Friday, October 28, 2011

User Generated Content: What Japan Can Learn From The Computer Game Modding Culture In The West

User generated content is not new. On the contrary it is a trend in gaming that has fascinated gamers for more than a decade already, and the availability of level editors and other modding software has drawn more and more ‘casual’ people to start designing their own game content.

Levels, designs, textures, items and even characters created by players are shareable for everyone to take advantage of. User created content not only increases the quality of gaming experiences by extending the replay value of a game, but it also gives players an outlet to be creative and to share their work with other players in the world.

However this gaming scene has passed – with some exceptions - Japan completely. Only recently with the increase of social gaming players in Japan have more players gotten a taste of the fun potential of the “creation process” itself and are starting to enjoy designing their own game content with their own personality.

All humans are (game) designers – Japanese are not

Even if you don’t care very much for games you have very likely had some experience with “FarmVille”, a game that is placed in a new genre that grows in popularity at an astonishing rate: social games. Many gamers in this genre are playing a videogame for the first time! And with up to tens of millions of people playing daily, social games are good places to study human nature.

So what is it that many of those games have in common and that attracts even grandmothers to play?

If there's something that human beings like then it is building and creating. The great thing about FarmVille and other games in the same genre is the customization aspect. A FarmVille player is – besides harvesting crops – mostly building his farm, shaping it according to his imagination. People spend hours customizing their farm, and sharing it with others to receive recognition and feel proud for their creations. In this sense FarmVille is not very different from Minecraft, a game that is surely the incarnation of user created content and modding. Sure, Minecraft’s customization and building systems eclipse the ones in FarmVille much more in complexity but the principle is the same.

This trend is not very different from what is happening in Japan; maybe only with the difference that customization in social games mostly takes place on mobile devices in Japan. I would even go so far to say that Japan is the cradle for personalization in social games. Japanese players always have loved to personalize their avatars as a way to express their status and to stick out from the masses as e.g. it is possible on Yahoo!’s platform Mobage. Meanwhile this market with players spending money on new content for their characters enables companies like Gree to make billions of dollars by simply selling fancy in-game clothes or pets.

This love of customization held by gamers is not new but a major factor that attracts female gamers.

However customization in the West goes much farther than in Japan. While players in Japan customize their characters by simply buying and attaching goods to their characters or cities, Western players take over the role of game designers. Take for example ‘Dragon Age’, or ‘The Sims’. There are huge communities of gamers - even female players- dedicated to offering downloads on self-designed custom armors, clothes, interior items, skins or any other in-game related content or offering resources to those seeking information on how to design and decorate their house or character in the respective game. Those player-made alterations and additions to pre-existing games are called modifications, or simply ‘Mods’.

Modding – The peephole to understand the relation between players and the game industry

Mods are digital artifacts that avid gamers design by tinkering with their favorite games. The creators of those mods are called “modders” and often resemble small development teams.[1] While a regular consumer is unlikely engaged in productive activities like modding, the practices of modders is close to the work of media professionals. Modders are the perfect target group for the gaming industry, since they form the contemporary overlap between media consumption and production.

Mods express one’s identification with games but from a more professional point of view than other normal players. The actual modder perceives the game in a productive sense and is able to consider game conditions even the developer may not be able to implement.

Developers in the West very much support mod making, which has been crucial in the rise of this modding phenomenon. However the gaming industry is also supporting it for self-protection, since mods and modders can be significant factors for the commercial success of a particular game. Particular popular mods can become objects of fan enthusiasm where players actively offer their ideas and even demand new features. This can even result in stand-alone games as the example of the popular World of Warcraft III mod Defense of the Ancients shows.[2]

Mods can take different forms of contribution, e.g. game mods that facilitate new forms of play, fix bugs and produce completely new audiovisual environments. All of these types of mods can serve both instrumental and expressive purposes for both the game’s community and the game’s actual design.

Video games are ‘co-creative media’ in the way that they require both developer and player input. Modders often start with a simple game idea to enhance game play or to increase the quality of their beloved title. After years of ambitious modding the work can significantly influenced the perception and the image players attach to the game. Some of these modders will actually take it up as a profession and sometimes move on to be full-fledged independent developers.

The biggest benefit for companies such as Blizzard or Bioware is that most modding is non-profit oriented. And as long the game industry is able to preserve a situation where modders are happy to work for free developers and publishers can clearly benefit from selling retail titles that include some sort of modding functionality.

Modding – A way out from the crisis in Japan?

With an eye on the Japanese market, I have to admit that most mods I have been talking about so far relate to PC gaming, and that in a country like Japan where console gaming still dominates the creation of user created content for console games in a semi-professional way is a bit of a hassle. However, with regards to the trend in social gaming, modding in a sense of content adjustment and customization for console games is not far from becoming a standard in game development. The challenge for developers in Japan lies in providing tools for modders to build their UGC and add a distribution channel to share the content.

But if a publisher or console manufacturer would be open to do so, not only the community feedback but also the financial return could be incredible. I am just throwing the idea out there, but imagine a Second Life similar market place inside your favorite title, where modders can share their user generated content either for free or a small price, and where the developer gets a small share…

So to summarize, what would be the advantage for publishers and developers in Japan? I have tried to put together some of the pros of mods and user generated content:

Mods and UGC can…

· Extend the life and drive sales numbers of existing games.
Example: The Sims, Sid Meier's Civilization IV, Counterstrike

· Boost creativity leading to completely new games and game styles.
Example: Defense of the Ancients, Tringo

· Create new forms of virtual profitable businesses, for both developers and players.
Example: Second Life, The Sims

· Reduce the cost in-game content creation, and broaden the variety of dynamic and interesting content.
Example: Dragon Age, Spore

· Leverage social networking and combine game and non-game content where the lines between the real and virtual world blur
Example: Second Life, Swords & Sworcery, SpaceChem

· Help the gaming industry to recruit creative and talented personal.

· Lead to cross media design and user generated merchandise.
Example: Quake movies (Machinima)

· Tap social forces and user-creativity to enrich play, encourage gamers to purchase the game and as a result reduce piracy.

· Start free viral marketing of the game and for real-world businesses / products.
Example: The Sims

· Create communities based around completely new gameplay types.
Example: Toribash

· Help to fix bugs or update game engines (in the case of legacy titles)
Example: Borderlands, X-COM, GTAIV, Stalker 2009 mod

· Create something radically different from the base game to show the versatility of the game engine
Example: Half Life 2: Dear Esther, Half Life 2: Radiator

· Fans can continue to keep game communities alive even after the developer abandons the title.
Example: Phantasy Star Online

Of course there are always cons as well. Many voices in Japan argue that modding and UGC is mainly questionable in terms of copyright issues, guarantees and customer support especially in the case that UGC can corrupt play data. This is indeed true and Western players commonly face problems where incompatible mods fail to install and just create frustration. It is even possible that their previous game data could be lost. However, the prospect of enjoying another interesting story inside their favorite game drives many players in the West to take that risk.

