In 2004, Paradox Interactive had a booming hit on their hands with Hearts of Iron, an alternate history strategy game that let each player control a nation at the dawn of World War II. But, in the largest gaming market in the world, comprising more than 173 million people, 65 percent of whom are paying, playing gamers, Hearts of Iron was banned.
The Chinese market is powerful, but even more powerful is China’s Ministry of Culture which has strict gaming and internet service regulations. Paradox Interactive’s crime wasn’t violence or sex – it was the “alternate history” depicted, in which Manchuria, West Xinjiang and Tibet were shown as independent sovereign countries, and the Taiwan province as a Japanese territory. This was enough to “damage China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” according to the Ministry of Culture. For Paradox Interactive, that spelled “Goodbye” to 112,450,000 gamers.
What does this have to do with translation?
Not a lot. But it does have everything to do with successful game localization within Asian markets.
Localizing games is clearly about so much more than translating words. Words require context, and context is often where localization efforts falter. History, religion, culture, and geopolitical perspective are all hurdles game companies must leap over in order to reach target markets abroad. Just as important are the technical considerations and practicalities of delivering the same quality gaming experience halfway around the world.
Don’t let your game get banned.
Leap over the traps, fight the dragons, beat the monsters, and save the princess – or, at the very least, introduce your game to millions of people who will love it.