4 localization challenges in mobile games on the example of Fishing Clash.

04 Apr 19
5 minutes

Let’s start with an important remark – localization doesn’t equal translation. With translation, your goal is to represent the original text as faithfully as possible, with localization – not always. Localization is more like an adaptation. For example, it would be a bold idea to literally translate an in-game Thanksgiving event into Chinese, because it’s an unknown festive day in Asia.

Keeping that in mind and knowing the dynamics of the mobile games business, here are 4 common obstacles one may face when working on localizations.   

So many strings, so little time

Keeping a mobile game interesting often means adding a lot of content. Regularly. Fishing Clash creates an average of 8 new events weekly (!) and yes – everything needs to be localized. Organizing an effective translation process requires planning ahead and limiting ad hoc actions.

Setting up this process is pretty straightforward with basic languages like German, Spanish, Italian or French because you can get stuff translated day-by-day. Unfortunately, it gets really tricky with Chinesee, Japanise, Turkish, Korean, Arabic… and a few others! Especially if it requires localizing names of fish, that don’t even exist in those languages. Obviously it depends on the region – if you’re developing your game in China, you may very well be facing problems with getting a German localization.

The key obstacle is time – sometimes (usually?) it’s just not humanly possible to get a quick translation into 20 foreign languages on the same day, even if it’s only one sentence and you’re working with a translation agency. With Fishing Clash, we plan the process at least one week ahead.

Is it any good?

Ordering a localization into an exotic language is a funny thing – you pay a lot of money, but you can’t even check the quality. At least not by yourself; and that’s where proofreading comes into play.

It may look like an overkill to new developers (What?! We just paid a trylion south african rands for that arabic localization, we’re not spending more money on it! I’m sure it’s fine!), but proofreading is actually a crucial part of the localization process. Because in the end, if the localization isn’t any good, it won’t work to the game’s advantage; it may even negatively affect the retention.  

In some cases it’s a better idea not to localize the game at all than to add a bad translation, that’s going to irritate local players. We faced that issue before – after the implementation of a Swedish localization, some players went berserk, because back then the game didn’t have the option of changing the language (needless to say, the translation wasn’t flawless).  

But here’s some good news: spending a ton of money on proofreading isn’t always necessary. If you have a strong community of players, you can ask for detailed feedback. If they say everything’s fine – great. If not – consider ordering a professional proofreading.

And here are some funny mistranslations from Fishing Clash to keep you entertained:

  • In German, the button CAST, which stands for casting a rod, was translated as Besetzung. It means cast indeed, but… a movie cast.
  • In Spanish, MISS – an indicator of failing – was translated into senorita. Hola!
  • In English, the CARP was once misspelled as crap… ups! What a shitty mistake!

As you may have noticed, the examples above are from european languages only – we don’t even want to know what was hideous things were going on in languages we absolutely don’t understand. Luckily these mistakes didn’t make it into the game, because we invested in proofreading. We encourage you to do the same.      

Expect the unexpected

A mobile app is a dynamic entity – it can crash, eat all the players’ hard currency and kill the invaluable progress. And when disguising a bug as a feature fails, one has to address the issues. And fast!

Bus as we said before, “fast” doesn’t always work in the localization process. There’s no way you’ll be able to translate a message into 20+ languages in 15 minutes. That’s why it’s good to have some generic texts ready that you can use by just changing single words or numbers.

The most frequently used generic message in Fishing Clash is the maintenance break information. Good for us. No crashes lately!

Eating fish on Christmas (Who does that!? Well, Polish people)

And here’s a tricky problem. Something well-known in your culture doesn’t have to mean a thing in another. We face that problem quite regularly when creating content to Fishing Clash.

The carp, for instance, is something like a national fish to Poles; it is the main dish on (probably) every Christmas table in the country and is generally recognised as a symbol of Christmas. It came as a shock to us that it holds absolutely no meaning to people outside of Poland. It’s a typically 100% local tradition. It would make absolutely no sense to literally translate this event into other languages, because no one would understand the context. “Then just localize it and use a fish other people eat for Christmas!”. Great idea, right? No!

Here’s the problem – people usually don’t eat fish for Christmas. The UK has turkey, the US roast potatoes and Germany eats the delicious-sounding Weihnachtsbraten. No carp. No fish. Ergo, it’s good to take familiarity under consideration when creating content – not after. There are things that may be unlocalizable.

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