Creating and Translating Audio for Growing Global Game Markets

How Lionbridge can support video game localization in emerging mobile-first spaces

Growth Drivers in Global Games

Games are increasingly a global phenomenon. Newzoo’s Global Games Market Report 2021 identifies 20 markets today where games sales exceed $1 billion, and another 19 where sales exceed $400 million. While the US and China are the largest markets by some considerable margin, for any game creator today at least 75 percent of the addressable market (by dollar value) is comprised of players that are not native speakers in the game’s original language.

As publishers seek to capitalize on the opportunities of the global market, Lionbridge Gaming is seeing an increase in the average number of target languages for games localization. Crossover between the core Asian and Western markets is driving this upswing as Asian titles are increasingly localized for US and European release, and vice versa.

But emerging markets are also evolving fast. Today, India, Russia, Indonesia, Turkey, the Netherlands and Thailand are top-20 markets for Games and are common targets for translation. And as the potential revenue of a hit game increases relative to the localization costs, that list is becoming ever longer.

Audio for games is moving in the same direction but has been slightly slower to embrace these new global opportunities. There are several potential reasons for this hesitation:

  • Greater costs for audio
  • Uncertainty about ROI (return on investment)
  • Added scheduling and production dependencies
  • Mobile sector domination in emerging markets.

That last point is likely the most powerful of all, as the performance of the mobile platform itself has been a limitation.

That situation is changing rapidly. The increasing performance capabilities of mobile phones and the rapid growth of video game streaming platforms are overcoming technological limitations. Cross platform design and greater platform agnosticism also liberates games to pursue opportunities wherever localized audio will attract local audiences. But there are challenges when increasing the number of target languages for a game audio, especially when emerging target languages do not have a mature games audio industry.

Challenges of On-Site Recordings

A “brick and mortar” presence in the target market is still necessary for AAA audio recording. While technologies for remote recording are improving all the time, the quality and consistency of sound required for major IP means physically bringing voice talents to broadcast quality booths for the foreseeable future. And since voice talents are most often found near the traditional centers for voice production in the target market, that is where the recording needs to be performed.

Entering a new market and an unfamiliar business environment is, naturally, a challenge. As Lionbridge Gaming grows its global footprint of recording studios, we are fortunate to leverage the infrastructure and the global community of Lionbridge with its network of operations in more than 20 countries, including Mongolia and Nepal.

Partnering with local studios is an option. Partner studios and local recruits may have a strong history of recording in adjacent industries such as movie and tv dubbing, but the transition to voice audio for games can be transformative. Processes vary significantly. Games recording constraints are dissimilar to other dubbing industries and require new skills to produce at the required productivity levels. Games localization audio is also hugely more dependent on the source reference audio to provide context to Directors and Talents. This requires a level of familiarity with the source language and culture. Also, the existing legal, trade union and talent-fee framework for voice acting is unlikely to have been defined with video game content in mind and needs to be expertly managed.

Lionbridge Gaming is very experienced in the process of recruiting and training local teams. Our centers of excellence have been repeating and refining the steps since the days when FIGS (French, Italian, German and European Spanish) represented the entire market. Our teams are on-site for the initial training period and new studios are provided with additional oversight for extended periods.

We also listen hard during these times. No two language pairs present the same challenges. Local audiences may have different expectations of what quality video game audio is like. Our teams are there to learn as much as to teach.

Addressing New Needs 

Lionbridge is focused on ensuring that our customers can rely on us for new markets and new languages, exactly as it has for traditional targets. The landscape is changing; addressing global markets requires new capabilities that Lionbridge is deploying to support its customers.

The combined challenges of simship (simultaneous shipment) with shorter development and release cycles is causing many games creators to rethink their processes. Adding multiple audio languages to the mix, squeezed between the end of production and release, is potentially a scheduling nightmare. In this environment, anything that can reduce waterfall production dependencies is highly valuable.

Lionbridge’s integrated Translation, Audio and LQA services reduce the dependencies and the management burden on the developer by deploying an integrated services team that can ensure communication and rapid schedule adjustments to always deliver on time. Deploying an integrated team and a continuous workflow from the very beginning of the original version voice recordings, through one or more audio pivot languages, to the final set of localized audio languages, reduces churn and streamlines production. It also builds deep knowledge and a coherent vision of your product that ensures players all over the globe experience the game as you intended. 

Finally, integration sounds difficult in the abstract. The Lionbridge Games Cloud Audio platform is the technological glue that enables integration, shared working assets, real-time updates, team collaboration, project tracking and data analysis. 

Understanding New Markets

While translation may be a requirement to enter a market, perhaps because of local legislation or just because of game platform optimization, localized audio is almost always an ROI decision. With an increasing number of target markets to choose from, choosing the right languages for audio localization and understanding the market are important to maximizing ROI.

The Lionbridge Community team performs market testing around the globe and can create tests for your title in the markets you are considering. Ask our global community of players all the questions that matter to you:

  • Do local players recognize your IP?
  • Do they prefer localized audio to subtitles?
  • How would they rate the audio quality?
  • Would star voice talent increase their enjoyment of the game? 
  • How would these elements impact their purchase decision?

As our customers seek to bring game audio to an increasing number of target languages, some of which may not have mature audio localization industries, new challenges arise. Lionbridge Games offers a suite of integrated services to help you identify markets, manage production schedules and deliver vibrant content and great audio for local players that reinforces your IP and your values.

Lionbridge is ready for the future, now.

Contact us to bring your games to life across the globe.

linkedin sharing button
  • #audio
Haruhiko Inaba and Balzac Chang