Game publishers love using game localization as an excuse for unexpected delays and costs, and hardcore gamers love coming up with excuses to play games in English. Invisible translators are perfect scapegoats and have been blamed for the most terrible acts of human kind. Below you will find some of the biggest urban myths about game localization.
1. Game localization makes games more expensive
Localizing an average casual game (Bejeweled) will cost you about 300 euro, localizing an average FPS (Call of Juarez) will cost you about 1200 euro and localizing a text-intensive arcade game (Banjo & Kazooie) will cost you about 4000 euro. There were rumours about Banjo & Kazooie being 20 euros more expensive than the English version because the game had to be localized to Dutch. If you believe that, you'll also need to believe that only 4000/20=200 people in Holland and Belgium ever bought this game. This while even niche titles like Valkyria Chronicles sell thousands of copies in Holland and Belgium alone.
2. Game localization delays game releases
Let's use the same examples as above. Localizing an average casual game (Bejeweled) takes 1 working day, localizing an average FPS (Call of Juarez) takes 4 working days and localizing a text-intensive arcade game (Banjo & Kazooie) takes 11 working days. As localization is always done on the fly while the game is still in development (at least when game localization is used as an excuse for delays) and as game development mostly takes several months, the delay caused by game localization is exactly 0 days if planned carefully.
3. Hardcore gamers speak English at native level
Real hardcore gamers will tell you they don't need stupid translations. You will be surprised at the number of people on Dutch forums claiming they can speak, write, hear, sing, rhyme, hum and dream English at native level. You'd actually believe this, were it not that after careful reading, you will find out that almost all hardcore gamers apparently have this special and innate gift. Maybe not so special after all?
The English of these people is apparently so perfect, that even I, a full-time translator with more than 22 years of translation experience, start feeling absolutely dwarved while reading about their divine abilities.
Fortunately, in this everlasting contest of deciding whose English is best, eventually someone will show up whose English is not near-native... he or she actually is a native speaker of English. And to prove this, he or she will give a demonstration. And then, all pieces of the puzzle suddenly fit together:
"U hear it from the best and feel the game in ENGLISH...the best language. I can imagin french but neffe Dutch or how u say it : Nederlands. I think i'm on of the best english speaking person on these forums, since i AM english. though, i'm quite sure, i am not the only one here."
These gamers clearly have an inflated opinion of their language abilities. The above text contains only 4 sentences and almost 20 mistakes. Which explains the next urban myth...
4. Hardcore gamers play games in English because they want to learn the language
And the only way to learn that language is by reading the Dutch translation of what is being said in English. Even the most talented hardcore gamers were not born with the innate ability to understand English as it was spoken. They learned what was being said by reading the Dutch subtitles. It's a bit strange to say you don't need Dutch subtitles while it was these very subtitles that taught you English in the first place. Maybe you don't need them anymore. But even in that case, you'll have to agree that the next gamer generation needs to learn English too right? Right!
5. Hardcore gamers want to stay as close to the original language as possible
Which explains why most hardcore gamers wanted to play the English version of Anno 1701, which was actually a translation from German. Strangely enough, no one wanted to play the original version. Apparently, German was not cool enough for gamespeak.
So what's really bothering hardcore gamers? Would it be the next point?
6. Hardcore gamers just don't like translations because the translations are bad
Sometimes this is true, but definitely not always. No matter how good, how fantastic, how hilarious and how brilliant your translation is, real hardcore gamers will hate it with a passion. Just because, it seems.
Is the translation not hilarious because the word jokes have not been translated? They will hate it, because the translation is too literal. Is the translation hilarious after all because all word jokes have been translated? They will still hate it, because the translation is too free. Indeed, you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't.
As always, people come up with many reasons to hide their real motivations. And the real motivation behind this knee-jerk response of hardcore gamers is simply the fact that they feel threatened by the rising influence of casual gamers on the industry. Just like anyone else, they want to stay king of their own turf (just like long-time fans of The Lord of the Rings became very critical when a certain director decided to turn the book into a movie, introducing it to the masses).
So to distinguish themselves from the masses, hardcore gamers use their own in-crowd language, which historically happens to be English. "Look at us being cool and stuff, we can speak a language only hardcore gamers can speak." (That must make me the coolest gamer ever then, as my whole website is in English!)
But don't people have the right to make their own choices? If gamers want English games, whether their reasons are justified or not, then that's what you should give them right?
Exactly. But don't forget casual gamers (your uncle and aunt), don't forget all kids that would love to know what the Pokémon are actually saying, and don't forget all people that do not belong to the vocal minority on game forums. It is these people that form the majority of your market. It is these people that will actually pay your bills. They don't have a historical language, most of them don't even speak English, they don't feel the need to distinguish themselves and they just want to relax after a day of hard work. And for them, relaxing does not include using dictionaries to look up exotic words in game instructions and dialogues. Nintendo understood that and launched the Wii. You know the rest of the story.
So make the Dutch translation optional. That way, people can choose between English and Dutch themselves. And don't tell your audience that the game will become more expensive or will be delayed because of localization issues. First, because it simply is not true (see point 1 and 2 above). Second, because it will only give these hardcore gamers more ammunition (and as you know, these people are very vocal).
7. Only the Dutch hate game translations
Despite what Dutch hardcore gamers state and think, this phenomenon is not typically Dutch at all. German, French, Italian and Spanish hardcore gamers want to distinguish themselves from the masses just as much. However, the Dutch don't read German, French, Italian and Spanish game forums, so they automatically assume they are unique and that only the English of Dutch hardcore gamers is good enough to play games in English. They couldn't be more wrong.
Ich hab heute den deutschen namen von Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts erfahren. F'r mich setzt das dem ganzen nur die Krone auf. Ein beschissener Name zu einem beschissenen Spiel...
8. Hardcore gamers represent the vast majority of gamers
Because the hardcore game community is so vocal, you are easily fooled and may think that hardcore gamers represent the vast majority of gamers. I'm sure you're familiar with the same hardcore gamers screaming blue murder on forums just because your newest patch nerfed some feature. An outsider might think your game is total rubbish and that everybody hates it, but we know better. Translations are similar: hardcore gamers consider localization as a nerf, and they will tell you about it. As long as you explain to them that they can still play your game in English if they want, that it will not cost them extra and that it will not delay the release, you can silence them easily.
Back to the subject: petitions against the localization of games mostly don't get more than 150-250 signatures, while succesful casual games can easily sell 300.000 copies in Holland and Belgium alone. The same happened to Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Games, which got nothing but 60% ratings because the hardcore game reviewers found it too childish.
A marketing manager of a large game company once told me that hardcore reviewers are like heavy metal fans reviewing operas that are aimed at an entirely different public. Especially since the advent of the Wii and the enormous success of casual gaming, it seems that many review sites have lost touch with reality.
9. Translations are always bad
And so are cars if you buy the cheapest brand at the local scrapyard. You want a good car? Then pay for it and go to a specialist.
10. All reviewers love Loekalization's translations
Many reviewers do, but there are unfortunately exceptions. Using Loekalization is a large guarantee for success, but not an absolute guarantee. Don't forget that most reviewers are hardcore gamers themselves. They often hate translations by definition and will tell you they suck just because.
I can make sure that casual gamers will enjoy their game. However, I can't change the rigid mindset of some hardcore gamers. They have already judged the translation before they even saw it.