35 Years of Localsoft

Localising games since before game localisation was considered an essential part of the industry, Localsoft has grown from modest 8-bit foundations to incorporate offices in Spain and Manchester. With more than 3,000 game projects successfully completed, CEO Randall Mage takes us through 35 years of unspoken history.

How did the company get started – and in games specifically?

Having studied international business and with other goals in my mind, I started my career as a translator in 1988 by sheer chance. It wasn’t long before a videogame title landed on my lap, and then another… and another! After approximately ten years translating video games with more than 350 titles translated, I established Localsoft.

What was the state of game localisation like during the 80s and what was the process?

Publishers in each target language country usually managed localisation. Regarding translation, they used freelance translators, like myself at that time, and they would take care of proofreading internally, usually by one of their staff. Voiceovers were also usually managed by the publishers, and they would use a similar approach: outsource the voiceovers to recording studios and take care of quality assurance internally. There was little to no testing at the time.

Obviously there was very little voice work going on in gaming in the 1980s. Did you foresee a massive demand for it?

In the 1980’s it was mainly translation for manuals, backs of boxes and marketing material. Voice work started to pick up in the mid 90’s but we had little to no participation in that area of business as it was managed directly between the publishers and the recording studios. I had always wanted to build a recording studio to expand our list of services as I knew there would be a high demand in voice work, including pre- and post-production services, but it wasn’t until 2005, when we moved to our office in Marbella, that we had the opportunity to build a recording studio.

Was Localsoft the first company to get into localisation? What was the competition like at the time?

We were definitely one of the first. When I started as a freelance translator in 1988, I don’t remember there being any video game localisation companies. There was little to no competition back then. I remember at the time, one of my father’s international clients asked me what I did for a living. I replied: “I translate video games” and he looked at me as if I had thrown my career down the toilet. If he had only lived to see how much the videogames industry has evolved since 1988! By the time Localsoft was formally established ten years later in 1998, there was some local and international competition, but nothing compared to today, where everyone wants to be part of the games industry.

Why is the company headquartered in Malaga?

Our headquarters is located at the Malaga TechPark, which provides the necessary infrastructure for continued growth and success. Málaga is quickly becoming one of Spain’s main points of attraction due to its weather, culture and gastronomy, amongst many other things. The Málaga international airport, the fourth busiest airport in Spain, is just a 20-minute drive from our office, as is the city centre and the beach. Malaga has 245 days of sun a year, an average temperature of 18ºC, 56 golf courses, 16 international schools, 1.6 million inhabitants and more than 140 nationalities, and has become one of the best places to live and work in Spain. But above all, Málaga offers a high quality of life and a low cost of living compared to other major cities in Europe, which is what really matters at the end of the day.

How many games have you worked on as a company and of which of those were milestones in your success?

Many! We have lost track, but it’s more than 3,000. Some of the games and materials I translated in the early years were milestones in our success. The Secret of Monkey Island, for example, was a milestone due to the complexity of portraying the game’s humour to the Spanish market. The Legend of Zelda was another milestone as well as many other Nintendo titles due to the high level of quality required in the localisations. Midway titles such as Mortal Kombat were a milestone as we were directly involved in their production, editing the localisation of the manuals in several languages on a weekly basis.

Zynga titles were another milestone for us where we set up a team of more than 100 translators in record time for daily deliveries in several languages, some of which had very short turnaround times (i.e. hours). This required a lot of planning and organisation. Regarding testing, Ubisoft titles were a milestone as we needed to set up large teams of testers for more than 20 languages in record time with all the preparation and reorganisation required for large scale testing projects. All in all, I would say that each and every game has been a milestone and they have each contributed to our success.

How big is Localsoft today compared to 30+ years ago?

When I started in 1988, it was a one man show. Today, we are 14 full time employees, 50 part time employees and we work with thousands of freelancers around the world. Even though we have two offices in Spain, we work exclusively from our headquarters in the Málaga TechPark, an independent building with capacity for more than 250 people. This is where we conduct testing, in-house translation projects and coordinate our projects. We also have a Sales office in the U.K. and project managers in different time zones. We are now in a very good position to work on projects of any size and grow to the next level.

What are the prevailing business trends in localisation: For example, with the proliferation of live service games, are you seeing more publishers bring localisation services in-house?

I am seeing more publishers bringing localisation inhouse, but as you mentioned, this is a business trend, and it has happened before. Many years ago, one of our clients decided to bring localisation services in-house, only to realise several years later that it was a huge expense, not only in terms of operational costs, which surpassed more than a million euros per year in salaries alone, but in terms of deviating indispensable internal resources to help manage localisation, which wasn’t their core business. At the end of the day, they didn’t obtain a return of investment. Many if not most of the larger publishers nowadays realise that outsourcing at least part of their work is the easiest and best solution.

How do you think the demands on your services will change over the next five years – what are the challenges you expect to face?

I think we will see less demand for translation services per se. Automatic translations will be acceptable, especially amongst smaller publishers as costs will drop. There will be more competition, not only in terms of localisation service providers, but in terms of translators offering their services directly to publishers and it will be difficult to compete in terms of price per word. Our advantage at Localsoft is that we are a relatively large company with solid foundations, we have been in the video game localisation business since 1988 and we have adapted throughout the years to meet market needs. Every challenge is an opportunity to improve, and we embrace that.

About Richie Shoemaker

Prior to taking the editorial helm of MCV/DEVELOP Richie spent 20 years shovelling word-coal into the engines of numerous gaming magazines and websites, many of which are now lost beneath the churning waves of progress. If not already obvious, he is partial to the odd nautical metaphor.

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