Learn how to translate videogames on Steam.

Guide on How to translate videogames on Steam

The video gaming market segment is one of the fastest-growing in the whole world. In the US, this industry reached a record number of $36 billion in 2017, which indicates its rapid development and profit opportunities. No wonder that to expand the gaming market, developers need to localize the games to receive attention to their product. No one of us enjoys struggling through the terms and dialogue in a foreign language. Neither do we want to miss the story of the game, which is a considerable part of the gaming experience. Let’s look at how you can translate your video game on Steam.

Video Game Localization: What is it?

Video game localization is a bit of a level up from translation. Whereas translation pertains to the conversion of a text (in this case, a video game) from the source language to a target language so that the meaning is more or less the same, localization refers to the more tedious process of adapting a text (video game) so that it feels as if it was created for a specific region, country or culture.

Most game localization projects include translation, but they also include looking at other aspects of the game such as character names, level, and character design, music, and even the lore itself. Game localization is a careful process that requires a lot of market research to be able to successfully localize a video game especially for longer playing titles that rely heavily on narrative storytelling and a fully hashed out lore.

If you’re looking to choose between translation and localization, consider whether you want to stay as faithful to the source text or whether you want to maximize relatability and immersion for players. And if you’re still unsure how to go about it, this guide to game localization from Tomedes will tell you the basics of localizing video games and what you need to know to do it right.

Apps for Game Translation

Apps for Game Translation

  • Use the Steam volunteer project. Today, Steam has launched a project that allows nearly everyone to participate in the translation process of localization of Valve games. If your game fits this criterion, and you do not mind using the help of a third-party freelancer, give it a try. This method is reliable too. The platform has a competitive spirit in potential localizers, as it chooses only individuals with specific skill levels. Before starting their work, they have to take a test where they should translate a text in less than thirty minutes. It sounds like a challenge.
  • TAPP - Translator APPlication. Translator APPlication is not a simple translator, but it translates all texts and texts in the image to the language you want in all OS environments. Using its help may significantly benefit your game localization.
  • Universal Game Translator - this app takes a pic with the help of the HDMI signal and immediately sends it to Google in order to be analyzed for text and language. The app studies the layout and decides which text is dialog and which bits should be translated. It can translate any language to any language without needing any local data as Google is doing all the work, can handle Russian, Japanese, Spanish, Chinese, etc.
  • Screen Translation - this application helps to translate video games in real-time. Simply select the game recognition area and get a translation. It allows you to jeep your own translation records to help you memorize and learn. The app supports translation in 10 languages: Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Portuguese, French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

Translation Tips

  • Keep in mind the Big 7. There are seven top languages on Steam, including English. After the US, the target audience is Russian, with slightly less than 10% of overall Steam users. This is the second-largest population of gamers on Steam! The next top ones are Chinese, German, Brazilian Portuguese, French, and Spanish. Although the other languages do not have such an impressive number in Steam users, they are worth noting. Translating into Italian, Polish, Ukrainian, and Turkish will be a plus.
  • Mind the Culture. If you are translating the game dialogues and text on your own, be sure to find a native proofreader or use an app that may provide Translation Report, so you could check if everything is correct. Also, keep in mind the country, culture, and traditions. The heroes of the game should speak as they would naturally speak in the given area.
  • Give it a Test. If you have no budget to hire a proofreader or wish to double-check accuracy, you may give away the copy of the game to a native enthusiast who might help you. People will be interested in helping you with the game if you let them play. So, why not try a gaming insider?

Similarly to literary translation, game localization is all about speaking to your target audience, talking their language, and knowing their culture. The services and tips above will help you with this and many more. However, mind that localization also requires specific technical expertise, which makes it similar to software localization. This is a complex area, so be sure to choose the right people and the right places to do this. Of course, the perfect translation service is hard to find. The people behind your localization need to be natives, but also gamers and linguists with the game developing knowledge. Still, the task is attainable. Even you do it yourself.

The author is Henry Mcdowell, a linguist, and expert in copywriting and translation. He is the author of many publications concerning translation services, culture, and history of language. He is keen on research and his motto is: “Something new every day.”