China has quickly surpassed the US as the world’s largest gaming market, making the need for effective localization (otherwise referred to as I18n) ever more essential. Indeed, localization, which is the practice of taking content from a source language and adapting it into a target language by taking into account cultural nuances, is crucial in the Chinese video game industry if organizations wish to succeed there. With literally millions of players in the Chinese market, it’s crucial to factor in aspects such as linguistic differences, culture, formality, geography, and much more. Doing this will ensure your video game’s success in China and Chinese-speaking regions. But what should you keep in mind when attempting localization in Chinese? Here, we offer six tips that you can implement in your localization project for higher levels of success.
6 Tips for optimal video game localization in Chinese
Implementing the right localization structure for optimal results will require a consideration of the following six factors. Let’s take a closer look.
Know your target audience
As a starting point, you need to be aware of your target audience, its language preferences, as well as its location and age. Why is this important? Firstly, China is such a huge country with different territories and a wide geographical spread. As a video game provider, you need to know whether you’ll be catering merely to audiences in mainland China or in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Furthermore, bear in mind the differences in the language – both written and spoken – in each of these regions. Whereas people in Taiwan and Hong Kong tend to speak Traditional Chinese, audiences in mainland China opt for Simplified Chinese. These differences need to be borne in mind.
Furthermore, you need to consider your audience’s age and social status to determine the levels of formality you will use in your video games. Also, consider the fact that “nin” is used in formal scenarios to refer to people as “Sir/Madam” whereas “ni” is used in less formal situations between friends and relatives in a similar age group. But cultural nuances also play an important role in effective localization services. A simple thing that can easily be overlooked is the colors used in your video games. However, in China, colors have meanings. For instance, red is a symbol of wealth, luck, and joy. Meanwhile, white represents death, whereas black is destruction, evil, cruelty, and sadness.
Decide between voiceover or text
Next, you will also want to make the important decision of whether to use voiceover or text. Once again, with voiceovers in localization, you need to be aware of where your game is going to be launched and which specific region you will be targeting. This is because of the different dialects that need to be applied to voiceovers in video games. Alternatively, if you choose to add text through subtitles, you also need to decide whether you will be using Simplified Chinese or Traditional Chinese.
The difference here is huge. This is because Traditional Chinese has over 80,000 characters while Simplified Chinese requires knowledge of only about 2,000 characters in order to read and understand the gist of formal communication that’s usually presented in newspapers and other related publications. Simplified Chinese also has fewer strokes and also important to keep in mind when it comes to localization is the space that it takes for characters to be expressed. In English, the space used for words and sentences is much longer than in Chinese, so being aware of these nuances should also be an important consideration.
Specify your offering
Something that goes well with knowing your target audience, which we discussed above, is being clear and specific about your offering. This will necessarily entail clarity regarding whether you will be offering mobile, PC, or console games. The differences here can play a critical role in how you attempt video game translation and subsequently video game localization. Mobile necessarily implies that you’re dealing with much less space in which to convey dialogue, actions, movement, character development, and more. This is why voiceover might be more appropriate in this case. Games on a PC or a console, on the other hand, lend themselves to greater space for text and you can combine text with voiceover for a fuller and more immersive experience.
Be aware of China’s firewall and general online searches
In the Western world, we are quite familiar with Google as one of the primary search engines used for online search queries. However, in China, Google ranks at about sixth place for search engine usage. In addition, sites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and others are not available in China, which means that if you were intending to use these channels to promote your game, much like many companies are doing in the West these days, you would find no success and your marketing strategy would be wasted. This is important for localization because in-app advertising on mobile phones should be a part of an organization’s marketing strategy in China as it has the potential to bring in more revenue.
Offer appropriate payment methods
You’ve created and localized your video game and you’ve ensured that you’ve marketed it appropriately so that users can start playing it. But what happens when your audience is at the checkout and ready to purchase your game online? Will you be offering payment methods such as PayPal or credit cards or something else? As a word of advice, it’s crucial to consider the Chinese online shopping market and its preferences. As opposed to more Western payment methods such as PayPal and credit cards, Chinese users and shoppers prefer to pay with a QR code or a fingerprint. Therefore, bear in mind this small societal nuance and ensure that your payment methods are also fully localized so that you can have more success in the Chinese market.
Implement accurate localization
Finally, when it’s time to get to the nitty gritty of your video game localization, always consider these four “Rs” when developing your game and introducing it to the Chinese market. They are: rewrite, rebrand, rename, and redesign. Yes, this sounds like a lot of work upfront but it’s the only way to guarantee you success in entering the Chinese marketplace. So, what do these concepts mean for video game localization? Let’s take a look. Rewriting your video game necessarily implies that you need to avoid focusing on political themes completely. This will mean that referring to Taiwan or Tibet as independent states will either get you banned completely, or these places will be blacked out or replaced with an asterisk so that the user doesn’t see them.
When it comes to rebranding, be aware that popular Western is not really popular in China and that any references to popular Western culture should be avoided. In terms of renaming, be aware that some words like “CEO” are not translated into Chinese and the English version can be used. However, other titles, names and references should be renamed completely to fit in with the local preferences. As for the redesign, you will definitely want to steer clear of blood, drugs, skulls, skeletons, gambling, sexual themes, or the defaming of the Chinese government. Of course, blood cannot always be avoided altogether so follow the example set by other gaming companies by using black or green instead of red.
Localize your video game in Chinese!
Whether you attempt to do a Google localization for your video game translation and video game localization, it’s crucial to bear in mind that the localization services you choose for your video game project should consider multiple factors simultaneously when localizing your game for the Chinese market. Therefore, it’s best to partner with well-known and reputable service providers to ensure the successful take-off of your project in China.