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The Challenges of Japanese Game Localization

The Challenges of Japanese Game Localization

The video game market invests enormous sums of money yearly in the most advanced graphics technology and visionary scripts. And it’s for a good reason! With revenue reaching almost $197 billion in 2022 and is estimated to exceed $285 billion by 2027, no wonder money continues to pour into the game industry.

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And if you aren’t in the gaming industry already, you might want to consider it. The industry is booming  and it’s tipped to keep on growing. Now that all video or mobile gamers prefer to play their favorite games in their native language, any game developer planning to expand overseas must bear in mind the whole experience, including the target language, culture, audience preferences, and traditions.

The Japanese is no exception.If Japan is your destination, you should know that the Land of the Rising Sun is a huge destination for video game lovers. Gaming is a major industry in Japan. It’s the birthplace of video games and its impact extends to the rest of the world. So, if you are willing to tap into this audience with unparalleled passion for gaming, you’ll need to gain an in-depth understanding of the country’s linguistic and cultural nuances before you launch your game. That’s where Japanese Game Localization providers such as Asialocalize play a significant role. In this post, we will talk about Japanese game localization in detail and share the common challenges you will face on your way to crafting a customized experience for your Japanese players.

  1. What is Game Localization, and What is Not?
  2. A Look into the Japanese Video Game Market
  3. The Challenges of Japanese Video Games Localization
  4. The Risk of Relying on Fan Translations
  5. Asialocalize: The Partner You Deserve

Let’s get started.

What Is Game Localization, and What Is Not?

Localization means adapting the linguistic and cultural aspects when conveying a message to different target audiences. It’s instrumental when expanding your game’s reach beyond your home market.

But, let’s take a minute!

As soon as we said “localization,” you probably thought about translation, translating one word to another in a foreign language. But, in fact, localization is about something other than a literal translation.

Contextual, cultural, and technical aspects should be taken into account.

What do we mean? Check this out.

  • Context Implication, which means considering the context of the game, the storyline, characters etc, and how to best fit it into the new markets.
  • Cultural implications. The cultural background is the necessary filter to interpret the core of any message. Social uses, worldviews, and beliefs determine the meaning of words that appear synonymous at first glance.
  • Technical Implications. Multiple changes regarding the game’s UI, layout, coding, and more are implemented to accommodate the new language.

Language professionals know that overlooking these aspects may jeopardize the whole experience for your gamers, and in the worst-case scenario, it can offend and repel them.

So, what is the difference between translation and localization? As we said, localization is a more complex and subtle culture-centered approach. It’s about rethinking the game in a way that makes the gaming experience familiar and immersive for your Japanese gamers, but which lives up to the original game. That’s what makes Japanese game localization a game-changer, no pun intended, for your game expansion plans in the Japanese market.

Why Translate Your Games into Japanese?

Nowadays, video game production is a flourishing economic activity and such a massive industry. And this is especially true when it comes to Japan. Here’s a glimpse of the Japanese gaming market.

  • Japan is the third biggest world video game market.

The Worlds Top 10 Gaming Markets

  • Japanese is one of the top languages for gaming.

Total value of the video game market in Japan in fiscal year 2020 with a forecast until 2027

 

  • Users: According to the Digital Market Outlook, there will be approximately 26.8 million online gamers in Japan in 2025. Online, 41% of men and 32% of women play mobile games, while 30% of men and 15% of women play console games.
  • Market Growth: In the fiscal year 2020, Japan was estimated to sell 1.66 trillion yen worth of video games. These games include hardware, software, and social games. And it was anticipated that it would reach a value of more than 1.9 trillion yen by 2027.

Sales of the console video game industry in Japan from 2012 to 2021

  • Mobile apps have taken on particular importance among the many gaming options. Nevertheless, console gaming has also seen rapid growth. In 2020, Japanese console video game sales reached 375.9 billion Japanese yen, up from 333 billion yen the year before.
  • Japanese game players are passionate, enthusiastic, and demanding in equal parts. It’s important to know that they love spending a lot of money on their hobbies, especially games. In fact, Japan ranks top of per capita spending on mobile games and non-games in 2021. In 2019, the annual spend per game payer was $371, making the Japanese the highest spenders worldwide.

Additionally, the Japanese market is known for its love of technology, automation, and the internet, and that’s why gaming culture has a firm place in Japan.

But have you ever wondered what makes all these facts, numbers, and stats possible?That’s right, translation and localization services! We will get to that just next.

The Challenges of Japanese Video Games Localization

Politeness & Manners

When translating and localizing to the Japanese language, politeness and etiquette rules pose one of the biggest challenges.

You won’t ever talk to two Japanese people in the same style. Many changes occur regarding the conversational aspect depending on who you are speaking to, including the chosen words and verb forms.

