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分析手机与主机游戏的本土化差异和必要性

发布时间:2012-07-07 13:48:12 Tags:,,,,

作者:Karin E Skoog

本土化是指根据地区市场去调整电子游戏并添加一些不一样的内容,如图像和文化元素。对于某些特定区域的玩家来说本土化非常重要,因为通过整合当地文化并遵从一些法律和规章要求(为了得到政府或特定组织的批准,我们有必要仔细审查特定的游戏元素),玩家们便能够享受到最“原始的”游戏体验。本土化的最终目标是确保游戏既能满足当地玩家的需求也能体现出原始感。本土化有时候也无需进行文本或音频转换。例如,在中国版本的游戏中就无需针对骷髅和暴露骨架的图片进行特殊处理。

通过本篇文章我们将从更广的层面去定义本土化,也就是面向当地市场去调整游戏的各个元素。即包含了文本,图像,视频甚至是故事设计和游戏玩法中的相关元素。基于这一框架我们将定义本土化区分为三种不同的程度,逐渐深入适应过程并且每一过程所需要的时间和执行成本也将逐渐增加。这三种程度分别是“简单本土化”,“局部文化设定”以及“完全文化设定”。我们将通过下图以及一些经典的活动来描写这些程度。而开发者需要重视的一点是,游戏的文化设定程度越高就代表着你所需投入的时间和成本也就越高。

Degrees-of-Localization-Diagram(from gamasutra)

Degrees-of-Localization-Diagram(from gamasutra)

A-Deeper-Look-Diagram(from gamasutra)

A-Deeper-Look-Diagram(from gamasutra)

“文化设定将进一步超越(简单)本土化,因为它将深入考虑游戏的基本设想和内容选择,并根据多文化市场与特定区域市场去衡量可行性。(简单)本土化只能帮助玩家理解游戏内容(主要是通过转换),而文化设定则能基于更有意义的层面让玩家深入体验游戏内容。”——《The Game Localization Handbook》第2版,26页

Facebook以及其它具有可行的开发工具的社交平台创造了一个“完美风暴”并推动了社交游戏应用的爆炸性发展。处在这个高度分化领域的开发者如果想提高游戏的市场份额就必须想办法扩展全球市场——有50%全球游戏收益便是来自美国以外的市场。在这个国际化高度发展的世界中,游戏开发者不仅需要意识到转换游戏的重要性,同时也必须认识到本土化(或文化设定的)的必要性。应用商店是一个快速发展的领域,在这里每个月会出现上千款新应用甚至每天也会出现数百款新游戏。我们需要在文化设定过程中添加一些有价值的时间去转换游戏,包括何时深入挖掘文化设定,为了快速回应市场需求又该何时放弃特定的文化设定元素?

在上个月在旧金山举办的Mobile Gaming USA大会上,我们发现来自美国和亚洲市场的社交游戏公司都在谈论“将游戏推向世界”的意义以及这对手机游戏的文化设定有何影响。发言人包括木瓜移动开发者关系总监Paul Chen;GAMEVIL副总裁Kyu Lee;CrowdStar业务开发总监Randy Lee。这些社交游戏元老不仅意识到游戏文化设定的重要性,同时也强调了面向手机市场快速发行游戏的迫切需求。

是否进行文化设定

为了遵循亚洲市场严格的游戏章则,我们已经看到了一些能够证明文化设定重要性(至少是针对于游戏中的某些特殊元素)的例子。例如因为赌博法的出台以及针对于compugacha(游戏邦注:类似于一种赌博机制)社交游戏虚拟商品销售的待定诉讼案,导致社交游戏在日本销量出现急剧下滑的现象。Social Gaming USA大会的专门小组成员便引用了一款游戏进行说明,即将女性身上的肉色衣物改成色彩鲜明的背心的需要。如果不能遵守当地的游戏章则便会导致游戏利益与市场份额的巨大损失,而有效地调整游戏元素并预见像日本的compugacha以及赌博法等问题,便能够给公司带来更大利益。

因为专门小组成员在北美和亚洲手机游戏市场都具有丰富的阅历,所以他们都认识到了手机游戏的文化设定的重要性——例如比起美国市场我们更难面向韩国市场制作游戏。同时他们也理解在必要时刻删除某些文化设定过程的重要性——例如中国市场对于西方游戏极端“渴望”,所以便无需对这些游戏进行过分的文化设定。特别是在手机游戏领域就更需要省略文化设定。