Other industry professionals in Japan also state that modding systems in games would only appeal to a small group of consumers since programming skills would be required.

This also is reasonable argument but there is no difference in the West. Of course not every video gamer is a programmer, but most modders consist of teams with different skills. Moreover every gamer has a certain idea how their game should look like, and the modding community very much proves that even if only a small group is involved into the actual design process, every player can bring in ideas and feedbacks.

It is not always this difficult however and recently there has been a wealth of titles released which include easy to use modding tools built into the game engine. An example of such titles would include Little Big Planet, SpaceChem, and StarCraft 2.

So the biggest problem I see is the level of involvement for both players and the gaming industry. It is about how the gaming industry and the players in Japan would accept moddable games and what kind of tools developers would support so that even newbies can create some sort of user generated content.

However, like I stated earlier I feel that most gamers in Japan are not ready yet. It seems most of them simply play games for entertainment; they are ‘visitors’ rather than ‘architects’. So the real breakthrough may still take some time.[3]

Last but not least I’d like to list some games that I personally find very refreshing in terms of modding concepts and UGC. So if this article has piqued your interest, feel free to check out these games:

- Little Big Planet
- Unreal Tournament 3
- Dragon Age
- Sim City 4
- SpaceChem
- Mega Man Powered Up
- Homeworld 2
- Bangai-O HD/Spirits
- Steel Storm: Burning Retribution
- 3D Dot Game Heroes

[1] Modders can be called the elite of user-content creators, while there is a division between mission makers, add-on makers and mod makers.

[2] Valve is currently working on the release of DOTA2 as a stand-alone title.

[3] This may be a false impression, but after attending another year at TGS and seeing the sort of games that are popular with most Japanese gamers, I cant stop believing so.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Voice recording: Directly to the Heart

“Go Ahead. Make my day.”

The phrase, which most should immediately recognize, is spouted by police detective Harry Callahan while holding a criminal at the gunpoint of his 44 magnum. As a Spanish speaker used to seeing all American films dubbed into my native language, that phrase will always resonate with me as: “Anda, alégrame el día,” and I doubt that I’ll ever forget the lack of impact that the famous line fizzled with when I first saw the film in its original English with only Spanish subtitles. Another example which generated an equally lackluster impression occurred when listening to Colonel Kilgore utter in the film Apocalypse Now, “I’m not afraid to surf this place, I’ll surf this whole fucking place!” which in Spanish is expressed as, “Me sobran cojones para hacer surf en esta playa”.

I certainly recognize that a Spanish attempting to mimic the original English expression in these cases would not carry the equivalent weight, likely sounding rather absurd and ultimately failing to do justice to the original, but the fact remains that I (and millions of others) grew up watching these movies in Spanish!

It was just recently that I came to the personal realization that the feelings evoked by these powerful phrases were not related most directly to the language itself, but that it was the Spanish voice which I was cherishing. Hearing is, along with smell, a sense that cannot be easily ignored. You can close your eyes or you mouth, but any scent or sound passing through the related sensory organ will go directly to the brain, activating all kinds of related memories or feelings that you may have or have had.

I noticed then that it was due to this logic that I have long struggled to understand how videogame publishers often justify neglecting voice recording for video games when it is unquestionably one of the most important pieces of a proper localization if you hope for the target audience to feel that the game was developed just for them. Of course, some players may prefer to experience a game in its original language, but if the original language is say, Japanese, does the player prefer to spend 100 hours hearing conversations or messages that she is unable to understand, or would she prefer to just sit down and enjoy the game?  Given the way that many games are designed, the answer is an obvious one, as the ability to play and proceed through a game in the way that the creators intended is often largely contingent upon the player’s ability to understand both the game’s text and auditory cues and messages.

In time I came to realize (following my direct involvement in the game localization process) that one of the primary reasons linked to why publishers are reluctant to localize voice work is due to the overpriced quotes that they often receive from studios. The first time that I received one of these estimates, I found nearly half of the items to be largely irrelevant, and in the end, so high was the lowest quote that we received for the project - over $100,000 USD - which was reasonably more expensive than the other costs associated with the development of that particular game itself, that we made the decision to venture off into the realm of doing the actual dubbing work by ourselves, with “actors” consisting of the non-Japanese staff working at the company at the time. The result was reasonably high-quality dub work with what could be considered a bit of a cool “edge” to the final product, and costs consisting of just the studio rate of $8,000 USD.

Using the Japanese game industry as an example, it’s rather easy to recognize that Japanese publishers are usually enthusiastic towards the prospect of recording with professional voice actors, yet we also notice that many overseas markets fail to receive voice tracks in their respective languages with a level of quality on par with that of the original voice work present in the original Japanese version of the game.  The justification for this quality discrepancy is often explained away by quoting the differences in how the overarching system for famous “talents” in Japan operate, with famous actors and performers often lending their services (aka: voices) to a variety of entertainment media irrespective of the medium, whether it be film, anime, TV commercials, talk shows or video games.  While this may be the reality, the primary reason for turning down opportunities for a quality voice localization is actually much more simple, and obvious: It is often cheaper to call in actors to record and rerecord everything in multiple sessions and to then purchase all of the rights than it is to pay the Japanese voice actor the secondary rights for releasing his or her voice abroad.

Game publishers often left asking why it is that their localized versions sold so poorly in secondary markets such as Italy or Spain could be well served by looking into working with smaller localization companies and recording studios which are regularly capable of doing some very interesting work at much more reasonable rates. I firmly believe that a proper voice recording is the key to being able to really grasp players’ hearts, particularly given many games’ current trend toward an increasingly cinematic presentation and reliance on audio over text in order to produce a cleaner UI and a more naturally intuitive means of communicating with the player without interrupting the game experience.  The question remains however as to whether or not the day will come when publishers producing games of different scales will regularly and seriously consider the potential impact that the localized versions of their games are having on their respective target markets, or whether they will just continue to produce “translated” videogames. Creating quality and focused products is no longer optional if a publisher hopes to reach their desired sales numbers in this era of globalization, particularly for video games, a medium that continues to fight to erase 20+ years of being interpreted by many cultures as a “children’s pastime” while simultaneously searching for ways to express to newer audiences the medium’s inherent value tied into its still largely untapped power of expression.

For those publishers who still wish to continue to pump out “translated software,” the option is certainly available.  However when it comes time to predict sales numbers and player reviews, Harry Callahan begs that those electing to walk that line ask themselves just one more question:
“Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk? “

Translation : Why you Should Remain Optimistic

We've recently seen a lot of translators concerned about the important ongoing changes in the world of translation. Today, we give them a few reasons to believe in a fine future.

