set is usually FIGS (French, Italian, German and Spanish), accounting for some 40-45% of the total word count, says Adverbum. Last year, however, saw a drop in the share of these languages due to reduced demand in Italy and Spain, as these countries were badly affected by the economic downturn that came with restrictions that aim to stop the spread of COVID-19.

On the other hand, the rising star of European game localization platform is Poland, with a growing number of development ventures, studios and exporters. From a translation point of view, an positive example is Polish video game maker CD PROJEKT RED, which built its reputation on its medieval fantasy world game “The Witcher.” The game had sold more than 40 million copies worldwide up to the beginning of 2020, Reuters says.

Slavic Idioms

Localization director of CD PROJEKT RED, Mikołaj Szwed, says the company usually develops its games at all target languages simultaneously, with no set language. “The Witcher,” however, was a little bit different, showcasing a variety of Slavic idioms and cultural references.

Here, the task of the language professionals was to make these references relevant to all gamers, no matter where they are playing it, Szwed says. The company’s main goal is to provide its players with the feeling that the game was originally developed in their own language.

One of the best examples of this is a character in the game called “the Peller,” originally coming from “Dziady,” a Polish drama which has a great importance in Polish and Slavic folklore and culture. The character evokes something deeply rooted in the Polish language and translators had to find its equivalents in other target cultures such as Chinese or Arabic. Szwed adds that localization goes far beyond languages, however; visual assets need to be adopted to target countries as well.

The Hungarian gaming and esport market is also continuously expanding. Its base counted some 540,000 gamers, generating HUF 42 bln turnover in 2020, according to a survey compiled by online research firm eNet.

Hungarian customers spent HUF 10.5 bln on purchasing video games, while hardware shopping accounted for some HUF 23.2 bln, in-app purchases were at HUF 6.5 mln and related goods such as branded T-shirts or mugs generated a revenue of HUF 1.6 mln last year. Some 61% of the total Hungarian adult population, roughly 3.8 million people, play video games regularly, according to eNet.

Hardcore gamers spend an average of three and a half hours gaming on weekdays, which can reach six hours or more during weekends. When it comes to platforms, 84% play on PCs, 27% on laptops, 24% on smartphones and 20% on consoles.

The most popular games in Hungary include the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) called “League of Legends,” published by Riot Games, and the first-person shooter game “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” (CS:GO) by Valve and Hidden Path Entertainment.

Adaptation

Hungarian language professionals specialized in video game localization usually translate from English to Hungarian, adapting multinational products into the Hungarian market, head of TEK Localization, László Kovács tells the BBJ.

The most common approach in Hungary are Massively Multiplayer Online games, often referred to as MMOs, featuring open platforms where players can cooperate, interact, and compete each other.

The MMO business model requires tremendous investment in developing constantly updated contents, thus generating steady revenues, Kovács explains.

Over a certain company size, game makers usually employ an in-house localization team; however, cultural adaptation often requires the involvement of contracted native-speaker professionals too. Good translators are not always gamers, yet it is strongly advised that someone in the localization team who is immersed in the gaming subculture serves as language manager for the project, Kovács says.

Similar to the global trends, the Hungarian industry is moving towards continuous content delivery as businesses can hardly rely on one-off projects, he predicts.

Machine translation (MT) shows increasing popularity in the localization market, professional translator Attila Kosik tells the BBJ. Due to its financial efficiency, an increasing number of translation agencies use some sort of machine learning algorithm, condemning the role of human translators to crafting enjoyable localized content simply to proofreading.

This works for most IT related translations in Hungary as well, but when it comes to story-driven video games such as “The Witcher,” human translation remains irreplaceable, Kosik says.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of February 12, 2021.

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