主机与手机游戏的差别

将游戏融入不同区域市场中固然重要(游戏邦注:例如在最初的美国版本游戏中使用的是“football”而在其它市场中则需要改成“soccer ball”),我们同样也必须在手机游戏市场与传统主机市场并置时认识到前者的独特性。通常情况下主机游戏开发者总是能够花数个月时间面向国外市场去执行游戏文化设定,但是手机游戏开发者却未必拥有如此充裕的时间。

手机游戏玩家总是希望能够尽快看到结果——甚至快于Facebook社交游戏玩家。Digital Chocolate首席运营官Jason Loia表示,尽管Facebook玩家不介意花上数个小时去等待树的长大而获得丰收,但是手机游戏玩家往往只有几分钟的游戏时间,所以他们更加希望看到快速的游戏方法和教程。因为手机市场过度分散,所以手机用户总是能够快速且轻松地下载到竞争者的游戏。根据Mobile Gaming USA座谈小组的讨论,“将游戏推向世界”可能意味着你将失去获得资本的机会——因为你可能需要投入6个多月的时间去推动游戏的文化设定但却最终以失败告终。

当我们在评估文化设定的必要性,也需要评估市场中的特定领域(如社交vs.主机游戏和手机游戏vs.在线游戏)以及文化市场的期望值(如在中国社交游戏市场便需要放弃文化设定)。尽管硬核游戏玩家希望延长主机游戏的转换与本土化而花更长时间去等待大型游戏的超级变身,但是在社交游戏中却是完全不同的情况,特别是针对于手机游戏而言。手机用户总是会频繁更换游戏,除了一些品牌忠实者——如《愤怒的小鸟》的铁杆粉丝。除此之外比起其它类型的游戏手机游戏的生命周期也更短。因此那些想要再花半年时间去执行游戏本土化的公司只能白白错过社交游戏发展趋势而最终遭遇失败。

让我们再次转回主要问题,即何时该放弃文化设定?我们需要根据发展趋势以及市场数据去判断是否应该马上将产品投放到市场中。你当然不希望因为忽视了文化设定而损害了游戏的发展或公司的名誉,同时你也不希望因为过度投入于文化设定而错失了市场机会。这时候部分文化设定便比完全文化设定来得有效。同时我们还必须努力做到平衡,即面向真正重要的游戏元素进行文化设定并时刻衡量发行时机。(本文为游戏邦/gamerboom.com编译,拒绝任何不保留版权的转载,如需转载请联系:游戏邦

When to Forgo the Culturalization of Video Games: Contextualizing Globalization within the Mobile Marketplace

by Karin E Skoog

Localization is the adaptation of video games for regional markets, to include changing components such as graphics and cultural references.  Localization is important so gamers within specific regions can enjoy the game as if it were the original, by integrating key aspects of local culture while also adhering to legal and regulatory requirements.  (It is necessary to censor certain components of games in order for governments or organizations to approve a game’s release or rating.)  The ultimate goal of localization is to ensure the game makes sense for natives while maintaining the original feel of the game.  Localization can occur in the absence of text or audio translation.  For example, no translation is necessary in manipulating images like eliminating skeletons and exposed bone in Chinese versions of games to accommodate for country restrictions.

For the purposes of this article, we will define localization in the broadest sense to mean adapting any and all aspects of a game for the local market.  This can include text, graphics, audio, and even elements of story design and gameplay.  Within this context, we define three degrees of localization, each a deeper dive into the adaptation process and each associated with increasing time and cost of implementation.  We call these degrees “Simple Localization,” “Partial Culturalization,” and “Full Culturalization.”  These are depicted in the diagram below along with examples of typical activities associated with each.  Note that these divisions are somewhat arbitrary and were chosen to make it easy to conceptualize the overall process.  The horizontal axis represents a continuum, and the question of which activities belong to which degree is just a question of semantics.  The main point being that as you engage in deeper culturalization of your game, the greater the cost will be in terms of time and money.

“Culturalization is going a step further beyond [simple] localization as it takes a deeper look into a game’s fundamental assumptions and content choices, and then gauges the viability in both the broad, multicultural marketplace as well as in specific geographic locales.  [Simple] localization helps gamers simply comprehend the game’s content (primarily through translation), but culturalization helps gamers to potentially engage with the game’s content at a much deeper, more meaningful level.”

The Game Localization Handbook, 2nd edition, page 26

Heather Maxwell Chandler & Stephanie O’Malley Deming

It is no secret that the popularity of Facebook and other social media platforms together with the accessibility of development tools have created a perfect storm that has enabled the explosive growth of social gaming apps.  Companies looking to increase their market share in this highly fragmented space must expand their global reach, given that over 50% of worldwide game revenue comes from markets outside the US.  In a world of rapid internationalization, game developers realize it is important not only to translate games but to localize (or culturalize) as well.  Yet, the app store is a rapidly evolving space with thousands of new apps submitted every month and over 100 games submitted every day.  With the culturalization process adding valuable time to the translation of games, when is it important to delve deeper into culturalization, and when does it make sense to forgo certain aspects of culturalization for faster time to market?

