Video Game Translation Trends for 2016 And how to take advantage of them!




  • Greater than 8 minutes, my friend!

    Well folks, it’s time again for my end of the year summary and my take on trends for 2016.

    Yay!
    Minions cheering Gif

    So, let’s start out by looking at what I said this time last year.

    Indie Games – I decided to focus more on working independent developers over the course of 2015. All I can say is that they kept me pretty busy. We even managed a Chinese translation for one game! I think that this is still a good strategy for 2016, though I think our platforms might change a little.

    Social/Casual Games – I’m happy to say that I was a little off in this particular area. We did notice a big increase in indie games being released, but there was a healthy balance between many different genres.

    Indie Developer challenges – I also took a look at how indie developers made money and how we could help them afford proper translations. Just to give some numbers:

    Kickstarter launched 21,279 gaming projects so far in 2015, raising a total of 434 million dollars. They currently have another 510 active gaming projects and a success rate of 32.85% (https://www.kickstarter.com/help/stats), as compared to 1,980 total projects and $89 million in 2014 (https://www.kickstarter.com/year/2014/data).

    I didn’t participate in any royalty deals with any game developers, so I can’t give any further insight in the manner. I still think it might be a viable option, though.

    I did start up a video game review blog! I haven’t been nearly as active there as I would like, but it’s something that I will continue working on. I have the blog set up through Blogger and I make gameplay videos on YouTube. It’s been a lot of fun so far, though I’m nowhere near PewDiePie levels.

    Things I wouldn’t do – So, I swore off AAA accounts for 2015. I did participate in a few alpha and beta tests for some major developers, but that was it.

    Ok, now let’s look at 2016!

    How to Gain Video Game Translation Experience in 2016

    The most common question that people ask me is: how can I gain experience in video game translation?
    We hear this a lot, you need experience to translate a game, but you need to translate a game in order to get experience. Aside from collaborating with indie developers on platforms like Curseforge.com, another interesting opportunity that has recently come to light is to gain that experience through YouTube.
    Making money on YouTube

    No, seriously.
    YouTube now allows viewers to add translated subtitles to videos. If you want to directly contact developers and show them your skills, try translating their video subtitles into your language(s). This lets them see that you know what you’re doing, puts you in contact with the person in charge of marketing (an excellent person to be friends with), and you can use that video as part of your portfolio for future projects. That, along with Curse Forge and any other projects that you participate in, can build a strong foundation of provable experience. It also creates a lot of good will with the developer, as you’re helping them to reach new players and larger audiences.

    Don’t forget about
    LocJAM, which will take place in February. Visit their Facebook page for more information.

    Mobile Gaming in 2016

    Honestly, I think that we’re going to continue seeing major growth in mobile gaming. Some reports put smartphone/tablet game revenue at $30.1 billion for 2015, and expect that to grow another $5 billion in 2016 ($24.5 billion in 2014). When we look at Nintendo moving into mobile gaming with Pokemon Go (which I am super hyped about, by the way), as well as other major developers making mobile titles, or adapting their older games for mobile platforms (Baldur’s Gate II comes to mind… which I play on my tablet), it’s pretty safe to say that this market will continue to grow. Again, this will put more pressure on indie developers to give their titles as much edge as possible. They will not only need to localize their games, but also all the marketing material and content related to them in order to reach those audiences. I also see a lot of growth in video game producing and marketing in the future.
    Pokemon Go

    I caught an Exeggcute… yay.

    New translation platforms

    Another thing that you might have noticed is that a lot of new translator platforms are starting to appear. My friend Dmitry launched the Open Mic Project which provides a platform for translators to write and share blogs, as well as gain some publicity. The translator profiles also give the necessary information for any outsourcers or direct clients to contact and hire the freelancers.

    I’ve been trying to do something similar here, though I want to house video game translation jobs and create a searchable database of translators for game developers to use. I guess you could think of this as the Proz.com for video game translation.

    There are a few others from younger translators that are trying to make a difference. Low rates and bad payment practices seem to be everywhere and they want to do something about it. I personally think that our dependence on translation agencies is to blame. We’ve let middlemen dictate how much we charge, how long we have to wait to be paid, how much work we do each day, and just about everything else. I’ve ranted about this before, so I’ll stop now before I lose focus. The important thing is that there are new tools out there to help you build up your client base and forces within the industry are beginning to shift. Hopefully we can make a difference.

    Translator Skills

    In order to facilitate this shift, we have to develop more business skills. Like I mentioned in my last post, we need to understand that we are business owners and we must act as such. That means that we need to learn more about marketing, client relations, rates, adding value, networking, taxes, and all those other fun things that come with owning a business.

    Again, I believe that it is failure on our part in this matter that has caused the discontent that we suffer now as an industry.

    Continued Growth in Indie Development

    I think that we will continue to see more growth on the indie side of gaming. As our new developers continue to improve their skills, and as mobile devices reach more and more people around the globe, this will become an even more valuable source of work for us. Many of the developers that I have worked with so far are now coming back for their second or third games. Sure, AAA titles are bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars in their opening weeks, but those projects are going to in-house teams or large translation agencies. Snag them if you can.

    Things I’m going to do differently in 2016

    My translation platform + translator training **SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION WARNING**
    This site is going to be one of my main projects this year. I have a lot of content to add and training to provide. Like, how I’m using YouTube to find new translation clients, and not just through the subtitle translation thing that I mentioned before.

    I’m also really excited about the translator database. That will take some time to develop, which means that I might need to charge something to sign up as I won’t be translating as much, but I can see it becoming a valuable tool for translators and developers alike.