The main worries of translators can be compiled in a couple of statements. Let's see them one by one.

"Rates have been decreasing a lot and will keep decreasing"

It is true that recently prices have been decreasing significantly. This is the direct consequence of a bigger competition between translators since the Internet really emerged as a mass media.
Now the question is : how long will it keep going?
In my opinion, we have reached a peak point: translators are already doing very big efforts about their rates but rates just can't keep decreasing forever;  translators will still need to have enough money at the end of the month.
If you have experience and diplomas, you should be able to market your advantages and get jobs at reasonable rates.

Another idea is that, to maintain good rates, translators will progressively specialize in a couple of fields and try to offer additional services: translation of press releases, commercial e-mails and more generally marketing services requiring the help of a translator/interpreter.
For example, the next time you see a job offer for, say, website translation, try to mention in your quote "As a free addition, I can also translate and submit a press release for your site + write/translate a couple of newsletters for you". Try it, you may be nicely surprised with results.
I call it the "Icing on the cake".

"Machines will replace translators"

NO. Computer ASSISTED Translation tools are here to assist translators, not to replace them. They can save you a lot of time and prevent your from doing mistakes but in no case they will be able to translate everything perfectly.
Even the best machines won't be able to reproduce perfectly the tone of a text, understand things such as sarcasm or irony or recreate the human feelings a text can convey.
This topic would be worth an article, but the idea is that translation is a form of art, constantly renewed. It is not like manufacturing some product and definitely not something that can be automatized.
Would you ask a machine to translate a poem, or a touching dialog? I bet not. Companies would not do that either.

"Chinese and Indian translators have been taking all the assignments recently"

I don't believe so. It is quite common to fear people who are appearing on a market, but this fear is meaningless.
Yes, some non-native translators are getting jobs at ridiculously low prices (sometimes below 0.01$/word).
However, serious companies looking for proper translations will always look for experienced translators who are native speakers.
If some company decided to give a job to a random translator (the one offering the lowest rate, actually), then it just means they didn't care about the quality of their translation and would have given the job to the same kind of translator 10 years ago, and would do the very same in 10 years.

"There are more and more translators, which makes it harder to find jobs"

The number of assignments is also increasing yearly. Moreover, in developed countries, the number of freelance translators is getting stable, as most translators now own a computer with an Internet connection.
The number of assignments is also set to keep increasing. In our "globalized" world, companies are trying (more and more) to reach audience in various markets -worldwide when possible-. And if they want to preserve their image, it is a necessity for them to offer a proper translation/localization for all of their products.
Once again, quality will have the priority over rates (or let's say at least 50/50...) and serious translators should have a significant advantage again.


In the end, serious companies will always look for native and experienced translators and will be ready to invest reasonable prices for it.
Of course, the world of translation is changing with the growth of internet and improvements brought to translation tools. And as you surely know, change always scares people.
But if we have a careful look at the translation world, we can easily see that our dear industry is not heading to its death.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Human Factor | Real People, Proven Results

Ever tried translating a technical compound complex sentence using Google Translate or Trados etc.?

You end up with something far from what you expect in your target language...  In short, something close to garbage.

Here at AGM | Active Gaming Media | アクティブゲーミングメディア, as always, in-house staff and natives to specific cultures and languages do their utmost best to deliver close, if not near accurate translations/localizations for specific projects.  May it be games, manga, websites, applications, etc.  We always strive to get the project done in the most natural, correct and convincing localization delivery.  No other company even comes close.  True, Tried and Tested.

At Active Gaming Media, we do not only translate words.  We translate their meaning...

Call it the Human Factor...


Osaka Main Branch: Okazaki Building 2F, 1-12-6 Utsubo Honmachi, Nishi ward, Osaka, Japan Postcode 550-0004

Tel:06-6147-9401 Fax:06-6147-9402

Tokyo Business Office Central Building 8F, 2-14-4 Yanagibashi, Taito ward, Tokyo, Japan Postcode 111-0052

Tel:03-6327-7116 Fax:03-5822-4181

大阪本社 〒550-0004 大阪市西区靱本町1-12-6 オカザキビル2F Tel:06-6147-9401 Fax:06-6147-9402

東京営業所 〒111-0052 東京都台東区柳橋2-14-4 セントラルビル8F Tel:03-6327-7116 Fax:03-5822-4181

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Specifics of Website Translation

Some may think that translating a website is no harder than translating a book or a manual: both include titles, texts, more or less the same footer information on every page, and a "table of contents" ("menu" for the website). However, if you get the chance to translate a website, you will soon realize that it is a tougher task than what some may expect.

Of course, at the end of the day, your job is still to translate words and sentences from one language to another, but unlike plain text translation work, you cannot just open up a web page and start translating everything that you see. 

If the webmaster has provided you with all the texts that you will need to translate in a plain text format, then you are a lucky person and you can stop reading this article.

For now, let me list some of the main differences between website translation and translation of "ordinary" plain text.

1. Books are made of paper, letters, and words. Websites are made of HTML

Web pages, at least the ones reaching your browser, are all made of HTML. Even if their names end up with ".php" or something different from ".HTML", the final content is always HTML, which is formatted text and not plain text. It means that if you\'re not translating web pages from code editing software (such as Notepad++ or Komodo), then you are doing things wrong. 

Rather, you will need to replace the text directly inside the code, using the previously mentioned software. As you can imagine, making changes inside the code can be quite tricky, as you may accidentally "break" the page. When you do it (I mean translating, not breaking the page), be very careful with tags and formatting. If you move or - even worse - remove some tags, the layout of the page may differ from the original version.

In the worst of cases, the whole page may even become unreadable or produce error messages. If you don\'t understand some characters or tags, just leave them as they are.

2. Web pages have a lot of "invisible" text

A web page is not limited to its visual content. Indeed, a lot of textual content is not visible when you just check the page on your browser. This is why, once again, you have to look at the code rather than what your browser displays.

You always have to check everything from the header to the footer of the page: Did you translate all of the meta tags, such as the page\'s description (the piece of text which will usually appear in search engines when people look for your website)? If mails are sent by the website, are these mails also translated? What about the alternative texts for images? Error messages?

Check the code again and again to make sure there's nothing you’ve forgotten.

3. Some words are not meant to be translated

Some parts of a web page don't need to or must not be translated. Before starting your translation, ALWAYS ask the webmaster if there is any content that is NOT to be translated. Some parts of the page (usually non-visible content) must be exactly the same in all languages to ensure that the website will work correctly. For example, tag attributes such as name="xx", id="xx" or even sometimes value="xx" should not be translated. If you didn't understand a word of the previous sentence, then you should be extremely careful and, if possible, learn a few elements of HTML, at least to understand how web pages are structured.

