game localization services

What is Fan Translation (And Why You Should Avoid It)

By Hagen Weiss

Nothing gets the pot stirred quicker than the topic of fan translation. It’s not uncommon for passionate fans to initiate translations of their favorite games. While fan translation is a grassroots way to get your game to other markets, there are drawbacks.

Besides quality issues, there may potentially be legal concerns as well. Tread carefully before you decide to source your game translation to your fans.

Fan Translation

What is Fan Translation?

Fan translation is an unofficial translation of a game into another language. A dedicated community of fans pools resources to work on the translation together.

Game developers may decide not to localize their game into a certain language due to a lack of market. If there is enough demand, certain fans outside the game’s country of origin may decide to translate the game themselves.

The most popular type of fan translation is translating Japanese games into English. Many American or European gamers who wish to play popular Japanese games may decide to form translation groups, introducing games otherwise unavailable to their country.

The Problems With Fan Translations

Fan translation is an affordable way to get your game exposure. Professional translators may have even started off as a fan translator. However, there are problems with fan translation you should be aware of:

  • Experience & skills: Not all fan translators are skilled translators. Localization of games involves many skills, including linguistic, cultural awareness, and IT/game developmental abilities. There is no way to vet the experience and skills of these translators with fan translations.
  • No access to the original scripts: Fans have only the game in the original language to translate from. They don’t have access to the original scripts. The original scripts offer context that might not be there in the game.
  • No access to the licensor: Sometimes, even the original scripts may not be enough. Questions of context, word choice, coding, etc. may still arise during the translation process. If that’s the case, the professional translator or localizer will typically have access to the licensor to work together to resolve the issues. Fan translators don’t have that access.
  • Lack of QA process: Fans can sometimes introduce their spin or biases in the translation. Since there is a lack of quality control in fan translations, the translated game may not remain faithful to the original.
  • Legal issues: For the most part, game developers won’t pursue legal action against fan-sourced translations. This is because the markets these fan translations are targeting are generally not viable anyway. However, legal action from major publishers has occurred. Any third-party translations are usually out of your control and can cause legal issues down the road.

iGlobe: Quality Game Translation & Localization Agency

Professional translators are undoubtedly not perfect. Mistakes can and have been made. However, they have the resources, expertise, and QA procedures in place to limit major errors. The same can’t be said for fan translation, however.

iGlobe is a localization & translation agency that offers high-quality services for the gaming industry. Contact us today to see how we can help you with your project!

Tel:+1 604 355 3023