Toftedahl is a game designer, game development teacher and business coach for startups, and game industry researcher from Skövde, the Swedish city which over the last few years has become an epicentre for gaming in the Nordics. He’s just defended his doctoral thesis Being Local in a Global Industry – Game Localization from an Indie Game Development Perspective.
— The gaming industry is a truly global industry. No matter where you are, you have the possibility to market and sell your games to a world-wide audience. Since the Scandinavian region have been very successful in game development, I was interested in how developers with limited resources — indie game startup companies — tackled the globalness of the industry. Do they plan for their games to ’go global’? Is localization a task that is planned for? So, I got in contact with developers in Sweden, China, and India and asked them if I could join their development project as a researcher, to understand the development processes better. I mainly followed three teams; one here in Skövde, one in Shanghai, and one in Kolkata, and was a part of their day-to-day work as developers. In addition to this, I also interviewed several companies to get at broader understanding of the processes, he explains.
And what did you come up with?
— In general, localization is a task that is not planned for in time. The majority of the developers I studied and interviewed became aware of the necessity of localization when their players asked if they could localize or translate the game into a specific language. And if you don’t have thought of this, the game does not ’magically’ have a ’Choose language’ option, hence you have to retrofit the game with a localization system. And that is a much more complex and resource consuming process than if you’d done it from start. Since I was interested in companies with limited resources from the start, the planning of localization became even more important since adding localization support late in the development process — or even after release — is more costly and difficult.
Have you also studied the reasons why the Nordics are so successful in the global gaming industry?
— No I haven’t, but my gut feeling is that we in the Nordics have to look outside of our own region to have a large player base. This in combination with a strong educational system, where game development educations can be found up to university level, have made the career choice to become a game developer viable.
What is your best advice to grow in a global market?
— Don’t assume that your players have the same cultural background or language preferences as you. Be aware of the fact that there will be regional differences. You don’t need to know all the details of each and every country — there are experts in game localization who can help you with the details — but to be aware of that there are differences will make your planning easier.
And now, what will you do?
— Now I will start as a business coach at Science Park Skövde and Sweden Game Arena and use my knowledge, both from more than years of teaching game development and of course from the thesis project as well, to guide startup companies towards a global game market.
— Localization is a task that is not planned for in time when creating a new game — to add it late in the development process or after release is more costly and difficult.
— Don’t assume that your players have the same cultural background or language preferences as you.
— Experts in game localization can help you with the details but to be aware of that there are differences will make your planning easier.