Developing computer games and off-the-shelf software

Translation and localisation of computer games and software


Most computer games and software are developed in English. However, the globalisation of popular culture has led producers to develop software in other languages.

It's important to consider translating and localising the games or software you develop, to make them more appealing to other markets.

Software translation

Software translation involves extracting and re-integrating the translatable elements of your software, including:

  • user interface - the program which controls the display and allows the users to interact with the system
  • graphics, images and icons
  • user guides
  • audio and Flash files
  • packaging
  • marketing literature
  • licences and legal disclaimers


The linguistic translation is not the only thing to consider - you should also localise your product. Localisation involves modifying your product with the customs and culture of your target market in mind.

To ensure your software is compatible with your market, you should consider:

  • cultural differences - eg some countries may be more sensitive to violence
  • legal differences - eg age ratings for games may differ depending on country of release
  • graphics identity - eg you may need to change the appearance of the characters
  • music - this may vary according to national preferences
  • packaging
  • marketing material
  • dialogue - the spoken word can be dubbed and the written text subtitled

It's important to take localisation decisions early, so the tools and structure for changes can be built into the development.

You should use native speakers to test localised material at every stage of development.

You could outsource, partner with a local organisation or sell the rights to localise your product and produce it in another region. However, you should ensure you retain control of your brand.