Become A Game Translator

March 8, 2024
Become A Game Translator

Are you wondering how to become a video game translator? If you have a passion for both language and video games, then you may benefit from learning more about this rapidly growing industry: an industry that is looking for people like you.

Over the past few years, the video gaming industry has boomed. In 2021, it generated over $180 billion and as a result, has become one of the largest entertainment sectors in the world. While the demand for new and exciting games soars, competition to succeed in the market is fierce. Game manufacturers from across the globe cater to 2.7 billion gamers, and with approximately 1.3 billion of those in the Asian Pacific, the key to opening the door to the international market relies on high-quality video game translation. As a result, the opportunities for translators with a love for gaming are at an all-time high.

 This article aims to give more insight into the world of the game industry and what it takes to become a great video game translator.

What is game translation?

Game translation is the process of translating all the textual content of a game, including its storyline and character interactions, right through to marketing campaigns and packaging content. It is a skill that has become essential to ensure a game’s global success. While North America still sits in the top spot for video game consumption, Japan’s tradition of multimedia development gives the Asian Pacific region the largest share of the market. 

Translators who are native speakers of languages in that region, and also happen to love video games, are already on their way to becoming successful game translators. Game translation is also commonly applied to video games for the Europe market, with people in many countries preferring to game in their own language. Does game translation really affect the playability of a game?

No matter where they’re based, today’s gamers are looking for a fully immersive and interactive experience. They want to control a world of rich and elaborate storylines, and in a fantasy land with so much emphasis on detail, even the slightest inaccuracy detracts from that sense of reality.

In order to captivate this new generation of gamers, game developers compete to create increasingly realistic worlds. However, just delivering video graphic realism is no longer enough. To achieve the fully immersive experience craved by gamers, choosing the right language and dialect is key. Interacting with other gamers enriches the gaming experience whereas, to an audience that is becoming more tech-savvy by the day, a poorly translated game quickly loses its appeal.

What is a game translator?

A game translator is responsible for translating all verbal and written content that exists within a video game. This means accurately conveying the game’s storyline into your local dialect, using everyday lingo and expressions. It’s this level of detail that ensures a seamless interaction within the virtual world. A game translator always translates into their native language. This means that non-native English speakers with an understanding of gaming, already have a head start in the industry.

Why is video game translation important?

The best way to get your game out there is to translate it for each of your target audiences, starting at the very beginning of the game development process. Game translation makes or breaks the ability to interact with the game. Playability relies on identifying with the character while navigating vivid and vibrant virtual worlds.

Game translators aim to impress and leave the gamers feeling the game is made especially for them. This can be achieved by finding the right tone and paying special attention to culture, local traditions, and expressions. The increase in popularity of personalization games, which rely on players personalizing game objectives and characters, is brought even closer to reality when quality game translation is applied. Done badly, the immersive experience that gamers crave is lost.

Read more about game localization here: Game Localization: The Complete Guide

What exactly does a game translator do?

Knowing how to translate a game well goes beyond converting a game's text and dialogue with word-for-word translation. Translators who understand how to translate genre-specific slang and other terms rule out the risk of becoming lost in translation. Modern video games typically contain a large amount of dialogue and text. Shortly after it was launched in 2011, Star Wars: The Old Republic received a Guinness World Record for the “Largest voice-over project in the entertainment industry”, a record it still holds to this day. At that time, there were more than 200,000 lines of English dialogue. By 2019, it had more than 370,000 – as many lines of dialogue as 125 feature-length films. Dialogue may be written over the course of months or years and added to the game over time in DLCs.

However, English speakers only make up a fraction of the total players worldwide, highlighting the need for game localization (as discussed earlier). Arguably the most integral part of game localization is translation.

Among numerous other conversion challenges, people who take on this role must be able to convert gaming-industry-specific vocabulary to the target language, organize and translate dialogue between multiple speakers and distinguish and interpret many diverse accents. Translators should ultimately ensure that the player’s experience doesn’t change from one language to another.

As well as the tasks included earlier in the article, a game translator should pay great attention to detail, as thorough proofreading and spell checking need to be carried out on everything that crosses their path. This can include anything from subtitles and menus to settings and instructions. A style guide is usually provided by the manufacturer to ensure continuity and that the flow or narrative of the game is not interrupted.

How much does a game translator earn?

Due to the diverse nature of the job, there's no single answer to this question. Rates vary according to the target language and region and can even fluctuate depending on the location of the translator. For example, one could assume someone translating to Norwegian or German would earn more than someone translating to Brazilian Portuguese or Mexican Spanish.

As a general rule, translators based in the US can expect to earn from approximately $2300 USD per month to a whopping $9000.

More broadly, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, translators working for software publishers in May 2021 earned a median hourly wage of $35.67, a median hourly wage of $38.19, and a mean annual wage of $79,440.

Additionally, many video game translators have the opportunity to work remotely, giving the translator an opportunity to move to areas with much lower costs of living, increasing their purchasing power while growing their savings capabilities.

What are the skills needed to become a game translator?

A successful game translator should:

Have language and cultural knowledge

A game translator should be proficient in at least two languages – the original language of the game (usually English or Japanese) and the target language. To avoid any misunderstandings, translators should also have strong knowledge of the cultures they’re adapting from.

