A day in the life of a localization project manager

We continue our series of articles about essential roles in the video game localization industry with Gérard Barnaud, a Localization Project Manager at Ubisoft, and speaker at our first Game Global Summit in Warsaw. Gérard shares with us the tasks and challenges of a localization PM, as seen from the buyer’s side.

Main tasks

Like any other project manager, one of the main tasks for a video game localization PM (and one of the least glamorous ones) is to handle a large number of emails on a daily basis. Mails that are coming from studios, vendors, team members, managers, corporate, HR… and loads of notifications coming from the various TMS (translation management system) and tracking tools. 

A video game localization PM must also handle the import and export of texts from the database into the TMS, in Gérard’s case MemoQ. This task is often at least partly automated but needs close human supervision and a certain experience in the field in order to prevent issues.

Other tasks and responsibilities of a video game localization PM include getting in touch with various teams to get answers to translators’ queries, keeping track of word counts, and preparing invoices, the latter being one of the main pain points for localization project managers, especially on the service provider side.

Communication and “keeping it all together”

Much of localization project managers daily work revolves around communication. Localization project managers in the video game industry are the link between the game development team and the extended localization team, which includes translators, language service providers, recording studios, and testing teams. It’s important to keep in mind that nowadays most of the localization functions are outsourced and the localization PM is often the only one who has a complete overview of what is occurring, both with the devs and the in-house teams and the external service providers.

One of the main challenges of the video game localization project manager position is to know what information to pass through and what information to filter out. The development of a game is a long cycle of back and forth and a lot of changes due to the iterative process. To translate and record everything that gets created, this would mean a lot of wasted time, effort, and energy. There are frequently major changes in direction that could be confusing and create a lot of “noise” if they were to be communicated to an extended team of 20-50 people, hence the need for the game localization project manager to step in and filter through the information.

Streamlining processes and extending possibilities

On the opposite side of the cycle is the translation and recording process that needs to be streamlined and optimized. It can be said that the main reason to streamline processes in the video game localization industry is to save money, but the way Gérard sees it is more about extending possibilities. With more streamlined processes, the cost of translation and recording will be lower, giving us the possibility to localize further (i.e. get an extra budget for dubbing or adding a new language). Streamlined processes, together with clearer, more structured, communication allows one to be more in control as a localization project manager in an environment with many channels and many stakeholders.

A good example of collaboration for process streamlining is the relationship of the localization project manager with the writers on the game development team. All play a crucial part in creating content for the player and ensuring that it’s both relevant and fun. Both collaborate to ensure that the game is well-structured so that both the localization and the production teams can deliver on time within the budget and with high quality.

Sharing the right information is key to ensure translation quality

The fight to raise the level of quality is mainly played in the information field. For example, when it comes to translation, it is about making sure to get the latest information to be able to provide answers to translators. It is also about being able to define together with the translation team how much freedom they will have to adapt the content to their market. 

If you want the localized assets to be suitable for each territory, you need to allow translators to take the necessary distance from the source text and reformulate the target into something smoother than a “word for word” translation. The quality is found when the original intention of each piece of text is rendered: the wording is just a tool to get there.

Perks

The job of a video game localization project manager sounds like a lot of stress and responsibility! But like any job, it comes with its own perks.

For Gérard, the perks come both from the teams working next to him and those working on the other side of the world. One of the benefits of a game localization project manager is that one is able to connect with people from across the globe and learn about their daily life, culture, and country, something that is as rewarding as it is interesting. Simultaneously, Gérard is able to sit next to the writing teams and witness the magic happen, getting the best of both worlds.

Part of the job of a game localization project manager entails being the one caught in between the translators and the writers, and while this may sound stressful, it’s actually quite beneficial! Sometimes the translation teams are interpreting information based on text only, and they might see new ways of expressing something that the writing teams didn’t notice. This allows one to see the game from different perspectives, meaning one is able to get a more holistic perspective of the game. 

Oh yes, and the occasional free game and company party are not to be underestimated!

About the Author
Gérard Barnaud
Gérard Barnaud
Localization Project Manager at

An industry veteran with 22 years of experience in the gaming industry, Gérard Barnaud started as a localization tester in Ireland in 2001 where he worked for Vivendi. He then moved to Atari headquarters in Lyon, France, where he started as a localization project manager on Neverwinter Nights and evolved to a position of producer for The Witcher (original). After that, he moved on to UBISOFT Montreal and back into localization for Far Cry 2 and Brothers in Arms 3, and ended up in the south of France at the Montpellier studio, where he’s been working on his tan for the last 12 years. He has worked on various titles ranging from licensed games to large role-playing games and intellectual properties for all audiences, including the gem Valiant Hearts. After all his years in the localization industry, he remains passionate about his work.