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Overseas localization can be worthwhile - even for a small indie game

Overseas localization can be worthwhile - even for a small indie game Exclusive

July 23, 2013 | By Kris Ligman

July 23, 2013 | By Kris Ligman
More: Console/PC, Indie, Production, Business/Marketing, Exclusive

Christine Love's Analogue: A Hate Story is as much an unusual entry on the Steam storefront as when it first appeared there roughly a year ago. Inspired by East Asian visual novels, Analogue is an interactive epistolary novel in which players try to find out what happened aboard a generation ship in a far-flung future, through stored documents and a pair of chatty ship A.I.

Even more unusual, perhaps, is that the game has a full-on Korean localization -- in fact, the game has performed better in South Korea than it has in the developer's native Canada.

"I never really considered the possibility of a full translation [before] Analogue started getting noticed," Love tells Gamasutra. She notes that because the game itself deals with Korean culture and snippets of the Korean language is visible in the advertising, it drew eyes which might otherwise have overlooked it.

"People were surprised to see Korean text and Korean dress being advertised in a game banner," she says. "Just the idea of it being based on Korean culture at all was somewhat surprising."

After interest picked up and Love was interviewed for Korean publications, she confesses she was "more terrified than excited" by the international attention. When the idea solidified that Analogue should receive a full localization, Love was adamant about finding a professional-grade translator.

"I was definitely terrified about needing to get the translation absolutely right, given that it's about history and some very delicate subject matter. It needed to be a completely solid translation."

In particular, the Korean localization required some creative reworking of at least one major plot point, which centers around a critical misreading of Chinese characters. "The Korean translator... actually figured out what [Chinese] characters it would be and how they would be read, salvaging what just was an imaginary flourish [in the English version] into something that actually parses," she explained.

The translation piled on work for Love as well, as Analogue's sole developer. Anyone who has worked in localization no doubt knows the anguish of text box sizes and word boundaries. But though it turned out to be a tremendous chore for Love, the hard work appears to have paid off: since the Korean localization patch launched on Steam, Love reports that Korea has consistently accounted for around 10 percent of sales, more than the U.K. and twice that of her own Canada.

Love says she can't speculate on why, exactly, the game took off as it had, but the untapped niche no doubt has something to do with it. "It's not much of a stretch to say there aren't many games like Analogue available in Korean," Love offered.

A followup to Analogue, Hate Plus, is set to be released on August 19th through Christine Love's website and, presumably, through Steam on or around that same date. A Korean language version is expected to follow, same as its predecessor.

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