5 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Localization Company

Table of Contents
1 : The Gold and the Gold-Plated: 5 Questions and 4 Problems 

2 : 4 Problems that Come with Localization 
   1. Your Company can’t Come to a Conclusive Decision 
   2. Quality Control Tools aren’t Commonly Used 
   3. Translators (Localizers) don’t Understand Code 
   4. The Aforementioned Poor Quality that Everyone is Used to 

3 :  5 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Localization Company 
   1. Do they Employ Localization Producers? 
   2. Does that Project Manager Understand Japanese? 
   3. Do they use any of these tools: MemoQ, Trados, Wordfast? 
   4. Do they have their own personal glossaries? 
   5. Do they employ programmers? 

4 :  Conclusion

1 : The Gold and the Gold-Plated: 5 Questions and 4 Problems

 The Gold and the Gold-Plated: 5 Questions and 4 Problems

In the game industry—the runt of the Entertainment industry’s metaphorical litter—the field of “Localization” has seen the least amount of growth for years and years now.

Consoles are undergoing new innovations, the software is evolving, and techniques for programming, animation, and motion capture are rapidly changing. In comparison, Localization hasn’t seen any progress since the 90s, and many game companies are still localizing like they did back when the NES was in its heyday. The same processes are used, the same mistakes are repeated, resulting in the same consequences.

As a result, even now in 2019, Western games that have been localized to Japanese or Chinese get absolutely destroyed online for being laughably bad. I believe localization companies are there to assist game companies that want to release overseas despite these circumstances, but right now all localization companies claim they can produce the best quality. So how in the world do you figure out which companies are actually good? 

To help, I, as a pioneer of game localization (If I might be so bold as to sing my own praises for a moment) have compiled a list of problems that accompany localization, and tips for how to filter through the less reliable companies to find those that are truly top notch. 

2 : 4 Problems that Come with Localization

4 Problems that Come with Localization

Let’s start by putting together four problems characteristic of localization.

1. Your Company can’t Come to a Conclusive Decision

Since the commodity is “foreign language,” it’s difficult to judge the quality of what’s offered. After all, there’s no one in your company who understands that language. Or perhaps you do have a few people on board who speak other languages—there’s still no guarantee that they have the skills required to determine what company can best handle the job. 

2 Quality Control Tools aren’t Commonly Used

Most companies, even now, do their translations in Excel. That means everything comes down to the ability of a single translator. Hardly any places use CAT tools, and if they are using them, they probably haven’t mastered them. 

If a game company has the know-how required to manage source code, they probably have nothing to manage the text.

3. Translators (Localizers) don’t Understand Code

Most localization companies, while they might have language experts, don’t have programmers, so they aren’t aware of what code should be touched, and what shouldn’t, resulting in careless mistakes while translating. 

4. The Poor Quality that Everyone is Used to  

Localization is a highly specialized field by nature. Language is not the only requirement. You need programming, a deep understanding of game glossaries, and much more. However, the bar to enter modern localization companies in Europe or the US is very low, and even translators who can barely read Japanese can easily get hired. Therefore, there’s a problem with poor quality localization.

Through repetition of these four issues, games localized to Japanese end up ridiculed. Yet there is a company in Kyoto that continues to succeed year after year (Yes, that major gaming with the Italian plumber, making one masterpiece after another.)

I’d love to say that everyone should just do what they do and work in-house, but the fact of the matter is, that’s nearly impossible. So I’ve put together some helpful tips for companies that have no choice but to outsource their localization.

3 : 5 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Localization Company

 5 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Localization Company

1. Do they Employ Project Managers? 

If you leave scheduling and the like to be organized by the translators, there will definitely be delays. So first you should ascertain whether the localization company has a project manager. Any company’s sales team will confirm they do, so have them introduced to you. 

2. Does that Project Manager Understand Japanese? 

There is no way someone who cannot understand the original material can then localize it. 

3. Do they use any of these tools: MemoQ, Trados, Wordfast?

A lack of CAT tools means a lack of organization and consistency in game glossaries, so they are indispensable. In addition, if the game isn’t in a series, a sequel will be much easier to make in the future once a glossary has been made. 

Ask the localization companies about translation memories and glossary creation. If they can quickly provide them for you, they are top notch.

Since these tools are indispensable, responses like “we can’t” or “it’ll cost more” are suspicious.

4. Do they have their own personal glossaries?

if the company has a portfolio, they will have glossaries from previous jobs. Even if they can’t share the files, verifying them is another way to determine the company’s level

5. Do they have programmers?

I think this is the most important point. Game translation is different from publications—it’s based on programming. Translating without an understanding of the programming would be like putting up a building without knowing what the land underneath is like. 

In game localization, programming is a necessity. By employing programmers, a localization company can insert the text into the game, and deliver after thoroughly checking it through. That will also help them catch the careless mistakes, which avoids trouble for the game company, and lowers the amount of QA required.

It is not an overstatement to say that localization is impossible without someone who can handle implementation.

4 : Conclusion 

And that’s my article. We’d be happy if you used AGM for your Asian language localization needs, but regardless, this is the knowledge I feel is required to make the best judgment about what localization company to choose!

For inquiries regarding video game localization or promotion  :  [email protected]

This article was updated on December 22nd, 2019.

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