4. The problem of image localization

Web pages are made of formatted text, colors and images. Images including text are a concern for anybody who has been translating/localizing software or websites.

The first (important) thing to do is to get the image template file used to create the original image. Once you have it, you can edit the text layer with an image tool. Usually, Adobe Photoshop or The Gimp will do it, but if you don\'t know which software you should use, ask your client. 

Once the new text is implemented, there are two possibilities:

-The new text fits the image: You\'re done!

-The new text is too large: You will have to call your client to know what to do. Should you use a shorter but less accurate word? Reduce the font size? Increase the size of the button, which could bring about the necessity (for the webmaster) of rewriting some parts of the code? In any case, do nothing without the approval of your client; explain the problem as clearly as possible and ask the webmaster\'s advice.

5. What looks fine in your editor may look awful in your browser

After you finish your translation, checking the new page in a web browser is always a good idea. If the layout looks different, it certainly means that you’ve moved or deleted some tags by mistake. Always keep a version of the original page so that you can compare the code and find your mistake.

But don't forget: having a correctly displayed page doesn't necessarily mean that everything was translated properly.

There are a few other points I could mention here, but they are usually specific to certain categories of websites, and I believe the client would give you enough documentation in such cases.

As you can see, website translation differs significantly from "ordinary" translation. It can be quite tricky and you will always have to check everything extra carefully.

If you know nothing about the structure of an HTML page, then I strongly recommend that you read some introductory articles. You don't need to become a webmaster yourself, but you should at least understand the structure of an HTML page, and if possible understand the meaning of some "Webmaster slang" words as well, such as "meta tags", "tag attributes", and "page footer".

An All too Common Mistranslation Found in Games Localized from English to Japanese

In our first industry professional contributed article, translator Y.G. points out a common translation error (mistranslation) still quite prevalent even in many big-budget Western-developed titles localized for the Japanese market, detailing why this particular slipup can easily be a stumbling block for many translators, as the context within which the terminology is used in-game can be somewhat deceptive.   

Some knowledge of the Japanese language and how some basic terminology is commonly used to represent different types of data in many Japanese video games will certainly lend additional value to readers of the article, however we encourage you to give the piece a read irrespective of your Japanese language ability.  While localization has come a long way in just the past decade, with the quality of localization for many Japanese titles typically being far better than it has ever been, it’s also important to raise awareness about what’s happening with games in other regions undergoing these same processes as well.

An All too Common Mistranslation Found in Games Localized from English to Japanese

Rather far from being a rare case even today, Japanese players quite regularly get their hands on games developed outside Japan which have been localized and then released into the Japanese marketplace only to discover what they feel to be mistranslations (誤訳 - goyaku), and that error then ends up being mentioned on various message boards and game-related media sites, eventually becoming an open point of discussion scattered about the internet within game fan communities.  However based upon my personal experience, there exists one rather common mistranslation that I have repeatedly stumbled upon which for some mysterious reason or another has failed to gather similar attention around those same sources across the web, which is what I would like to address today.

First, we’ll begin by assuming a case where it is your task to translate the content presented below which has been (hypothetically) pulled from a game originally produced in English and is intended for localization into Japanese:

Enemies Killed: 882
Items Unlocked: 65/100
Missions Completed: 37/50
Points Collected: 85,578,300
Time Played: 20:30:09

Data representations similar to what is depicted above often appear within what is commonly referred to as the “Stats Screen” in many Western developed games.  Such a heading suggests that the sort of data to be found on the game’s corresponding screen is obviously, “Stats”.  The question then is, “How should this heading be interpreted for Japanese translation? “

At first glance, “Stats”  may instinctively be interpreted (by many Japanese game players) as an abbreviation for the word “Status” (ステータス), however in this case, the word “Stats” is actually short for “Statistics,” which is commonly referred to in Japanese-English dictionaries as tokei or tokeihyo (統計 or 統計表).  Very different from “Status,” the word “Statistics” refers to a set of calculated numerical data, whereas “Status” likely refers to something’s state of being.  Within a game context, the “Stats Screen” often displays data such as the player’s accumulated experience points or cumulative play time.  In other words, statistical data pertaining to game play.

However, cases of games localized into Japanese where “Stats” has been translated as “Status”  are surprisingly common.  This is problematic because in many Japan-developed games, the “Status Screen” most often displays information such as character health, attack strength and items in that character’s possession, data of a rather different nature from that represented in the example above, which most certainly does not fall into the category of “Status Screen” based upon the common Japanese standard.  The results procured by performing an image search for “Status Screen” (in Japanese: ステータス画面) using a search engine such as Google expresses the nature of this situation clear as day.  Provided this example, you ought to be able to see how the translation of “Stats” into “Status Screen” might evoke a slight of a sense of confusion for Japanese players.

As an aside, in cases where I have found myself tasked with translating “Stats” (in games), some common terminology found in Japanese games such as “Play Record,” “Play Data,” “Record” or “Senreki” (戦歴 – an expression related to Battle/War Record/History) tends to be appropriate when referring to this particular depiction of “Stats”.  Taking into consideration things such as the context of the game world, as well as the sort of item headings displayed on the “Stats” screen are helpful in determining how to handle such related expressions.

But this “Stats” issue can be rather pesky, as there exist cases where the translation of “Stats” in English can be handled by a direct translation, where that translation then accurately matches up with the appropriate context in Japanese games as well.  The stats screen below displays information such as “Character Level” and “Health,” content entirely in-line with what a Japanese player would expect to see on a standard “Status Screen” found in many Japan-developed games.  A translation such as the one represented below is clearly appropriate.  As a result, it may be safe to assess that the mere existence of cases such as the example shown below could very well be one of the primary factors directly instigating the alarmingly high number of translators’ misinterpretation of the “Stats” abbreviation.

Image from Aeria Games’ Twelve Sky 2 (

The mistranslation of “Stats” into “Status” stands out as an example of a common video game translation error that I cross quite regularly.  It’s an issue that pops up even in Western titles that are reasonably popular in Japan, titles that may ship over 100,000 units.

However being entirely honest, I must admit that I have also been guilty of such translation crimes in the early days of my foray into the world of game localization.  Luckily in each case the error was discovered and corrected in the process, hence circumventing the risk of such a blunder slipping through the cracks.  Yet based upon these experiences, I felt it worthwhile to take a moment in order alert others engaging in game translation and localization to this rather specific yet significant point of interest.

by Y.G

Friday, October 21, 2011

Translating the Terminology of the Era: “Unlock”

Greetings! It seems I’ve been granted the privilege of contributing my own humble little column to the AGM Media Center, a regular offering where I’ll be picking out a theme related to video games and the related industry and examining it from the standpoint of a Japanese individual professionally tasked with game translation - a game localizer, one small iota of the industry, Tokyo resident and loyal taxpayer (?) setting out to address my topic of choice in layman’s terms.

