Localization Support Changes From '06 to '22 : Part 1
How did Localization support change from 2006 to 2022?
Part 1: Overall Language Support
Localization is an ever-changing aspect of game development that many don’t pay full attention to. It’s easy to go with the motions of what’s standard at the time, just to cover your bases. But when was that standard decided? When did localization change from basic coverage to more expansive?
At the end of the day, localization is about accessibility. It’s about catching new audiences and markets that hadn’t been previously accessible. It’s about building revenue through diversification of audience. So, what direction is localization support going and what can the past 17 years of the industry tell us?
We looked at a selection of the top games from 2006 up to 2022 on PC, noting their localization support and how they were implemented. Some of the findings are quite predictable, while others are less so. But even with those predictable findings, there’s fascinating trends and timings that can tell us more about how localization support has changed and how it will continue to change.
Overall Language Support
Through our research we’ve been able to gauge an average number of localized languages across popular titles from each year. The aim of the data collection was to cover a range of games, not just the biggest AAAs. Focusing solely on biggest sellers of the year could easily skew the results, with only major AAA titles being included. Instead, we’ve also included popular indies, and even some of those AA/B tier titles.
The most interesting finding is that you can see these blocks of years where things change. From 2006 up to 2008 you can see the lowest level of localization support. On average, games coming out in those years had around 5 to 6 localized languages.
But things change from 2008, with the number of localized languages jumping up to around 8 per game. It’s not the biggest jump we’ll see, but it’s the start of an expansion that continues until today.
We then get to 2014. On average, games still have somewhere around 8 localized languages. But then, suddenly, 2015 appears. In 2015 that average number jumps to around 11 languages per game. That shows a notable difference from 2014, which had roughly followed the 6 previous years’ averages.
So, what happened in 2015?
Well, we saw some huge releases that were truly worldwide hits. Witcher 3, Dying Light, Metal Gears Solid V, Rainbow Six Siege, Ori and the Blind Forest, the list goes on. These games were, and still are, major hits across almost every continent. There are some major jumps in specific languages that we’ll talk about in part 2.
That average continues until around 2019 where we see the next increase, up to around 13 per game. It’s not as sizeable a jump as 2015 and appears more as a natural continuation of localization expansion. There is a slight dip in 2022 where the average drops to around 11 – 12 per game, but this could be due to several factors including budget pressures caused by global lockdowns.
In the next article we’ll be looking deeper into which languages have caused this increase and what that can tell us about the expanding global industry.