Not all that long ago localization was considered effectively covered through FIGS, i.e. reaching target markets by translating and adapting an original English version into French, Italian, German, and Spanish. Pretty soon it became obvious that the world is a much bigger place, and that people are far more likely to buy a product if all related information is in their own language. The concept of a global marketplace is nowadays the norm and this means the language scope for producers has grown significantly, often including additional Western European languages, Asian and Eastern European ones, and sometimes from other geographies too.

We are now increasingly aware of the importance of giving gamers across the world not only a language version they can understand, but also an experience that feels real and relevant to them. In many cases it starts with English, which of course is used differently in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, South Africa, etc. Spanish poses an even greater challenge, with some 500 million native speakers and a large geographic spread across Spain and throughout the Americas, with significant differences in language use between countries and regions. Although literally all content written in Spanish can be readily understood by native speakers around the world, the version of the language applied nevertheless has a significant impact on perception and acceptance, especially for games with audio content which brings the additional elements of accents and dialects into play. The cost and complexity involved in producing multiple versions of Spanish has also given rise to conceptual languages like “neutral” or “Latin American” Spanish.

French and Portuguese face similar cross-Atlantic issues, although on a somewhat smaller scale, with France a larger market for French than Canada, and in the case of Portuguese the market in Portugal being dwarfed by the one in Brazil. The large and rapidly developing Asian market will inevitably pose new challenges for languages like Chinese going forward. Although Mandarin is by far dominant in China, the regional variants Min, Wu, Yue, and Jin have some 70 million native speakers each, so the future is likely to add new dimensions beyond simplified and traditional character sets. And although Modern Standard Arabic is understood by nearly all native speakers, the unique dialects across Arab countries also vary significantly between each other.

This session aims to provide a forum to discuss business and practical aspects of how to deal with different language variants, or “flavors” as we sometimes call them. The format will be focused on interactive discussion, with attendees invited to ask questions and share experiences to gain a better understanding of this multi-faceted concept, and we very much hope you will join us in San Jose.

About the Author
Ulrich Henes
Ulrich Henes
Organizer at Game Global | Website

Ulrich Henes is the founder and president of The Localization Institute, a Madison, Wisconsin-based consulting and event organizing company. Already in his early years, Ulrich was fascinated by language, cultural differences, and global business. He spent the first decade of his career organizing international campaigns against the arms race and apartheid; and promoting global social justice. For the past 25 years Ulrich has channeled his passion for all things global into promoting awareness and respect for differences among people, countries, and languages in the international business community.