Put simply, I’ll be positioning myself in front of the game screen and proceeding to then freely transcribe my thoughts into what you might refer to as a “column”.

You can call me Hanenashi Error. On that note, the theme of this first column addresses issues with the term “unlock”, an English term which shows up frequently in Western titles, a verb insinuating “creating a state of being able to use something” originally withheld from the player in a game’s early stages which then becomes available for use following the fulfillment of a specified requirement.

That “something” may be a previously hidden character or item. When I game is translated from English into Japanese, “unlock” is often translated as “kaijo” (解除), or occasionally “anrokku”, depicting the phonetic Japanese pronunciation of the English “unlock” and displayed in katakana.
(*Editor’s note: Katakana is one form of the Japanese writing system often used to depict vocabulary borrowed or derived from languages other than Japanese).

(**Editor’s note: “Kaijo” in Japanese is often used in contexts where in English a word such as “release” or “cancel” would be appropriate, for example, to “release restrictions” or “cancel a contract”.)

“Unlock” in the context outlined isn’t a term with a rooted history in Western developed games, as its gradual permeation into the vocabulary of game players began with the proliferation of the Xbox 360 and its accompanying system message.

This message, which I imagine most readers are familiar with, is the one printed below: Achievement unlocked “Unlock” in similar contexts now pops up with reasonable frequency on titles released on platforms other than the Xbox 360 as well.

The result is “kaijo”or “anrokku” being assigned as the “official” place-holder for that particular bit of terminology in more and more games localized for the Japanese marketplace. The result is this piece of language finding its way into the vernacular of Japan’s core user base.

However while I find this particular relationship to be something intriguing, I actually make every effort to avoid taking “unlock” and simply replacing it with “kaijo” or “anrokku”. For instance, using a word such as “kaijo” in order to depict the appearance of or availability created by the player of some previously concealed element, doesn’t quite fall under what could be considered the terminology’s breadth of general use across games in Japan, with the same being true for “anrokku”.

I stated previously that the use of such terminology is gradually spreading in Japan, but in all honesty, this is actually seems to be mostly limited to casual conversation amongst players, often discussing Japanese versions of titles developed overseas, with purely Japanese games – consumer games in particular – not yet generally using the term in this context.

While I do believe that, as long as the meaning gets across, it should be fine to use the terms “kaijo” or “unlock”, I am also somewhat concerned about using terms which are rarely used in Japanese games only in the Japanese localized versions of games from overseas. I think this is because I believe that “the ideal game translation is one in which the target language is so natural as to be mistaken for the original text”. It’s this sort of hokey “pride” that just wouldn’t seem to allow my finger to hit the Enter key after translating “unlock” as “kaijo”.

There is also one more reason. While the word “unlock” is generally perceived as an extremely simple and basic term by native English speakers, the term “kaijo” is seen by young Japanese users – especially elementary/junior high school-aged users – as rather formal and stiff. For elementary school-level users in particular, there is the possibility that the user may not even know the term “kaijo”.

When using the term “kaijo” in games aimed toward a wide range of users, I’ve actually had it changed to a different term by editors in the past. Please don’t bother with the “So you HAVE used it before!” comments… LOL Because of these reasons, unless the game in question is aimed toward core gamers, I generally try to avoid translating the term “unlock” as “kaijo”. For example, when a hidden character or mode has been “unlocked”, I would use the term “You can now use XXX!”, slightly changing the words used depending on what exactly it is that has been unlocked.

However, within a few years, the term “kaijo”, as in “to bring forth a hidden element”, may come to be more widely used in Japanese games. Words and terminology change with the times, and there are some actual cases in which words or phrases translated directly from English have become the standard terms used. For example, the phrase “chuui wo harau”, which literally means “make a payment of caution” (and technically makes no sense grammatically in Japanese).

This phrase was not originally thought up by a Japanese speaker; rather it is derived from the English phrase “pay attention”. This sort of language which has been brought over from foreign languages into Japanese is known as “Western context” by linguists, and the phrase “chuui wo harau” has been so widely used that these days it doesn’t sound unnatural in the slightest.

The gaming industry is evolving at the same dizzying speed – if not faster – than the world of language. Because of this, like the Western-derived term “chuui wo harau”, the term “kaijo”
– which is the direct translation of the English “unlock” – may someday soon come to be widely used and accepted in the Japanese gaming world, being integrated into purely Japanese games without any sort of awkwardness.If this happens, I may just stop calling that sort of phrase/term “Western context” and name it “Western game context” and write a dissertation on it (LOL).

Until that day comes, I guess I’ll just continue to hold onto my wack pride and go on with the tedious process of deciding exactly when to use “unlock” and “kaijo” when translating. In closing, I’d like to finish off my first column by leaving you with the following image. Thank you for reading my little essay.

—————————————————- Author Profile—————————————————-
Hanenashi Error

Game translation, Subtitling for sports and entertainment programs, Game news article translation, column writing, entertainment translator active in many fields.
Took part in the Japanese/English translation of around 20 games

Establishing an Important Link Between New Monetary and Personal Concepts of Value for the User

I believe games will be the preeminent art and entertainment form of the 21st century . . . [but] if we continue on our current path, we’ll end up in the pop cultural ghetto.

Chris Hecker (head of definition six, inc., formerly of MAXIS/Electronic Arts)

The quote above was delivered by Hecker at the IGDA Leadership Forum in San Francisco in 2009 during his keynote speech addressing the need to further pursue more new, original and experimental game development with regards to mass-market products, recognizing that such practices are a difficult proposition given the risk-averse nature associated with the development of high-budget, mass-market titles, yet vital for the continued growth of the industry and the long-term stability of the industry and the medium.

Bearing this concept in mind, a connection begs to be drawn between this and another comment by Level-5 president and CEO, Akihiro Hino in a recent interview with Nikkei Trendy Net, noting his concern over the potential of moving games too far in the direction of the currently booming free-to-play model prevalent in many mobile, online and social networking games, noting that charging nothing for a product runs the risk to conveying a message to the user that the product that they are consuming, in this case a video game, carries no value.

Essentially what we are struggling with are concepts of value, with the goal of this article being to point out a clear link between the concepts outlined above by these two industry visionaries, by offering examples as to how the industry might find new opportunities for growth and expansion by addressing these issues together and establishing both new monetary and personal concepts of value within the consumer.

What do we mean by the word “Value”?

For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume that we have two primary ways in which we assess a game’s value, and that there exists a direct link between the business side (development, publishing, marketing, etc.) and the end user, the person who decides to invest their free time and expendable income on the products that we create:

Value 1) Monetary: This refers to how much money the user is willing to invest for a given experience that a game offers. Examining past market trends, future prospects, and engaging in activities such as focus testing and play testing, representatives will determine how much money to invest in a particular game’s development and marketing resources based upon the perceived user interpretation of this same monetary value.

