Localization isn’t Translation, Here’s What You Need to Know

Localization isn’t Translation, Here’s What You Need to Know
January 31, 2018 David Mel

Localization isn’t Translation, Here’s What You Need to Know

Written by: Simon Batt

When bringing your game into the MENA market, there are some changes that have to be made in order to ensure the smoothest launch possible. Of course, if you’re releasing a game within a foreign market, it’s a good idea to have it translated into their language. That way, users don’t have to guess their way through menus and tutorials ­– everything is laid out in their mother tongue from day one.

It’s easy to assume that the localization process is quite easy; simply hand it to a translator and let them do all the work. However, there’s a lot more work that goes into localization than simply translating the text. While the two terms are used in a similar fashion, ‘localization’ is a lot more than ‘translation’. To understand how they differ, let’s take a look at both and analyze their differences.


Translation is quite a simple process. A translator receives the text within a game and proceeds to translate it into the target language, word for word. This is normally performed by someone whose mother tongue is the language the script is being translated into. While the general gist of what is translated accurately as possible, that’s all that takes place; a one-to-one translation.

This may seem like an easy route, but it’s full of problems that might harm your game’s launch. For example, say you originally developed your game for the Western market. In the game, you buy items and goods using American dollars. Now you want to introduce this game into the MENA market, so you give the script to a translator. While the translator will make the game understandable for those who speak Arabic, the game will still use dollars as its currency. When a mobile game hits the MENA market, the players won’t feel like this was a game ‘made for them’; instead, they’ll see a simple translation job that put in very little effort to cater to their interests.

Translation also does not catch any cultural references or actions that the target audience may deem offensive. Customs differ from region to region, and some imagery that’s accepted in one market may be frowned upon in others. By using only translation, you run the risk of outraging your own player base over a concept you didn’t know was offensive.


Localization, on the other hand, is a lot more than simply translating text. It’s also about making the game suit the market your game is being published in. The ultimate goal is to make the game indistinguishable from other games within the target market. This is much harder to do than translation, but the results are much more impressive!

Let’s apply localization to the examples we talked about above. The game that uses dollars as its currency will have this changed to suit the area the game is being released in. Likewise, a localization team will be able to identify and remove or change any content that may be deemed offensive to the target audience. The game will now have a painless, trouble-free release; in fact, when done correctly, consumers won’t be able to tell that the game was originally made by foreign developers at all!

Of course, localizing a game is a daunting task. Not only do you need a flawless translation, you also need a solid understanding of the target market to ensure the smoothest launch possible. This may seem like a near-impossible task, but working with a local publisher is the best option at hand.

At Tamatem, we understand the MENA market like no other. There’s a good reason for this; we live it every day of our working lives! We know all the in’s and out’s of the MENA market, and we ensure every game we take on board fits the market without ruining what makes the game great. You don’t have to worry about studying the market yourself; focus on making your game the best it can be, and we’ll do all the hard work instead!