Language Automation, Inc. (LAI, @LanguageAutoInc) was at the Mobile Gaming USA (#MGUSA) conference in San Francisco last month, where we heard important players in the social gaming space both here and in Asian markets speak about what it means to “take your games global” and what this means for culturalizing games in the mobile market.  Among the presenters were Paul Chen, Vice President of Developer Relations at PapayaMobile (an open mobile social network for casual Android gamers, headquartered in Beijing with an office here in Menlo Park); Kyu Lee, Vice President of GAMEVIL (an award-winning mobile game publisher with offices in Seoul and Los Angeles); and Randy Lee, Director of Business Development at CrowdStar (a top social gaming company based in the Bay Area and a major player in the Japanese market).  Although each of these social gaming professionals recognizes the need for culturalizing games, they also speak to the importance of rapidly publishing games for the mobile market.

To Culturalize, or Not to Culturalize, That is the Question

There are some cases in which it is critical to culturalize at least particular aspects of games in order to adhere to the strict game regulations of Asia.  The Japanese market already saw a sudden decline in social gaming due to gambling laws and a pending lawsuit for the sale of social gaming items through compugacha (similar to real life gashapon machines in which customers must find complete sets of rare items for even rarer items, often resulting in thousands of dollars spent by a single consumer in one month).   A panelist at the Social Gaming USA conference referenced a game where it was necessary to change briefly shown flesh-colored parts of a female changing clothes to resemble a colored tank top.  Since failure to comply with local game regulations can cause a dramatic loss in profits and market share, it is in a company’s best interest to culturalize not only currently regulated aspects of gaming but to also foresee problems like compugacha and gambling laws in Japan.

Due to the panelists’ extensive experience in the North American and Asian mobile gaming markets, each recognizes the need for culturalizing mobile games in certain instances – ex. making games harder for the Korean market than the American market.  Yet, they also understand the importance of sometimes eliminating the culturalization process, citing the “hunger” in China for Western games and the tendency to merely translate games for China as opposed to culturalizing them.  The need to eliminate culturalization is even greater when it comes to the mobile gaming space.

Differences between Console-Based Games and Mobile Games – Implications for Culturalization

It is of course important to contextualize games for different regional markets (for example, using a soccer ball for other markets when an original American version includes a football), yet it is equally critical to recognize the unique market of mobile gaming when juxtaposed against the traditional console space.  While it is common place for console-based game developers to spend many extra months translating and culturalizing games for foreign markets, mobile games often do not have the luxury of time.

Mobile gamers expect fast results, even faster than Facebook’s social gamers.  Jason Loia, COO of Digital Chocolate, says that although Facebook players don’t mind waiting hours for a tree to grow in order to harvest fruit, mobile players may have only a few minutes to play and therefore expect faster methods of gameplay and tutorials.  Since the mobile market space is highly fragmented, mobile users can quickly and easily download competitors’ games.  According to the Mobile Gaming USA’s panel “Taking Your Games Global,” this could mean lost opportunity for capitalization if an extra 6+ months is spent culturalizing a game that turns out to be a “flop.”

When assessing the need to culturalize, it is critical to assess the specific segment of the marketplace – social vs. console-based and mobile vs. online gaming – in conjunction with cultural market expectations (such as the commonplace practice of forgoing culturalization for the Chinese social gaming market).  Although hardcore gamers expect delays in the translation and localization (culturalization) of console-based games and will wait long periods of time for the superb translation of a major title, the social gaming space is vastly different, particularly when it comes to mobile games.  The games of mobile users are easily substitutable, except in the case of true brand loyalty such as diehard fans of Rovio’s Angry Birds.  The lifecycle of mobile games is also significantly shorter than other games.  Therefore, a company that chooses to spend an extra half a year or so culturalizing a game may miss out on a social gaming trend critical to their game’s success.

Back to the main question – when to forgo culturalization?  Look at the trends and stats for the marketplace and determine whether it makes sense to immediately take your product to market.  You certainly don’t want your game or the authority of your company to diminish by ignoring the importance of culturalization, but you also don’t want to miss out on a market opportunity in the mobile gaming space by spending too much time on culturalization.  It may make sense to partially culturalize a game as opposed to fully culturalizing.  It is important to strike a balance – culturalize where relevant but be wary of time to market.(source:GAMASUTRA)


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