Localizing your games for different languages and markets can be an extremely effective way to boost your game sales. Besides reassuring your potential audience, it is an important part of App Store Optimization (ASO) and can help your games get featured on mobile game stores.
Very promising on paper, but localization isn’t free, neither is localization testing. It can be tempting to skip the testing part once you have all the localized assets in your hands. After all, you spent enough time picking up reliable language service providers, so nothing can go that wrong, maybe a few cosmetic issues at most… right?
Proper localization testing IS necessary, no matter what
Compared to the console market, localization requirements for mobile game stores are pretty loose – and that’s a mild way to put it. It may sound like a blessing to developers, but it is a double-edged sword that doesn’t do gamers any good, as they are often left with games that look unfinished or impossible to decipher.
More languages = More sales? True, but only if you get it right. The only thing a bad localization is going to give you is a long string of bad reviews from upset users, potentially dragging down your overall sales – including in the game’s original language. You should strive for quality in every single aspect of your game.
Even if you hire a strong localization team, there are still lots of ways things can go wrong. Lack of context can lead to inaccurate translations that will harm user experience or make you the next Internet meme. Implementation issues, such as text overflows, encoding problems, missing strings and the like will make your app look buggy and unfinished. There will always be something, the same way games always have bugs before functional testing.
It doesn’t matter how much and in how many languages you localize: whatever you do, try to do it right. Any half-hearted effort could ruin an otherwise great game and prevent it from selling as well as it deserves.
Budget limitations are obviously the pain point here. However, you can get most of your localization testing needs covered at a reasonable cost.
How to keep costs down without affecting quality
There are lots of ways you can optimize the QA process and avoid overspending. Here are a few general tips to help you start out:
– You don’t need to do everything at once. If you don’t have the resources to properly localize your app, reduce the number of localized languages or start by translating store descriptions and texts essential to the understanding of the game. Players will be more tolerant toward a solid game written in a foreign language than a game that looks unfinished and buggy. Start with the languages you consider the most important, then add more as sales pick up.
– You don’t need to outsource everything. Having garbled characters or overflowing texts in main menus, tutorials, etc., things every player is going to see, is simply unacceptable. Yet, these issues are very easy to detect, even without any knowledge of target languages. There is absolutely no excuse not to do any testing at all.
Your budget may be tight, but you can probably find a couple of hours to do implementation localization testing for your game. Reduce the scope for your external resources and save on QA costs, as your testers will be able to focus on the text itself, rather than spending time reporting issues you could have found yourself. You should also consider pseudo-localization to address some of these issues before any actual translation is implemented.
– There are different levels of testing, choose what works best for you. If you really don’t have the budget to do extensive testing, you should at least aim at an acceptable quality standard, something people won’t be complaining about. You ideally want to have a perfectly polished product, but in general players will tolerate a small number of minor issues. At a minimum level, test implementation yourself and ask your translator or another professional to check the game in context (to make sure everything makes sense) and have a final look at spelling/grammar.
It will help to have a well-defined testing plan and cheat codes so testers go through your game quickly. If you manage to optimize that part of the process, you can probably keep testing costs at 30-50% of the translation fee. Once again, you should consider more thorough testing once finances allow, but it should be enough to achieve a decent standard of quality.
– Don’t make it more complex than it needs to be. It’s really all about optimizing the process. Translators will be able to fix most issues by editing localizable files themselves. Technical issues aside, you maybe don’t need them to fill a complete report with dozens of fields, screenshots and so on. Again, the key is to have them focused on testing itself.