Value 2) Personal: This “value” refers to how the user relates to the game on a personal level, difficult (if not impossible) to interpret with numerical data. While the user’s experience with a game may be unique to each individual player, it is to an extent influenced by the developer’s ability to successfully execute on delivering an intended kind of experience.

The Pricing Problem – Opening up New Pricing Models

The increased prevalence of online distribution outlets and the rush by both established and independent developers to capitalize on the currently booming casual and social game market surging alongside the dangerous trend toward Hollywood scale budgets for mass-market packaged retail products has, in only a few short years, created a chasm in price-point standards between the products offered by the game industry’s long established distribution model and the ever evolving digital distribution model. And while year-end revenue reports and month-to-month sales figures continue to keep industry executives on edge, establishing a general air of pessimism permeating the industry, reality is likely brighter than it seems, as many of our lumped figures are unable to account for the rapid diversification of distribution outlets and revenue models, meaning that the now much larger sphere of the game industry is likely healthier than our current general perception.

This is a clear positive, as this would indicate that the industry as a whole is likely gradually managing to reach outside of the traditional market which has made up the majority of game sales over the past several decades, meaning that we are expanding the user-base. It’s generally accepted that in order to grow as an industry, there are only so many ways in which we can increase revenue through a single user-base, in this case the “core gamer,” and that we need to, while continuing to support and grow that existing market, get more different kinds of people playing games. Often defined as “casual” or “social games,” these burgeoning genres prevalent on platforms such as mobile phones and social networking sites appear to be playing a significant role in attaining that goal of a wider, more diverse gaming audience.

But this trend is also helping to create the pricing chasm. On one side we have the social games that are ostensibly growing the gaming population, many of which are of the free-to-play nature, while the pricing structure for the iPhone market, for example, is described as “the race to the 99 cent price-point,” also often described as, “the race to the bottom,” with “the bottom” being the cheapest viable pricing option available without giving away the product for free.

Competing with these trends we have a standard suggested retail price-point for packaged retail products ranging from $50-60 dollars in the US and often ¥6,000 to ¥8,000 yen (approximately $66-88 US dollars) in Japan. Current development and marketing costs associated with bringing a game to market which is considered to be “up to standard” in all areas from gameplay to visual and audio fidelity easily reaches into the range of tens of millions of dollars (approximately upwards of ¥10億), necessitating these price-points and keeping what are intended to be mass-market games monetarily out of reach of the mass-market, creating a difficult entry point for those who don’t already have an interest in the medium and greatly limiting the amount of products that even the highly interested and willing “core” user is able to consume due to financial barriers.

We have, albeit unintentionally, essentially polarized our largest markets, offering a deluge of easily accessible products which, while of high quality and successful in providing a well-crafted and intended “game” experience, are inherently limited in what they can offer based solely on their low pricing structure and budgets, running the risk of creating a mass culture of game consumers instilled with the concept that the potential for video games as a medium doesn’t stretch too far beyond that of being a brief and relaxing diversion. Packaged retail products on the other hand, while the developers and publishers working on them have the tools available in order to experiment and the marketing dollars to help bring technically impressive and compelling products to a wider audience, are unable to do so at the risk of not reaching an already established user-base, as not reaching projected sales numbers in the current generation for only one title often results in layoffs and even studio closures, making the development of new kinds of mass-market products attempting to expand the medium a risky proposition, thus forcing these games outside of a mass market price point as well.

So, what are we doing with those potential price-points that lie between 99 cents (or “free”) and $60 dollars? How can experimentation couple with those “in-between” price points in order to broaden the user base? In the following sections we’ll look at some examples of games that have made steps toward solidifying this connection to interesting results, allowing us to examine ways to further grow this largely untapped and important segment of the market.

Notable Examples

Wipeout HD

Wipeout HD: Developed by Sony Computer Entertainment’s Liverpool Studio and released at a $20 price-point as a download-only title for the PlayStation Network back in September of 2008, Wipeout HD slips into an artistic niche by offering an entry into the racing genre that departs from more standard depictions of racing in video games, with a unique and catching art style that penetrates all areas of the game experience from the audio all the way down to the menu design, while still managing to be conceptually easy to grasp for players who typically don’t consider themselves to be fans of “racing games”. The game is often considered “a steal” at only $20, yet is a bit of an anomaly within the pricing structure of PSN. Sony has managed to create long legs for this title by continuing to update it with downloadable content, with the game scheduled to receive 3D enhanced visual upgrades in the near future in order to have the game serve as one of the PS3’s initial poster titles showing off the technology.


Braid: Originally released back in August of 2008 for Xbox Live Arcade as part of Microsoft’s “Summer of Arcade” promotional series, this independently developed game led by creator Jonathan Blow has gone on to sell nearly 365,000 units on Microsoft’s service alone (as of April 2010, according to Gamasutra), and has since been released for the PC, Mac, PlayStation Network, and even received a full box-product release for the PC in January of 2010 where the game appeared on the shelves of major U.S. retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target. At a $15 price-point, the game doesn’t stretch too far from the platform’s pricing standards, however it was considered to be at the “high-end” of the pricing structure upon its initial release. While a game appearing on multiple platforms is hardly out of the ordinary, this game is significant because, despite its appearance as a simple side-scrolling 2D platformer, it was independently developed and lauded for its unique storytelling and art style, often also being considered an “art game”. Stellar reviews and word of mouth resulted not only in the game selling impressive numbers, but more importantly, blazed a trail for independent game developers, helping to open up independent game development as a viable market and raising awareness throughout the established mass-market of users as to the presence of such games.

Picture 1.png

Deadly Premonition: Originally developed and published by Marvelous Entertainment in Japan for the PS3 and Xbox 360 under the title, Red Seeds Profile, the game was released by Ignition Entertainment in the U.S. for only the Xbox 360 as a packaged product for the budget price of $20 dollars. The game initially received a fair bit of criticism from the gaming press for not being “up to standard” from a technical standpoint, however the game’s storytelling, originality and unique presentation soon became a hot topic of conversation throughout the gaming community, with the game managing to achieve a number of perfect or near-perfect scores from several notable media outlets. The game has gone on to be a major discussion topic throughout the Western gaming press for months, holding the attention of the media and users throughout a spring season full of high-profile game releases. The game even managed to spend a short bit of time at the top of the video game sales charts.

bit Generations series: A series of 7 games originally released only in Japan for the Game Boy Advance back in July of 2006, the games were all entirely new titles, each with an artistically “retro” aesthetic, a design choice cohesive throughout the series and atypical of many retail products which were not rereleases of already well-known titles from the 1980’s. Selling a new “old-looking” game of this nature could have likely been considered a risky proposition, however releasing the games with a cohesive image as a series in sleek and classy original packaging that matched the games’ retro style and also stood out on store shelves made the games a tantalizing proposition for many users. The fresh design and the idea of Nintendo releasing “retro art games” even caught the eye of gamers overseas, making the games a target for import-savvy consumers as well. Several games in the series have since been released in the U.S. and Europe for both Nintendo’s WiiWare and DSiWare downloadable services, hence serving as accessible titles with long legs thanks to their ability to be repackaged and redistributed to a wider gaming audience.

