Game Localization: The Complete Guide

February 6, 2024
Game Localization: The Complete Guide

The world is home to 3.09 billion active video game players. By 2024, that figure is expected to shoot up to 3.32 billion players. As player numbers increase, the localization of video games becomes more and more important.

Well-executed localization enables game developers to make money around the world. It makes players in each country feel that the game was developed with them in mind, delivering an immersive experience. A sound localization strategy will involve work on:

  • The game, including its name, dialogue and artwork

  • The packaging, manual and any other inserts

  • Cultural elements

  • Legal elements

What Is Game Localization? 

Video game localization is adapting the game's meaning for new regions, translating text, adapting imagery, and adjusting cultural references to resonate with local players. The localization of video games depends on the game's genre. But to give you a summary, we listed the most common components that require translation:

  • User Interface (UI)

  • NPC or Non-Player Character Dialogues

  • Quest Descriptions

  • In-game Announcement

Video Game Localization Vs Translation

The localization process involves much more than just video game translations. Translation is an important part of the process, as the game needs to be right in terms of its dialogue and packaging language, but it is only one element of the work required to localize a game fully.

Localization of Video Game Elements

Localizing a video game involves tackling a range of different elements:

  • Language – professional translation into the native tongue of the target audience for dialogue, menus, cuts scenes, manuals and more, potentially with voice-acting for some in-game elements.

  • Cultural references – adjusting these to match the target players’ expectations.

  • Technical changes – adapting hardware and software to suit local requirements, such as hotkey re-mapping or changing the number of frames per second to move from NTSC to PAL.         

  • Music – changing songs into different languages or to comply with different licensing restrictions.

  • Graphics – adapting characters, scenery and more to support players to identify with and immerse themselves in the game.

  • Legal requirements – ensuring game content and packaging meets age ratings in each country in which it will be distributed.

Why Should You Localize Your Video Game?

By localizing your video game, you can:

  • Maximize your returns.

  • Connect with new audiences.

  • Generate new revenue opportunities (merchandise, for example).

  • Build a reputation that supports cross-platform demand.

Why is game localization important? Well, PwC’s Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2022-26 reports that the gaming industry could be worth $321 billion by 2026. Quite simply, a game developer who localizes their game has a chance to capture a larger share of that market than one who doesn’t.

A massive expansion in the number of available platforms is one of the reasons that gaming has become so much more widespread. Another is the continual improvements we’ve seen in both technology and connectivity over the past 20 years. This has enabled gaming to become a global experience like never before, with plenty of countries keen to challenge the powerhouses of China, the US and Japan. 

Of course, reaching a global audience means translating and localizing games into multiple languages. Few companies understand this better than Apple, which in August 2020 became the first US company to reach a $2 trillion market cap. Apple’s App Store is available in 175 countries and territories. To service those, Apple supports 40 different languages. Obviously, not every game developer is going to have dreams on this scale, but Apple provides a strong example of where a successful localization strategy can get you. 

All of which is to say that you should localize your video game because doing so opens your work up to millions more players – and their wallets! In fact, given that there are over 2.5 billion gamers on the planet these days, localizing games could give you access to billions more players, not just millions. For example:

  • China is home to 900.6 million internet users, generating video game revenue of USD 36,540 million. 

  • In the US, 273.7 million people are online, producing gaming revenue of USD 35,510 million.

  • In Japan, 121.2 million internet users generate a video game revenue of USD 18,683 million. 

  • The Republic of Korea, Germany and the UK all individually generate more than 5,000 million in gaming revenue.

Planning Your Game Localization Project

Here are some things to consider when planning your video game localization:

  • The resources that you’ll need, from staff to budget to voiceover artists.

  • Which countries or regions you plan to localize the game for. 

  • What the translation will entail – that is, what precisely you need to translate.

  • Whether modifications will be needed to text and visual elements outside of the in-game dialogue and instructions (for example to street signs or billboards contained within the game).

  • Who will be undertaking the translation work – will you be bootstrapping it or hiring a professional localization agency? 

