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Free-to-Play Localization How to reach your quality goals despite small budgets and other limitations

Games Connection Paris 2016 - F2P Localization

Apr 15, 2017



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Free-to-Play Localization

Free-to-Play LocalizationHow to reach your quality goals despite small budgets and other limitations

Video Games - Global Market Size By Region

In 2016, 58% of growth of the global games market comes from the APAC region, which constitutes 47% of the global marketNorth America is the second largest region with estimated revenues of $25.4 billion

Global Market Size By Platform - Volumes & Trends

Video games is a $100bn/year industry, with developers worldwide, developing in all kinds of languages and localesGeneral growth continues, with Mobile a big driving force

Free-to-Play = Mobile?F2PMobilePCWebConsole

F2p not just mobile (though mobile mostly f2p), but also PC, web and even console

Comparison and Challenges For Free-to-PlayFremium Web, PC, Console & Mobile (Free-to-Play)Free to try out, purchases only by engaged players, feeling compelled by the gameSmall/mid-sized dev budgetsMarketing = User AcquisitionVery high # of competitor titlesOutsourcing, crowd-sourcing & machine-translation (a.k.a. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly)Classic PC, Console & Mobile (Pay-to-Play)Purchased up-front, at one-time feeBig development budgets, high quality assets (quality as USP)Marketing = PRLow # of competitor titles per genrePolished-decent localization (outsourcing)

The free-to-play = shift from the traditional modelsuccess no longer measured by multiplying the number of units of a game sold by the unit priceFor f2p the most important factor is the number of players that a game can keep continuously engagedhow many compelling spending opportunities the game offers

Elevator Pitch for F2P High-Quality Localization & LQA unless players decide to invest (time and money) in your and not the next game, there is no revenue for devs+publishersgoal needs to be to: hook players, lower barriers to spend money, avoid pitfalls to lose players early on (crashes, bad UX, unclear instructions)annoyed players quickly move on to the next title, wont wait for fixes or later updates - they are essentially burned, possibly not just for this but also your future gamesGood loca helps players enjoy a (hopefully good) game - and needs to be recognized and supported accordinglyLoca heads experience + clout with MGMT often deciding factor on a publishers approach to loca (enlightened leadership needed)

Strong competition!

Loca always needs to be transparent, invisible, and can contribute to lure players into games, not put them off.

Management buy-in is crucial!

Localization Management = Project Management?

Project ManagementProactiveResponsiveCrisis ManagementReactiveMitigatingDisaster TriageBest effortPrioritizingUPSTREAMHIGH involvement in schedules, GREAT access to stakeholdersDOWNSTREAMNO involvement in schedules, NO access to stakeholders

Localization Management: Project Management (Proactive + Responsive) vs Crisis Management (Reactive + Mitigating) vs Disaster Triage (Best effort, Prioritizing)

Upstream/Downstream Balance of Power

Howd You Like Your Localization? (You May Pick Only 2)

Borrowed this gfx with its special take on the well-known Time / Cost / Quality vs Scope Project Management concept

(F2P) Game Industrys Main Challenges for LocalizationChallenge #1 Pervasive Localization as afterthought, LQA as unnecessary luxury mindsetChallenge #2Perpetually young, inexperienced game development teams that re-discover localization best-practices only through own experienceChallenge #3Release cycles, peak times & headcount concerns

#1: Game localization costs usually 1-3% of the development+marketing budget, but has the potential to multiply revenues. Nonetheless, it is often treated as just an afterthought as the main focus is always on finishing the game.#2: Game development is constantly renewing (new teams popping up, established teams being laid off)-> not much that can be done except evangelizing decision makers and constantly fighting the good fight#3: more pronounced peaks for p2p/console, flattened-out for f2p; even f2p loca has to compete for outsourcing resources during p2p peaks

Best Practices: Proactive Localization Management

Generally valid, not just for f2pF2p challenge is to do these things on a budget

Plan Ahead

Select, groom and regularly evaluate preferred vendors (localization and LQA agencies, freelance translators and reviewers, script doctors).Prepare for contingencies and have screened backups in place for peak and worst-case scenarios.If you can justify the internal headcount, use SLV & freelancers over MLV and manage workflows internally, for better control and scaling

Identify Bottlenecks

Look for resource and capacity bottlenecks like insufficient number and specialisation of vendors or internal team members.Look for time bottlenecks like short lead times.Look for external constraints like being less attractive as a client (and getting less experienced resources), compared to other publishers.Identify the parts in your localization workflow of a specific title that CAN be sped up with the right interventions.

Resolve Bottlenecks

Increase number of available and screened resources (people, hardware ...)Make advance bookings for critical periods (esp. LQA); the additional costs are often well outweighed by the benefits, and it can even be possible to negotiate lower rates.Work with producing and/or developers to establish early visibility on project milestones like Alpha, Beta, Code-Freeze and Text-Freeze as well as communicate minimum time requirements for localization.Make sure developers provide localizable assets as text (not bitmaps), with as much context information as possible, and recording script lines sorted in dialog flow (not alphabetically).Reshape the economic conditions and create incentives for vendors.Make sure developers provide developer console/debug access or cheats in test builds.


Focus money, time and people on mission-critical components of each localization project (ex.: submission relevant tasks).Conduct early text reviews looking for terminology violations (ahead of LQA).Prioritize translation of recording scripts (also in text-freeze decisions), to have time for pick-ups.

Achieve Vendor Buy-in

Start discussing workload expectations for the peak season(s) with internal Producing and localization vendors as early as possible, including them in your planning.Identify differences in client/vendor agendas, and utilise them creatively to incentivise vendors and build mutually beneficial trust relationships.Provide vendors with all available reference material (and, if possible, test builds) ahead of translation hand-offs.Maintain and monitor a Q&A database between translators and developers/Producing with quick turnaround times to provide missing translation context.

Introduce Corrective Measures IN TIME

In case of late hand-offs, increase the number of translators (quality trade-off).Shorten test passes while booking additional testers per language.Have developers provide savegames and screenshots when cheats or developer console commands are unavailable.

Use The RIGHT Tools

Make use of latest developments in text analyzing tools, for instance create, use and iteratively fine-tune blacklists to screen for profanity, culturally sensitive translations or expressions that would not be in line with a targeted age rating.Maintain localizable text assets in online databases that are actually MADE for translations, allowing text updates with change highlighting and notifications, on-the-fly text exports into test builds by developers and translation-friendly interfaces, including glossary support.Use such online text databases also to have LQA testers trigger and check localized voice recordings, or make changes and corrections directly to the in-game text, while giving the games translators final approval of any such changes online.(If you dont have or find these tools, dont be afraid to create them.)

Thank You!

For (more) Questions & feedback:Michael K. SchmidtSenior Localization Manager GREE Intl.