Picture 2.png

Trine: Trine was developed by Frozenbyte and released for the PC in July of 2009 and on the PlayStation Network in October of the same year. The game is a physics-based, side-scrolling action platformer integrating puzzle elements utilizing the game’s impressive physics and forcing the player to regularly switch between the game’s three playable characters, each sporting their own unique abilities. The game was originally a one-man project within the then relatively large studio which was primarily focusing its energy on the development of another AAA title. The rather unique ecosystem which developed within the studio following financial difficulties resulted in the studio refocusing its energy on Trine, a technically impressive and creative title created by a team of about 20 people with contributions from many others, eventually releasing for $40 on the PC (retail and digital download) and $20 on PSN, with $20 now being the standard price-point across all platforms. Though sporting rather uncommon price-points on both platforms, the game has been profitable for the studio which is currently hard at work on new projects as a result.

Connecting Price and People – Future Potential

While each of the games outlined above differs from one-another in many clear and observable ways, there are 3 common threads between them worth noting:

1. Each of the games stepped outside of the standard pricing structure for its respective platform.

2. The games all competed and succeeded within their own given market, not based solely on technological prowess, but by tapping into an artistic quality, whether it be gameplay design, aesthetic, story, or a combination of the three, each offering a presentation easily communicated to the core audience while also managing to appeal to users who may not have chosen to explore that particular game or “genre” otherwise.

3. The games have all demonstrated long legs. Each of these titles has managed to hold the attention of both the press and the user-base far past their original release into the market. Many of them have also been supported by the developer and/or publisher over the long-term, sometimes even years after the product’s original release, repackaged and rereleased in different capacities, allowing them to reach different audiences.

The reality is that experimentation is a financially threatening proposition for titles with high development costs. In a recent interview with Gamasutra, the Trine developers refer to a time when seeking a publisher for a new AAA project when they came to realize that, “the publishers who had enough money did not believe in our ability to deliver the AAA game we were pitching to them, and the publishers who had enough faith did not have nearly enough money,” a statement that clearly exemplifies the industry’s current struggles. But we need to continue developing titles that flaunt our technical and creative resources in order to expand. This combination of creativity in design and technical implementation to produce well-crafted games of an “in-between scale” could very well be the key to offering products at price-points which are more accessible on various platforms while still managing to evoke a sense of personal value within the end-user and generate necessary income.

It is vital that we pay close attention to the figures that we use when we determine how successfully we are growing and expanding video games as a medium. With a tendency to focus merely on the total amount of money that we are generating, often comparing ourselves to other industries, such as film, flaunting that we “have surpassed” the long established culturally respected art form, we also tend to overlook the fact that we are selling products at comparatively premium prices. As Hecker noted in his IGDA keynote, we have yet to produce our Gone With the Wind, a film which sold 202 million tickets in the U.S. alone back when it was released in 1940, a time when the population of the country was only about 130 million people. It’s this kind of cultural relevance that we need to establish as a goal for the medium in order to solidify our long-term safety as an industry, and finding ways to offer more financially accessible and personalized products could serve us well in our attempts toward reaching that goal.

11 Steps Translators Should Follow

As a translator, there are lots of things you have to care about from the time you receive an assignment to the final delivery of the translation. Check out these tips!

Although most of the following steps may seem obvious, it is still very easy to forget one or two of these things, which can be enough to get you in trouble with your client and/or lose a lot of time/money.

When you work on a translation, you MUST do the following:

Before Translating

First of all, make sure all the conditions are perfectly clear.

1. The word count: if you don't agree with your client's word count after checking the file(s) for the first time, clarify the situation before you start translating even a single word.

2. Payment: Make sure your client gives you a clear deadline for the payment. Otherwise, you may have to wait for months as the client can take advantage of unclear payment conditions. You don't want to be sending mails everyday until you get paid, right?

3. How will you be paid? Some clients refuse PayPal, moneybookers or even certain types of bank accounts. Don't wait until the day before the payment deadline to provide your client with your bank information; do this from the very beginning, and make sure you provide all the necessary information. For example, for a bank transfer, you will need to send your full name, bank name, bank account number, and branch name/number.

4. Ask if there are any kind of penalties in case of quality or deadline problems. Of course it's not something you really want to talk about, but it's better to know what to expect from the beginning. Otherwise, you would likely complain after your client paid you only 90% due to a late delivery.

5. Ask if there are any particular instructions you should follow. For example, when you translate visual contents or do some dubbing, you will often have to respect a certain character limit. Some other clients will ask you NOT to translate some words or product names. You may also have to follow a certain terminology set (see Microsoft's language portal for instance). Your client may forget to mention these, so you'd better ask them at the start.

While Translating

When all your working conditions are clear, you can start translating. Make sure you follow these rules:

6. Make sure you use the right software to edit texts. For example, if your client sends you a file made with Word '07, editing it with a previous version of Word may alter the former layout. This usually results in the client asking you to replace all of the texts again, using the proper software this time. You can easily imagine how much of a loss of time it is. So, if you ever have any doubts about the files you receive, ask the client.

7. If you have to translate technical or scientific words and don't feel that confident, don't hesitate to use a technical/scientific/medical dictionary. There are a few good ones on the Internet, and they usually come with some good examples and should help a lot. If your translation is related to a very small industry, with no specific glossary or dictionary, try to get your hands on some similar texts.

8. Some texts may have references to history or some points of the culture of a country. Rather than translating these things literally, open your encyclopedia (or your Wikipedia) and make sure you adapt all names and references properly.

9. Proofread your text once to remove typos and other small mistakes. Then, pay attention to the consistency of your translation.

Indeed, after a few hours of work, you will get more familiar with the text and maybe translate in a slightly different style. If necessary, make corrections so that the style is the same from the beginning to the end.

After Translating

10. When you deliver your translation, ask for feedback. For your client, it will show that you care about the quality of your work. For you, it is a good opportunity to get reviewed and know what your strengths are and where you could improve.

11. Keep a copy of all of your translation works. This may sound stupid, but sometimes clients get back to you a few weeks after delivery and ask to have the file(s) sent again and/or to have a couple corrections made.

