Your Guide to Chinese Game Localization and Translation

Chinese game localization and translation involves complex processes. 

But that’s where the fun, creativity, and strategies come in. You need to consider how your target audience thinks and interacts with apps and games. 

In this blog post, you will learn the basics of Chinese game localization and translation. As you know, localization taps the cultural side, including the structure and design. Translation focuses on texts and content. So, these two always work hand-in-hand. 

Whether you’re an overseas gaming app publisher or a start-up, here’s an opportunity for you. A chance to understand the condition of the gaming market in China and the players.

Why the Chinese market?

As of this writing, the online gaming market shows signs of gradual segmentation. There has been a slow decline since 2016. But the industry is expected to reach 272 billion CNY or $38.5 billion by the end of 2023, according to ResearchAndMarkets.com. 

The biggest gaming companies in China started to diversify their games. For example, Tencent offers client-based online gaming, mobile gaming, and browsing gaming. Netease focused on mobile gaming and browsing gaming. Perfect World, a high-profile gaming company, provides the most diversified games these days. 

If you want to establish yourself, you need to partner with local gaming companies. For example, Netease runs the World of Warcraft game, and Perfect World runs the Dota 2. 

So, now you can see the big picture. As an international game publisher, you need to build strong ties with local players. 

What are the popular genres in the Chinese gaming market?

What do gamers want? If you’re publishing mobile games, keep in mind that Chinese gamers love shooting and MMO/MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena). One of the most popular MMO/MOBA in the market is the King of Glory and PUBG. 

Other genres they love to play are the social casino and racing (parkour) games, puzzles, action and adventure games. 

If you’re publishing PCs and console games, casual, puzzle, action and adventure games are on-demand. But take note that the competition is intense, so you must offer something unique. Saturation also exists when it comes to puzzle games when it comes to app stores. 

If you want to win the gamers’ hearts, the key is to be unique and creative while you weave localization into the game. It must have a touch of Chinese culture and storylines. Chinese games use traditional poems, or they weave mythology and ancient stories.

Game reviews, genres, and IP recognition are also important, attracting more downloads. 

Game reviews are critical to your growth and popularity in app stores. And when we say app stores, it’s not the Apple app store. In China, you have to publish your games to several (or should we say hundreds) of Android app stores).

Which areas to focus on when it comes to Chinese localization?

#1 Translation and transcreation

When it comes to translation, consider the Chinese language, because it has variations. So, you need to be clear on your target audience. 

There’s the Simplified Chinese (zhCN). Then Traditional Chinese Taiwan (zhTW) and Traditional Chinese Hong Kong (zhHK). If you’re targeting the gamers in mainland China, use Simplified Chinese. If you’re targeting gamers in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and those overseas Chinese in Malaysia or Singapore, the traditional version is much better.

When it comes to games, don’t rely on literal translation from English to Chinese. Transcreation will give life to your games as you make references to stories, legends, etc.

As mention earlier, Chinese games have references to culture, legends, and myths. So, no matter how good the translator is when it comes to the texts, if there’s no transcreation involved, the content won’t be relatable. Make sure you provide the translators with the context of your games and stories. It will help them to be more creative to transcreate your content. 

Chinese games use traditional poems, or they weave mythology and ancient stories.

#2 Culture

One of the most challenging tasks of developers is adding cultural elements in the games. We understand that the original version is inherently built for your global audience. And it’s hard to decide on how much localization you should apply for the Chinese audience. 

To simplify things, refrain the following in your games: politics. There might be instances that you need to rewrite stories, change the characters and places. 

Some games were blocked because of the sensitive topics infused into them. For example, Football Manager 2005 was banned because the game itself recognized Tibet and Taiwan as independent states. 

The best way to avoid the pitfalls in game localization is to consult with project managers. 

Ask the sensitive topics that are offensive to your target audience. You may also want to rewrite or even rebrand your game if needed. Some western names aren’t popular in the mainland, so you may also use Chinese names to make it more relevant. 

#3 Payments and QR codes

One of the crucial elements in the Chinese game localization is the payment method. Most games in App Store and Google Play Store use credit/debit card payments, you might want to think of other options for your mainland Chinese gamers. 

Most overseas game publishers fail in the Chinese market because they neglect to plan and strategize this part. Whether you’re offering online gaming, mobile gaming, and browsing gaming, integrate Chinese mobile payments. AliPay, TenPay, and UnionPay are widely used payments for gamers. 

Most people in China scan QR codes to pay for services and even games, including fingerprints instead of filling out a form or credit card form like how western websites collect payment data. 

Other factors to consider

Now there are also other factors to consider when it comes to Chinese game localization. 

UI/UX – The English language takes a lot of space when it comes to texts. The Chinese language is otherwise, taking up only the least amount of spaces when it comes to the screens. As you go through the process of localization, you need to consider the spaces and how gamers view and interact with your apps. From buttons to menus and texts, the localization team’s goal is to optimize the texts, designs, and UI must be less cluttered. 

Agile development – Most Chinese games have short product cycles. From the local’s perspective, they don’t focus much on quality. But more on the monetization process, neglecting the other areas that should be prioritized. There are a lot of options in the market, and if you want to compete with the local gaming publishers, you need to be willing to adapt faster than anybody else in the market. You must be ready to implement strategies and features as you keep on developing the game to keep the momentum and retention to your gaming apps. 

What’s your action plan?

You don’t have to be overwhelmed with the complexity of the processes involved. We can help you jumpstart your journey to one of the biggest gaming markets in the world. 

Do you need help in translation and transcreation of your stories? Do you need to focus on localization of the entire game? Let us know so we can create a custom plan for you.