How to Localize Your Game

Undertaking a successful video game localization process means being organized. There are plenty of moving parts to such a project, so plan the work out with a timeline, find a reliable game localization management system, and bring in a translation agency with a solid reputation and plenty of localization experience. Headline items for your plan should include:

  1. Content analysis.

  2. Create a localization kit.

  3. Export your strings.

  4. Import your content to a translation management system (TMS).

  5. Translation proper.

  6. Creating localized versions.

  7. Localization testing.

Let’s take a look at each of these tasks in turn.

1. Content analysis: This is your chance to map out fully what you will need to localize, from dialogue to music, and everything in between.

2. Creating a localization kit: Bring together everything you will need to undertake the localization project. Files, instructions, resources of all types… if it’s part of the project, it needs to be in your kit.

3. Exporting your strings: Produce resource files with your strings and translatable content.

4. Import your content into a TMS: Facilitate the commencement of the language-based phase of the localization process. Your localization company will guide you through this part of the process carefully, as there are different localization standards for different operating systems.

5. Translation:  Your translator(s) will first read your localization kit, and then get to work on translating your content via the TMS.

6. Creating localized versions: This ensures that the other, non-text-based elements of the game all suit the local region for which it is destined. Do you need to change the appearance of your characters, for example, or the way that a particular location looks? When it comes to localization, games that need a lot of work at this stage need careful attention so that all elements marry up in the final version, just as they did in the original.

7. Localization testing: This is the final stage in the process before you integrate your translation with your adapted visual elements, check the quality of both. For the videogame translation, ask your agency to provide proofreaders for the languages that you don’t speak. These should not be the same individuals who undertook the translation as a fresh pair of eyes is far more likely to catch any typos. Then it’s time to pull it all together. Be ready to mold your code slightly in order to knit the updated visual elements with the translated copy. Then check, check, and check again to ensure that each localized function works as well as the original game.

Additional Tips

In addition to the steps above, use these video game localization pro tips to ensure your localization project runs smoothly:

  1. Make sure you commit sufficient time to make your localization kit as comprehensive as possible, as this will positively impact the efficiency of your localization work. From player personas to character profiles and formatting preferences, include everything you can think of.

  2. Always use native speakers of the target language (never the source language) for each translation, as this will drive up the quality of the output.

  3. Pay particular attention to localizing cultural references, idioms, and jokes – getting these right is key to creating a truly immersive player experience.

Examples of Great Game Localizations

From arcade game localization to million dollar blockbusters, the gaming industry is awash with successful localization examples, such as:

  • Dragon Quest XI

  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

  • Final Fantasy XII

Dragon Quest XI, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and Final Fantasy XII have each been skillfully localized into approximately 5-10 languages, catering to a global audience. The exceptional quality of their localization is a result of meticulous attention to cultural nuances, precise translations, and well-executed voice acting. In the case of Dragon Quest XI, the localization team went above and beyond by adapting Japanese puns and humor to suit local tastes in each language. This dedication to cultural sensitivity has enabled players worldwide to enjoy immersive gaming experiences while preserving the true essence of the original stories and connecting with the games' distinctive charm and wit.


Not every developer has a spare $100 million sitting in the bank, ready to spend on producing and localizing a video game. For many developers, budget is a key consideration, meaning that it’s time to weigh up the merits of bootstrapping your game localization versus hiring a professional localization service.

Bootstrapping Your Own Localization Team

If you already have some linguistic expertise in-house, bootstrapping could be an option. To assemble your own localization team, you’ll need:

  • A market researcher to establish appetite for your game in the region(s) you’re considering.

  • A local linguist who speaks the target language natively.

  • A tech-savvy team member who can implement the necessary software and hardware changes.

  • A legal expert to advise you on localizing age ratings, packaging requirements, any warnings that need to be in the manual or game, and so on.

Hiring a Game Localization Service Provider

If all that sounds like a lot of hassle, you could engage a video game localization service instead. Doing so will provide you with the experience and expertise you need to make your localization project a success. Yes, it will cost more than bootstrapping, but you can get to market faster and start maximizing your returns sooner.


The global video game industry is growing rapidly, creating plenty of opportunities for game designers and developers to make money. If you plan to do so through localization, ensure your finished product delivers a seamless, immersive player experience to maximize your chances of success.

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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