Cosmetic Change

With the AGM Blog and the New Media Center implemented, our "makeover" of the AGM website is complete. There may still be some small changes coming up later, but we've finally come to a part where we can say: "Hey, please have a look at our new website!". Some may miss the colorful look of the old Media Center and its refreshing content, but having PLAYISM running we figured that we can't work on both. However we are going to feature some of the old content on the new Media Center again. So if you missed reading anything in the past, feel free to browse for it here again. See you on the blog or in the Media Center.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Localization of text strings on iPhone is certainly one of the easier things to handle when working on a game or application. Everything you need is already provided with the iPhone SDK.
However, as you have to use specific functions for localizable texts, you would be well inspired to learn about localization techniques for handling iPhone before even you get started with coding your application.

The process can be broken down in a few simple steps:

1. Use NSLocalizedString while coding
NSLocalizedString is a function that returns you an NSString containing, if possible, the translation of the text that you will give as the first argument, in the user’s default language, or the first language it can find a translation for according to the user’s preferences. If it can’t find any text at all, it will just return the text you provided by default.
Example: NSString * text = NSLocalizedString(@”Text to be translated”,@”Contextual comments”);
Put the string that you would like to see translated in the first NSString argument. You can use the second argument to (later) provide translators who will work on your files with comments and useful contextual information. If you are using things such as ‘%d’, it’s probably a good idea to use the comments part to explain to translators what it is they are looking at, even if it appears particularly simple to you. Translators often tend to be confused when they see something that is not plain text.

2. Gather your strings
Now that you’ve finished coding your application, you will probably want to gather your strings that need translation and send these out to your translators. Fortunately, this can be done automatically, so you won’t need to fetch everything by yourself.
First, for each language you want to implement, create a corresponding folder under the name languagecode.lproj. For example en.lproj, fr.lproj, ja.lproj etc..
Then, open a Terminal window on your Mac and go to your project folder (if for some reason you’re completely unfamiliar with command lines, a cd Documents/projectname will do it in most cases). Now, let’s assume you used English for the NSLocalizedString arguments. All you have to do is to type the following command:
genstrings /en.lproj /Classes/*.m
The name of the command is pretty self-explanatory: genstrings will generate strings, checking all of the .m source files in your Classes folder, look for NSLocalizedString arguments, and put them together in a file inside the /en.lproj directory. That file is called Localizable.strings, a simple text file containing a succession of lines like this:
/* Comments you put in the second argument */ “String you want to see translated” = “Translated string”
Normally, the left and right strings should be identical for the language you formerly developed the game for. You may want to use to an ID code for your strings, but I would advise you to be careful as they will be displayed in case of problem. So this one is ready to go.

3. Get your files translated!
Now you can send that file to your translators, and ask them to translate ONLY THE RIGHT PART. I’m very serious about this. It’s really a huge unnecessary pain to get files with both columns translated, making the file unusable as it is and making you lose time. Make sure that the name of the files you get is still Localizable.strings and put them in their respective .lproj folders (fr.lproj for French, etc…). There are a couple of tricks to make the process a little smoother for translators, which helps out you, the programmer, in the end. I will offer some tips in a later article.

4. Test, and test a lot
A common mistake that developers make is to just copy the translated files, check a screen or two to make sure the correct language is displayed, and then just assume that the game is ready. It probably isn’t! Before releasing your game, ask a native speaker of each language to check your app thoroughly, and make sure that there are no problems such as:
- Mistranslations or missing translations - Texts that don’t make sense in their context or that are misleading- Text overflows (you would be surprised to see how long some short English words can become in, say, German) - Crashes and over major displaying problems: it’s very easy to delete a ” or alter a %s, which can cause major problems in your app.
The last three reasons in particular can cause your game to be rejected during submission, so when you test your game, take the process seriously for ALL languages, while making sure to utilize native speakers.

Overall, the iPhone SDK comes with all you need to do simple, text localization. If you are unfamiliar to localization techniques and looking for an easy and approachable process, this option is about as perfect an option you could hope for.

Monday, October 17, 2011


One of the many problems that corporations face when expanding their business globally is not only the proper translation but the appropriate localization of their products’ names and slogans. Over the years, there have been many, many examples of directly translated product names, slogans, and catchphrases that have offended and/or confused consumers, and sometimes completely embarrassed the company responsible. Here is a list of ten of the more famous product name and slogan translation/localization mistakes.

10. Fried chicken fast food chain KFC (formerly Kentucky Fried Chicken) faced problems when their world famous catchphrase “Finger Lickin’ Good” was translated into Chinese as “Eat Your Fingers Off”.

9. When General Motors introduced their Chevrolet Nova to Central and South America, apparently their marketing department overlooked the very simple Spanish phrase “No va”, meaning “It Doesn’t Go”.

8. The California Milk Processor Board launched their famous “Got Milk?” campaign in 1993, to huge success. However, Mexican residents in the US were confused by the rather personal question “Are You Lactating?” (“¿Tiene Leche?”).

7. In 1977, Braniff Airlines installed leather seats in their first class cabins, and followed up with an ad campaign featuring the slogan “Fly in Leather”. Unfortunately, in Spanish, “Vuela en Cuero(s)” translates to “Fly Naked”.

6. Pepsi used the “Come Alive with the Pepsi Generation” slogan from 1963 to 1967, which helped them to become a real competitor to Coca-Cola. However, the slogan frightened some Chinese, to whom it meant “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave”.

5. Coors, the Colorado brewing company, had another slogan unfortunately translated into Spanish. “Turn It Loose”, when translated in Spanish, carries the meaning “Suffer from Diarrhea” (“Sueltalo”).

4. Parker Pen’s famous slogan “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you” was also translated into Spanish, the results of which confused many Mexican consumers with its claims that “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant” (“No goteará en tu bolsillo dejándote embarazado”).

3. Frank Perdue’s slogan, created for its chicken products, said “It takes a strong man to make a tender chicken”. Translated in Spanish, it became “It takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate”.

2. The Coca-Cola name in China was first translated as “Kekou-kela”, meaning - depending on the dialect - “Bite the Wax Tadpole” (蝌蝌啃蜡). Coke then researched 40,000 characters, finally finding a suitable phonetic equivalent - “kokou-kole” – which meant “Happiness in the Mouth.”

1. Finally, we have the extremely unfortunate mistranslation of the instructions pertaining to two baby food products by Mead Johnson Nutritionals, which had to be recalled. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, if both products were prepared according to the incorrect Spanish translation, they could have caused seizures, irregular heartbeat, renal failure, and death. Whoops!

There are obviously many, many more examples of mistranslations and “mislocalizations,” as the case may be, but these are some of the most famous. To this day, especially here in Japan, less than well-thought out product names and slogans continue to abound. With the spread of globalization, and with the so-called “shrinking” of the world, it sometimes amazes me that there are still companies which don’t bother to properly localize when moving into the global market. Of course,

I’m actually glad that there are, as these things never fail to provide light entertainment.
Note that AGM provides game marketing services for all languages!