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July 20, 2019
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Localizing licensed IPs: tips and best practices

by IGDA Localization SIG on 08/06/18 09:52:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


Games based on famous IPs, whether movies or TV series, are on the rise and with them come a few limitations not only to creativity. Indeed, not only the art, the story and the audio that need to be consistent with the original production but localization also needs to follow. 

As the original licensor has already localized the IP into different markets, you need to make sure to follow what has already been created and dedicate a certain budget and amount of time to make sure your game will have the IP’s local taste.

Here are a few expert tips in order to help you with the localization of your licensed IP.


When you are planning the budgeting, consider the cost of both localized text and audio material. Audio is significantly more expensive than text, as it represents a bigger effort and consists of the source language voice-over and the localized voice-overs.

When it comes to source language voice over, work with a casting agency in order to choose the best actors that fit the characters in the game and ask the licensor for support in selecting them. 

As for localized voice-overs, try to allocate if possible a budget to hire the original voice actors for the localized version of the IP. Remember however that this will raise the cost of production as the unions have higher prices than regular voice-actors and using a different actor for the voice of a certain character is a bad practice.

As the audio and the localization cost are covered by the developer, make sure that you consider well in advance the cost of voice acting and localization. 

Best practices 

Before starting, ask the licensor to give you all the terminology that has been created in the source language and for the localized markets and all the style guides and characterizations for voice-overs and hand them to your audio and localization partners. This is crucial to maintaining the consistency across all languages. 

When considering timelines, it’s essential to understand the recording and delivery dates of the source material, and working to ensure that these are met. Communicate with the casting agency to understand the time that it can take and plan properly because underestimating it can result in heavy delays. It’s also important to make sure you also have sufficient time to allow LQA to validate and bug the audio base.
A great workflow for localization would be to provide significant chunks of audio to your partner at regular times rather than fragmented deliveries, as this is very helpful both to the translation and localized audio process and to LQA. And ensure you have extra time for last-minute modifications.

When it comes to feedback and preferences, rely on your local outsourcing/recording partners. Make sure you give them the terminology and clear guidelines and let them handle the actors and timelines. They should be the ones to communicate with all the actors, negotiate their contracts, timetable the recording sessions once they know when to expect deliveries of both translated text and reference audio/video/cut-scenes etc. No developer should be directly handling actor contracts – use the knowledge & experience of partners in-territory to do this. They will also ensure that there is an artistic director directing the voice talents.

Does the localization effort vary according to the type of platform?

Certainly, as the least immersive the experience is, the least effort will be done for audio localization. This is the case for example for mobile, in which licensed IPs are usually only voice-overs in the source language and then subtitled which lowers the costs of localization overall.

An example is The Simpsons: Tapped Out game in which EA did put a budget in recording the characters voices with the original actors, however, it was left in English and subtitled for all other markets, most likely because of the platforms’ nature. 

The platform itself doesn’t require the player to be fully immersed so subtitles can be a handy solution, especially for short session more casual games.

When it comes to PC, VR, console, and AAA, localization exists to remove barriers between games and gamers. Accessing the game requires not only text localization but also voice-overs as that full immersive experience is impossible without audio.

I made a quick chart to summarize the different parties involved and  their roles.

In summary, if you are planning on developing a licensed IP or want to improve your practices make sure that you take source voice overs as well as text and localized voice overs into account in your budget ideally using the original voice actors. Don’t forget to ask for the terminology from the licensor, plan on large timelines considering the audio material and deliver source content in larger chunks to your localization partner. And don’t forget those extra days for LQA and last minute changes, which is crucial. Rely on your partner to handle the communication with actors expertly and finally, take into account the platform and immersiveness of the experience to also define your localization efforts. 

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