    There are some other things that I would like to add to this site, like a gift shop! T-shirts!! I mean, I already have the giant microbe guys on here. I come across a lot of neat stuff online and there are a lot of companies that offer discounts and coupons for sites like this one. Heck, I even found a site that gives big discounts on major video games (like Fallout 4!), so I might add some of their content here as well.

    Video games eat money

    More webinars
    Aside from giving my own webinars, I also intend to attend as many webinars as I can. They’re great ways to learn and develop new skills. If you’re interested in translating video games, look for webinars for developers, or marketing, or copy writing, or art design, or any of the other dozen things that you can find. Apply those skills to your own portfolio – add a cool logo from a Photoshop webinar; improve the SEO of your website from a digital marketing or optimization webinar; or sign up for my YouTube webinar and attract local clients! There is so much information available, for free, that not taking advantage of it is insane.

    Use game mods to provide translations
    This is something that someone suggested a long time ago – create mods that are essentially localized versions of a game, and sell it! With Fallout 4 console players getting access to mods, I think that we’ll see more games that are able to do the same. FYI – Minecraft’s localized versions started off as mods and addons. I remember reviewing the Spanish one during the game’s early alpha stages on Curse Forge.

    If you don’t know how to make a mod, start a Kickstarter campaign and hire someone once you have the funding.

    Improve terminology and language skills

    This one might sound a little strange, but I don’t really play games in my source languages, I just prefer them in English. One of my goals for this year is to go back and play some of my favorite games in a new language. I started playing Pokemon Fire Red in Spanish not too long ago, and was blown away by the number of new words I learned (how often do you translate the word “tackle” or “hyperbeam”?). I would really like to add a third language to my skill set, German, and I think that this will be a great way to do it. I might go Leaf Green this time.

    Finally, my side job

    Ok, the last thing that I’m going to do a little differently this year. I’m going to put more time and energy into my side job as a web developer and SEO. There are a couple of reasons for this. First off, it pays better! And second, because I will need those skills and resources to build this site and do the things that I want to do. I have a new website that I’m building right now, UtahSEO.Ninja, that will house that information and hopefully serve as another resource for all of you. In case you guys haven’t noticed, I want to make the video game translation world better. I want to help you all gain the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed with a job that you love. This is just another way for me to do that. I will be building that site up over the next few weeks, but come check it out if you get a chance. I have a Facebook page ^_^

    UtahSEO.Ninja Logo

    Ok, we’re over 2,000 words now, so I’ll end with this: there is great value in taking action. If you want things to get better for you, you have to be the one to make those changes. There is a wealth of information available to you, but it means nothing if you don’t do anything with it. Don’t wait until you know everything, don’t wait for just one more thing, or that perfect moment. It never comes. Take action, even if it is imperfect. Despite today’s post, this blog isn’t about theory, it’s about action. So ask yourself, what is the one thing that I can do right now to reach my dream? Write it down, anddon’t stop acting until that task is done. Then, write down the next one and do the same. We must act now.
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    Triston Goodwin

    About Triston Goodwin

    8 thoughts on “Video Game Translation Trends for 2016

    1. Lots of good info and ideas here, Triston. You succeeded in getting even someone like me, who doesn’t translate video games, interested in the topic — hell, I don’t even *play* video games, but you sure held my attention. I was curious to see what big issues come up in your specialization and whether there would be parallels with mine, and indeed I see lots of overlaps. So thanks for giving us some new material to mull over as we approach the new year!

    2. Thanks for a comprehensive post, Triston!
      I think I have to try hand at game localization in 2016. This year I took part in localization of several cloud apps, but for some reason I never tried to translate any game. Now I know where to start )))

    3. Awesome post, Triston and thanks for republishing it here as well! High-five! I love how you combine the facts and data with memes. :)

      I also worked mostly with indie and mobile games this year and I’ll probably keep doing so. For me it’s less hustle and stress of AAA projects. It’s nice to be in touch with people who’re actually developing the game. Most of the game developers are super awesome guys and gals and that’s one of the main reason I try to focus on that industry. Because I love the people, they’re as passionate about video game development as much as I’m passionate about video game localization. :)

      Of course I wouldn’t mind localizing Fallout 5 into Russian some day, but like you’ve said those AAA titles go to huge companies with thousands of in-house translators so I see no point in chasing them. I’ll keep on working on my online visibility and maybe they’ll start chasing me at some point 😉

      I think 2016 will be awesome for everyone in video game localization field and especially for those folks who work with indie and mobile games.

      1. I agree! The biggest issue is simply budget, but there are some interesting ways to get around that.

        As far as Fallout 5 is concerned, they don’t need English translators :/
        But I do get a lot of alpha/beta invites!

        And the memes… I sat down and organized the lot of them into 82 categories with nearly 900 individual memes. I have to use them for something, right? I started collecting them after reading an article about how memes were able to become a language. So, I found a couple dozen and spoke in Meme for about a week on Facebook. I try it each year to see how well I can communicate in my new language ^_^

    4. Thanks for this post, Triston! You mentioned webinars, so I’ll definitely stay tuned for that. I’m curious about more advice you’d give a translator trying to get into game/app translation. How does a newbie find work? Would “cold-calling” game devs with games that aren’t your target language be a good strategy?

      1. I personally think that cold-contacts are the absolute worst way to find clients. Most of those emails just end up in the trash. I think that the best way to find work, newbie or no, is to make connections within the game dev industry – finding developers and forming relationships with them. I’ve had the most success with Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, and local developer meetups.

        Another option is a project that I’m currently working on. It’s a video game translator portal, kinda like Proz.com, but just for video games. It still needs a lot of work and planning, but hopefully it will help resolve some of these issues that new translators are facing.

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