Have gaming industry knowledge

Being familiar with the industry is a prerequisite as there are many specific terms, concepts, jargon, and other peculiarities that won’t make sense to someone unfamiliar with gaming.

Be meticulously accurate and pay great attention to detail

Game translators must be extraordinarily diligent and ready to obtain all necessary information from developers. Only this will allow a complete understanding of the dialogue/text’s proper context. They shouldn’t be afraid to double-check and ask for clarification.

Be flexible and respectful of deadlines

Game translation projects can be given quite tight deadlines and game translators need to be available and personable in all communication with developers.

Have knowledge of translation tools

A game translator should already have mastered Microsoft Office as well as additional computer-assisted translation software such as Trados. While knowing programming languages is not obligatory, having some background will help you understand the game development process better.

Be creative

There are many games that include fictional locations, names, and even scientific concepts. Translating specific in-game vocabulary sometimes requires a more imaginative approach than regular translation - creativity is key.

Read more: Key skills to look for in translators and interpreters

What are the top languages for game translation?

By increasing the amount of people understanding and playing their games, developers can significantly boost their earning potential. For example, Cyberpunk 2077, one of 2020’s most-anticipated games, supports 10 languages with subtitles and with full voiceovers, and 18 with subtitles only.

Most games use these popular languages:

·   English

·   Spanish

·   Portuguese / Brazilian Portuguese 

·   German

·   French

·   Italian

·   Russian

·   Chinese (usually Simplified, however, subtitles are sometimes also provided for Traditional)

·   Japanese

·   Arabic

Of the above, here are the six best languages to translate your video game to:

1. Simplified Chinese (Mandarin)

Incredibly, China alone generates 41% of global video games revenue, even before taking into account Chinese speakers and citizens overseas. In fact, the total revenue generated across all segments of the video game industry in Asia amounted to more than $76 billion in 2020.

2. Japanese

After China and the US, Japan is the world’s third-largest market for video games. It boasts more than 75.6 million gamers, who in 2020 generated revenues of about $22 billion.

3. Korean

South Korea is one of the planet’s most profitable markets for games. As much as half of the country’s population plays video games at least once a month, mostly on their smartphones and tablets. The country generated $7.5 billion in revenues in 2020.

4. German

German is another top language for video game translation, thanks to the more than 46 million players in Germany. In 2020, the local video game market registered revenues close to $6 billion, making it a worthwhile target market.

5. French

France is another profitable market for video game developers. In 2020, more than 38 million active players spent $4.1 billion on their hobby. There are about 76 million native French speakers and 274 million fluent French speakers worldwide. Interestingly, France is also one of the world’s largest producers of video games.

6. Spanish

Last but not least is Spanish. While no individual Spanish-speaking country generated revenues comparable to the previous five, it deserves to be included by the sheer scale of speaker numbers. Spanish is spoken by more than 559 million people worldwide. Of those, 460 million are native speakers, making Spanish the language with the second largest population of native speakers in the world.

How Game Translators Can Boost the Video Gaming Industry

The gaming industry is already bigger than the US film industry - the only other entertainment sector that can compete is television. Its growth rate from 2006 (USD $8b) to 2020 (USD $160b) is higher than that of all other entertainment industries. While the COVID-19 pandemic extremely damaged entertainment industries such as Hollywood, the gaming industry massively benefited, boasting figures of almost 30% growth.

The demand for new and exciting video games is spreading exponentially in countries as different as Germany, South Korea, Mexico, and China. However, not everyone can speak the language video games are developed. Thus, the best way to reach maximum profit potential is to ensure everyone who is willing and able to purchase a game can understand and play it.

That’s where Tomedes and future video game translators such as yourself can help. We offer professional gaming translation services for any and all developers that would like to sell or market their products in countries that do not speak their language. Our gaming translation services are provided by a global pool of highly-qualified professional translators, who completely understand the world of gaming and are familiar with the technical terms and lingo used in the gaming industry.


What makes game translation crucial for the video gaming industry?

Game translation is vital for the industry's global reach, ensuring games are accessible and enjoyable for a diverse international audience. It enhances the playability and immersion by adapting the game's content to the cultural and linguistic nuances of various regions, thus expanding the market potential.

How does one become a successful game translator?

Becoming a successful game translator involves mastering at least two languages, understanding cultural nuances, being familiar with the gaming industry and its specific terminology, and possessing a keen eye for detail. Creative translation skills are also essential to adapt original content to the target language without losing the game's essence.

What are the potential earnings for a game translator?

Earnings can vary widely based on language, region, and expertise. In the US, game translators can expect a range from approximately $2,300 to $9,000 per month, with median wages in certain sectors reaching around $35 to $38 per hour.

Final Thoughts

Do you think you have the skills to become a video game translator? Feel free to get in touch with Tomedes to find out more about the video game translation sector. We have a large number of skilled translators who are specialized in many language pairs. Tomedes can provide gaming translation services between practically any pair of languages. We’d also love to hear your feedback, so, leave your comments below.

By Ofer Tirosh

Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a language technology and translation company that supports business growth through a range of innovative localization strategies. He has been helping companies reach their global goals since 2007.



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