Blizzard & EQHO Deliver
Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft
Blizzard Entertainment wanted to capitalize on the worldwide success of Hearthstone by launching into the lucrative $1.5 billion Southeast Asian mobile games market. But Blizzard had never released any of their titles in Southeast Asia before, so not only needed a regional games localization thoroughbred, but a partner that could guide them through the demographic, technical, linguistic and cultural challenges—challenges that would make a full-blown Hearthstone tournament look like a walk in the park.
But how did EQHO overcome the challenges that lay ahead?
Blizzard’s vendor selection process lasted four months, and initially consisted of discovery calls and translation tests. It culminated with on-site visits, in-depth team interviews, physical and IT security audits, plus an inspection of our in-house studios. EQHO also solved the following challenges along the way:
- Fierce Competition
EQHO was seen as the underdog in competing against some of the largest, most experienced games localization companies, so was seen as the underdog during the vendor assessment. We needed to do something special to win the hearts and minds at Blizzard.
- Thai Font Compatibility
Hearthstone did not fully support Thai fonts, tone marks and could not efficiently handle Thai text expansion due to Thai line-break rules.
- Competitive Pricing vs High Quality Deliverables
As a large, sophisticated buyer of game localization services, Blizzard could influence the pricing models whilst balancing the quality of deliverables. Quality expectations were very high, so the vendor had to balance price, timing and quality correctly.
- Quantity & Quality of Voice Artists
Due to the number of characters that feature in the original game, over 200 voice actors were required to perform all the character roles. In addition, high quality voices and acting used in the English game had to be replicated in the Thai release.
- Demanding Local Audience
Hearthstone had built a reputation as one of the gaming industry’s leading titles globally, and because thousands of Thai’s were playing the English version, local Thai gamer expectations were extremely high.
- Cultural Adaptation & Script Rewrites
The content revolved around fantasy characters, with many references and songs based on Western popular culture. These potential minefields meant the content needed to be carefully assessed for cultural transfer to ensure Thai gamers were given an understandable and natural Thai gaming experience.
- Testing & QA
Blizzard needed a vendor that could provide comprehensive testing and QA services within a secure testing environment and on multiple devices.
After complying with Blizzard’s rigorous standards, it was EQHO’s technical competence, love for games and team spirit that won the day.
- Hearthstone Proof-of-Concept
Our proof-of-concept showed Blizzard that EQHO was not only capable of delivering Hearthstone in Thai from both a linguistic and technical standpoint, but also demonstrated how we add creative flair along the way.
- Familiarization Process
Key members of EQHO’s Hearthstone localization team went through an in-depth familiarization (F13n) process. We played the game, understood the different roles and characters, reviewed the on-screen content and voice-over script for cultural issues, recruited a Casting Director, ran auditions and rehearsals for voice-artists, and much more, including an outreach program to Thailand’s Hearthstone community.
- Internationalization Consulting
To ensure the game functions and display were not affected during the localization process, and as part of our F13n process, a thorough internationalization audit was performed in order to assess and categorize issues relating to Thai font support, text expansion and line-breaks.
- Cultural Adaptation
Through an on-screen content and voice-over script review, EQHO identified culturally awkward character names, jokes, Western pop-culture references and lines in songs; suggestions and corrective measures were presented through changes in content, and in some cases, complete rewrites.
- Skilled Games Translators & Hearthstone SME
EQHO recruited multiple translators and editors specialized in Thai games due to the volume, timing and specific nature of the Hearthstone content. A Thai Hearthstone SME coordinated the teams to ensure linguistic integrity was maintained from beginning to end, paying special attention to add the creative license needed to bring the Thai version to life.
- Casting Director, Professional Actors & Celebrities
There were 200 unique characters in Hearthstone, so EQHO needed to deliver a huge cast that comprised professional actors, celebrities and voice artists. EQHO’s Casting Director followed our “Hollywood Style Processes” to identify actors and rehearse scripts, run hundreds of auditions, and select over 200 actors to cover all the roles. Our Casting Director was also present at all recording sessions to ensure the unique traits of each character were captured in Thai with the same accuracy and passion of those in the English version.
- Full-time Blizzard Language Ambassador
A full-time member of the team was assigned to represent EQHO on Blizzard’s Irvine, California campus. As a Blizzard Language Ambassador, her main responsibilities included being responsible for translation quality, performing QA checks, managing and supporting Thailand’s Hearthstone Community, and providing feedback from the Thai Hearthstone Community to Blizzard and EQHO.
- Dedicated US-based Program Manager
Our US Program Manager, based in Denver, Colorado, worked closely with EQHO’s production team in Asia and Language Ambassador in California throughout the project. Because of EQHO’s in-house, end-to-end production model, the US Program Manager also ensured a smooth transfer of knowledge and expertise between the technical, linguistic and voice teams.
- Multi-Device Testing & QA
EQHO recruited 12 testers and QA staff, who performed tests and checks on 10 IOS/ Android devices. The tests consisted of smoke testing, localization testing and linguistic testing, and as part of EQHO’s methodology, functional bugs were also reported back to Blizzard. Regression tests were also performed on the newly generated localized builds.
In 90 days EQHO delivered a fully localized, functional version of Hearthstone to Blizzard. All the internationalization issues had been resolved. To give the impression the game had not been localized, the translation team and SME creatively captured the Thai linguistic and cultural nuances. Pitch-perfect performances by 200 professional actors, celebrities and voice artists had brought Hearthstone’s characters to life. And our multi-device testing and QA ensured all the linguistic and functional bugs were ironed out prior to release.
Hearthstone was launched in May 2016 to rapturous reviews from the Thai gaming community, resulting in it becoming Thailand’s fastest-selling online game, ever. Today, EQHO continues to work on major expansions and provides Community Management support, which has helped to maintain strong growth for Hearthstone. Over the last year EQHO has gained a reputation for game localization quality and creativity on Blizzard’s Irvine CA campus, and will continue to work on the multi-million-dollar Hearthstone franchise in Thailand and beyond.
Our familiarization program continues via EQHO Hearthstone tournaments every two months. EQHO’s current Hearthstone Champion is Alex Viding, our System Engineering Manager—well done Alex.
Well… Not quite. Our Hearthstone stewardship has just begun…