The Japanese language changes its basic lexicon, as well as some subtle grammar features, from the maximum degree of confidence we use with our family and close friends to the hyper-formal register we use with the CEO of the international corporation we work for.

Polite Speech in Japanese Keigo

It is possible to make a video game lose verisimilitude or ruin an intense moment in an online game by mishandling these rigid and complex rules of politeness. A translation error of this sort could destroy the game’s overall experience, resulting in a negative response from media and gamers.

Here, the challenge is to handle the nuances of social relationships and relevantly convey them into the Japanese language using the spectrum of the language’s registers. To meet this challenge, Asialocalize has built a team of in-country localization experts who knows the ropes of the Japanese cultural component.

Gaming Jargon & Context

Japanese game localization is not only a cultural adaptation of a language to make the language feel more “natural”; it also involves a gameplay issue! Jargon is part of every sphere of life, and gaming is no exception.

For example, in a team-based action RPG, everyone must understand the jargon to coordinate their actions better and move more efficiently. Not only a linguistic misunderstanding but also a contextual inaccuracy can severely affect that dynamic.

Furthermore, respecting the jargon of online gamers will enhance your game’s appeal to online communities, as it will give a sense of familiarity to your target audience.

This topic is the center of the entire process of Japanese game localization.

Each language community has its own slang, which sometimes behaves like a dialect. Experienced agencies, like Asialocalize, differentiate between elements shared across language communities and those not.

Cultural Sensitivity and Regionalisms

There are lots of words that are only relevant in particular regions or countries. Jokes, humor, and colloquial expressions we use without thinking may cause (almost always funny, but sometimes awkward) misunderstandings if we travel elsewhere. When it comes to games, localization replaces those regionalisms with similar ones in the target language.

Taking a broader view, we can say that many game characters can be “regionals.” A sound localization could then be based on finding an equivalent to the character in the target locale; in our case here, we’re talking about Japan.

There is no doubt that this approach includes the dialects of those typical characters. One can therefore choose to localize the character’s dialogues to a dialect of the target language with some similarities in the source culture’s collective imagination.

Also, one of the biggest challenges you will meet when localizing a game for the Japanese market is the Japanese culture, which has its unique nature. For example, something as simple as promoting religion, narcotics, or violence in a game can ruin the Japanese player’s entire experience. A Japanese game translation and localization company can significantly help you get an idea of what is appropriate and inappropriate for the Japanese market.

Key Technicalities in Formatting and Voice Over

Handling your game localization’s technical and formatting problems necessitates the existence of experts in your corner. For example, Japanese is written differently and mostly takes more space than other languages.

While English (as a Latin script) uses one script, Japanese has three different writing systems and is written from top to bottom. So when dealing with embedded texts in images, animation boxes, or speech bubbles (as an example), many aspects should be considered, and many changes should be applied to UI and layout. And no one is better than a Japanese expert translation company to tackle such complexity.

Additionally, mostly in adventure-based games, voice-over is mainly incorporated. With language experts, you won’t ever run into voice-over and syncing problems since they have long-standing expertise dealing with potential voice-over and Japanese language challenges and have the best tools at their disposal.

Refer to whitepaper part
A Short Guide to Japanese Game Localization!

Discover everything you need to know about Japanese game localization.

The Risk of Relying on Fan Translations

Even though fan translations are an affordable language services solution for game developers and companies, you can’t count on them as a reliable type of translation. Here are some of the reasons:

  • To localize a game into Japanese, your translator should have excellent knowledge of the Japanese language and the localization processes’ ins and outs, cultural aspects, and the industry’s best practices. With a fan translator, you will never be aware of their background and experience.
  • There will always be something missing since the fan translators won’t be able to access the game’s original scripts.
  • With a professional game translation and localization company, you will rest assured that nothing is missed in the translation and everything goes as planned in terms of quality and accuracy. On the other hand, despite the fact that fan translations stem from the actual labor of fans’ love, the translation process won’t ever be as solid and reliable as the expert one.

Asialocalize: The Partner You Deserve

So, are you looking for a trustworthy Japanese game localization services provider? Now that you know a lot about localization in Japan, we’ll tell you a little bit about ourselves: Asialocalize, the best option for Japanese game localization.

As one of the leading Asian language translation providers in the Asian market for over 10 years, we know how to make your game more appealing to global competition. We have a team of game localization experts powered by the latest translation technologies who master preparing games for the Japanese market. In addition, we have a multi-layered testing process that ensures the highest levels of accuracy and quality.

As an old Japanese saying goes, “千里の道も一歩から” (sen ri no michi no ippo kara). That means “a long road begins with a single step”. Your project is a long road that can start at any time, just with a little desire to succeed and an expert partner to support you during the journey.

Get a quote  for your Japanese game localization project today.

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