[REPORT 2020] The Hottest Languages For Game Localization
2020-04-24 | Slava Zaiets
Executive summary: FIGS requests are falling down the pecking order in terms of most popular game localization languages, perhaps in part due to the somewhat lower demand of Italian and European Spanish. Delays in foreign game approvals from China’s regulators resulted in a lower showing of requests into Simplified Chinese. Polish got into the top 10 for the first time, also becoming one of the fastest growing languages in the past four years, together with Thai, Korean, Japanese, Turkish and Vietnamese.
LocalizeDirect 2019 localization data revealed the 10 most popular languages in game translation. Most frequently, game developers localized games into German, European French, Japanese, Russian, Korean, European Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, Italian, Simplified Chinese, and Polish.
These 10 languages accounted for over 80% of the overall word count, from a pool of 48 languages.
Top 10 languages for game localization. Data source: LocalizeDirect’s 2020 report.
The chart illustrates the distribution of the most popular languages for game localization at LocalizeDirect in terms of word count. In total, the data pool includes 15 million words translated from English into 48 languages, from over 14,000 game orders. Proofreading services were excluded from the report.
Game localization trends
Commonly, FIGS (French, Italian, German, Spanish) were integral to game localization, accounting for around 40-45% of the total word count. Their share has now dropped to just under 37%, due to the slightly decreased demand for Italian and Spanish.
Simplified Chinese, widely spoken in mainland China, lost three percentage points, falling from 9% to 6% of the overall word count compared with the previous year. This can partly be explained by repercussions of the nine-month freeze in game licenses in PRC in 2018 that affected mobile, online and console games. Only 185 approvals were issued to foreign titles in 2019, compared to 467 in 2017.
Nevertheless, game developers still see Asia as a promising region due to a large population and high purchasing power in Japan and South Korea. Japanese, Korean, and Russian gained on popularity amongst many developers, making the top 5 after German and French.
The list of the 10 biggest languages is now supplemented with the rising star Polish, due to a large number of gamers and game dev studios in Poland.
Thai, Polish, Korean, and Japanese became the fastest growing game localization languages in the past four years, followed by Turkish and Vietnamese. Hindi and Simplified Chinese were also ranked.
The fastest growing game localization languages in a three-year period (2016-2019). Data source: LocalizeDirect’s 2020 report.
“South-East Asian languages are noticeably expanding. Thailand remains among the top 20 global games markets, and is expected to generate a considerable growth in video games revenue. Coincidentally, we are also seeing more requests for game translation into Thai,” Dolly Dai, LocalizeDirect’s Business Development Manager explains.
With the loc industry becoming more internationalized, whenever possible, more developers (especially from China and Russia) prefer translating their games from their source language without using English as a bridge.
“Such an approach has its pros and cons. By translating from the original language, localization quality and accuracy may be improved, but it may also be harder for developers to internally review the translation work. Additionally, skipping English may raise the cost for the whole localization process as there are more Russian-English and English-German game translators in the market than Russian-German localization specialists,” Rodrigo Souza Ramos, LocalizeDirect’s Lead Localization Manager points out.
The majority of the game development companies based in Europe or North America select FIGSPR as the primary choice while Asian game studios and publishers prefer CJK as the first wave in their localization process.
Find more about trends in game localization in LocalizeDirect’s 2020 report. To access the FULL version of the paper, please fill in the form below.
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I've been working with localization for almost a decade now, and oh boy, I’ve seen some troublesome projects in my time. I’m hoping that this list will serve to better inform those embarking on the loc text request phase of their development. I also hope that those handling loc project management will nod and tell me “oh man, I know what you mean.”