4 best practices for indie game localization

Localization empowers indie developers to make a global impact with a prized new title. And if you think great localization is only for the AAA studios, think again. Here, you’ll find out how smaller independent developers and publishers can maximize their available resources to achieve top-quality game localization even on the tightest budgets and timelines.
 05-11-2023        Ivan Belcic
4 best practices for indie game localization

1. Choose target languages based on ROI

When you and your team have likely spent years working on a new game, it’s only natural to want to share it with as many people as possible. But if you’re localizing with minimal resources, casting too wide a net will quickly exhaust your budget.

Instead, assess the ROI (return on investment) of entering your target markets. Look at your potential revenue in these markets, factoring in variables such as cost per user, genre popularity, marketing expenses, and pricing strategies. Then, look at the translation expenses — how much will it cost to localize your game for these regions? The relationship between these findings is your ROI.

Focus your localization efforts on the markets promising the highest ROI. You’ll ensure that your resources are put to optimal use, bringing your game to the audiences most likely to provide you with the largest reward in return for your efforts.

>> Learn more about managing content for localization

2. Implement design-stage localization

Too many companies make the critical error of putting localization off until the very end of a product development cycle. They’ll wait until the entire build is complete in one language, then begin the laborious process of localizing an entire product’s worth of content. But this approach is as slow as it is bug-prone.

When you localize at the end of a dev cycle, everyone else needs to stop and wait until localization is complete. And if you decide to launch while waiting on localization, you’ll risk alienating potential users who’d prefer a local-language experience.

Should any bugs pop up during localization, they’ll need to be fixed now, further adding to the delays. It’s easy to see how saving localization until the last minute can prolong your time to market. And that’s before you factor in localization quality assurance.

Design-stage localization incorporates localization into the entire product development timeline, beginning at the design phase. It provides a gargantuan boost to efficiency via greater collaboration between all involved teams:

  • Localization teams can review design mockups to ensure there’s enough space for translated strings, provide feedback on market-specific UI practices, or address potential cultural conflicts.
  • As soon as any content is written, translators can spring into action and begin localizing alongside ongoing product development.
  • Developers can immediately address localization-related bugs that emerge during the project cycle
  • Testers can evaluate localized content on a rolling basis as soon as developers push it into their build.

>> Learn more about localization quality assurance (LQA)

3. Internationalize your code from day 1

Internationalization is the practice of preparing a product for localization. Failing to internationalize means you’ll need to stop and wait while your developers dive into the code and get things ready. But if you follow good internationalization principles throughout your development cycle, you’ll never need to waste time on it later — it’ll just be the way your team operates.

  • Don’t hardcode strings. If you do, developers will have to extract them from the code and place them into an external storage repository — a content management platform, Google Sheets, or Excel file — when it’s time to localize. Store your strings externally from the start.

  • Don’t hardcode dates, times, and currency values. Use a universal time format such as UTC or ISO 8601 and let a library convert to local formas as needed. Meanwhile, use placeholders for currency and store values with your other strings in an external content repository.

  • Use UTF-8 encoding. UTF-8 encoding correctly displays the vast majority of characters in most languages around the world. A different encoding system may fail to display certain characters, which will require developer time and effort to fix.

  • Use full language locales. People don’t always speak or write the same language the same way. That’s why one apple can be 一个苹果 in Beijing or 一個蘋果 in Taiwan. Language locales comprising a language code and country variant, such as zh-CN and zh-TW, allow you to be specific.

    • Bonus tip: Don’t use flags to denote languages. Most countries have significant populations that speak other languages, and using flags to represent one language fails to include those people.

>> Learn more about string translation in gaming

4. Bring the team together in one central workspace

With limited resources and smaller team sizes, smooth collaboration becomes critical to efficient work. Uniting all stakeholders in a centralized content workspace enables everyone to push and pull content as needed, provide feedback or ask questions, and monitor localization progress — all without having to swap over to another platform.

Centralized content platforms are what make the highly efficient design-stage localization process possible. When the whole team is on the same page, it’s easy to collaborate and include localization in your development cycle.

Don’t make the mistake of saving localization until the end — when you localize alongside development, you’ll ship faster and enjoy a higher level of quality. Leverage the collaborative benefits of a specialized content management and localization platform to achieve top-tier localization at any scale.

>> Find out how to make your localization workflow more efficient

>> Discover cutting-edge features for managing and localizing content

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