Hélène Poirier is the project coordinator at Red Stallion Interactive. She discusses localization in the MENA region and the RSI gaming platform in this article.
If the Americans have historically been at the forefront of video game development, logically providing games in English, they rapidly understood that the support of local languages was essential to perform in the global economy. Games were translated while game cafés (gaming-dedicated stores), and online gaming platforms emerged all over the world, serving gamers in different cultures and languages.
It would be unimaginable for a French or a German gamer not to find their favorite game in their local language! Yet, if this is true for gamers at large in the Western world, and to some extent in the Eastern European and Asian markets, gamers in other parts of the world have been largely forgotten, notably the Middle East and the Arab-speaking world. And with a lack of localized games also came the lack of a culturally and linguistically anchored gamers’ platform supporting the Arabic language, facilitating community exchange, and teaming in the local and regional fields, providing support for local payment methods and local currencies.
Red Stallion Interactive was specifically created to do this for the MENA region [Middle East & North Africa]. Having recently launched in the Gulf (GCC) region, but available and operational from all MENA countries, the gamers’ dedicated platform is fully Arabic-English enabled, throughout game descriptions and other information, gamers’ profiles, groups, communities, chats, forums, etc., payment methods, and all else. Furthermore, it is Red Stallion Interactive’s intention to increase the availability of Arab-translated and fully localized games on its platform.
RSI Gaming launched in January and has already signed among its large portfolio the first game produced in Saudi Arabia by Semaphore, and derived from the Arabic Golden Age history – Unearthed: The Trail of IbnBattuta, Gold Edition, which will soon be launched on RSI platform, both in Arabic and English versions, for PC and Android. Also, as we are launching the international version of Blacklight: Retribution from Zombie Studios, we are cooperating with them to bring to market an Arabized version. Beyond these two flagship products, we are excited to announce that we’ve entered into a publishing deal with Imperia Online for the fully localized version of their most exciting medieval RTS game that goes by the same name, Imperia Online.
We met with Imperia Online at DWGE, and were so thrilled by the full localization work they’ve done! Such a great fully localized game: themes, textures, settings, references, language, of course, EVERYTHING! So we decided to sign a publishing deal with them, as well as to really get the opportunity to better understand their approach to localization, a virtually zero-fault exercise!
Here is an interview we had with Cvetan Rusimov, Imperia Online Chief Operating Officer.
Imperia Online (IO) has been a very successful F2P RTS game for some years, particularly in Eastern Europe and Russia, as well as Western Europe and Latin America. Why did you decide to localize the game for an Arabic audience?
Imperia Online is already translated in 26 languages and popular in over 100 countries. MENA has become the strategic region, where MMO games are developing real fast. So we decided it was the right time for us to go there! Several companies were interested in partnerships, and here we are, with a fully localized version for an Arabic audience, which will soon be available on the RSI platform!
Was the Arabic version your first localization experience?
No! The Arabic challenge immediately followed the release of the Russian localization, which was a huge success! We had clearly made the right moves for our game!
Could you describe the approach you took to localize the game for an Arabic audience?
Our Creative Director first conducted significant research, taking into account cultural differences and feedback directly provided by our Arabic community, which we solicited. This led us to conclude that we needed to transpose our addictive game-play and inspiring story line to the MENA region specific settings and beauty.
You have been working not only on an Arabic translation, but also on localizing all textures, so that the game’s look and feel is really Arabic, including all the tools, weapons, buildings, etc..How did you achieve this?
Everything has been achieved in-house, through great teamwork. The research was initially conducted by the Creative Director, in cooperation with a team of developers, artists, QAs, who were all fully dedicated to the concept of Imperia Online Arabic Version. Clearly, our co-founders, with their many years of experience in online web gaming, also provided their experience and their guidance.
What were the most difficult aspects of the localization process?
There are many things that need to be considered before even starting the localization of an MMO game for the Arabic market. Of course, there are the buildings, the faces, the clothes, but the history really has to be researched… But, when you’re working in a nice environment, with a dedicated team, anything becomes possible! 🙂
What has been the reaction of Arabic gamers? How did they receive the Arabic version?
Reality turned out to be beyond our expectations. We took part in Dubai World Game Expo, and the “welcome” and “congratulations” were more than in our wildest dreams… We really loved what we experienced there, players really appreciating what we accomplished with the Arabic version of Imperia Online.
We don’t think that English is an advantage anymore. Of course, we still have players from countries, where their language is not yet supported, and they manage and enjoy participating in our medieval world. And I’m sure they appreciate the many efforts we’ve made to get players to feel at home by creating fully localized versions!
Do you have other localization plans? Where?
Yes, we do. We’ve already gone live for the Arabic and Russian markets, enjoying the success, and are now getting ready for a fully localized version of Imperia Online for our Turkish players! We like challenges, that’s how it goes…
The fact that Imperia Online is a “Civilization” type game makes the localization more important, in that it enables people to relate to their own history and culture. However, do you think that other types of games should also be localized? So far, only a handful of games have been localized in Arabic: what’s your view on this?
There are many good games with a similar gameplay to ours on the market. All the decisions we made in regards to localization were based on our gamers’ vision, on internal discussions and on a vision, which we wanted o bring to the world. Game companies should know what is best for them, and how they chose to apprehend the localization aspects.
Imperia Online and Red Stallion Interactive are still working on bringing the game to the RSI gaming platform, where it will benefit from the various localized community services, payment solutions, and other Arabized games, as the site develops.
At RSI, we are SOOOO THRILLED to bring Imperia Online to the market! The localization is so amazing, and is a reference that we will definitely meter against for all our future (and many) localization projects!
Watch out for Imperia Online available soon on www.rsigaming.com.