Video Games Have Always Been A Part Of My Life

Any gamers here? Yes? No? Occasionally? Well, I don’t know about you guys but I love video games! Which is kind of obvious, taking into account that Russian video game localization is one of my core fields of expertise.

It all started when I was 6 years old. Thanks to my dad actually. He is a die hard gamer. He turns 50 next year and he still plays every single game that comes out. I’m not kidding. It looks like when you’re in your 50’s you have a lot of time on your hands 🙂

He was the one to convince my mum that “Dmitry absolutely needs a computer for his school projects… and some Doom, and Duke Nukem, and Quake, and whatever comes out in the next few years.” And it worked! So here we were, building that amazing father-son bond that is still there. A bond that I hope to share with my own kids one day.

Ah, sweet memories! But that’s a topic for a different discussion. In this blog post, I’d like to talk about outsourcing, both in video games and in the translation industry.

When Outsourcing Goes Wrong

I got an idea for this article after, well, how do I put it mildly, rather unfortunate events with the PC release of Batman: Arkham Knight. The game was supposed to come out on all current platforms – PC, PS4, and Xbox One. The PC version turned out to be compromised and practically unplayable. Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment had to pull the game off Steam and probably took a huge financial hit, let alone the millions of disappointed fans who spent $70 on a non-working game. The fixed PC version is set to release in Fall 2015. This is unprecedented.

Angry Joe can be over the top sometimes, but I agree with his core message: this has to stop.

Why Did It Happen?

Well, there is a lot of speculation but the major version is that PC development was outsourced to a third party and the internal QA team didn’t have enough time to fix all the issues because they were focusing on console versions.

Of course, game development is way more complicated than that, and we’ll never know the whole truth here. But let’s take a moment and talk about outsourcing. Why do companies do it? What’s the point of outsourcing when you have a well-established team of top-notch experts who know your product or service much better than any third party will ever do?

Well, there are many reasons, actually, but the main 3 are:

1) Reducing operating costs.

When properly executed outsourcing can significantly reduce costs and have a positive impact on company’s revenue.

2) Improving company focus.

Business owners have to see the bigger picture and focus on things that are more important in a long run. By outsourcing non-core activities, companies can focus on what they do best.

3) Letting the professionals do the work.

When you’re running a business there is always a 100% chance you won’t be able to excel at everything you do. You can try, of course, but sooner or later you’ll realize that you have to outsource something to professionals. It’s best for your business, and you can focus on what really matters, being rest assured that everything is being taken care of by real pros. Which brings me to the next point…

What Does It Have To Do With Translation?

You see, due to its very specific nature translation is often outsourced to other companies. Small and medium-sized business simply cannot afford to establish and maintain a translation department. Yes, it might reduce some operating costs, but it takes a lot of time and effort to find and build an all-star localization team. The majority of businesses simply don’t have time for that.

What about larger companies then? Of course, larger companies have more resources and better budgets. For example, Rockstar Games localizes their games internally into 11 languages.

How To Outsource Your Translation Needs

Most of the time building an internal localization team is rarely an option. That’s why the majority of companies and businesses outsource their translation needs to so-called Language Service Providers aka LSP.

Who the heck is Language Service Provider?

Well, I am, for example. Or any other company that provides translation and localization services.

How do you find one?

There are many ways. You can start with a simple Google search. Try: “English-Russian Translator” for example and just go through a list of companies and see which one has the best offering. You can also ask around. Ask your friends or business partners or even clients and fans to recommend a company or an individual translator.

When choosing your Language Service Provider price should be the least of your worries.Click To Tweet

P.S.: Don’t just choose based on price. It’s not a commodity. You’re investing into your future sales and reputation on global market. If you invest peanuts, you’ll get peanuts in return. Simple as that.

What Can Go Wrong When Outsourcing Your Translation Needs?

A lot of things, actually. This is probably a topic for another discussion, but I’ll try to cover 3 basic problems that many translation buyers come across.

1) Working with an unreliable Language Service Provider.

Translation is a very interesting type of service. Since you don’t speak the language there is no way you can actually check the quality. Well, you can hire another QA team in theory, but most companies cannot afford that and have to trust their LSP. That’s why it is very important to use extreme caution when choosing your Language Service Provider. Do they have a good reputation? Do they come recommended? Do they have a great online presence?

If you work with a translation agency instead of individual translators, the most important question you should ask is: Do other translators trust them?

The paradox of translation industry: there are translation agencies that make millions, yet professional translators would never work for them. You might want to avoid them too. The reason is fairly simple here: those large, shiny companies pay peanuts to their translators. And when your Language Service Provider doesn’t treat their most valuable resource fairly, chances are, you’ll end up with shitty translations done by newbies or people who have no skills at all.

I really recommend checking out Glassdoor Reviews if you need some insights from people who work in a translation agency of your choice. You can also check out Proz Blueboard although the detailed reviews are available to members only. And you should definitely make sure your Language Service Provider is not on the translation agencies blacklist.

2) Working with unqualified Language Service Provider

Just like in any other industry you’ll come across some individuals or even companies claiming to be experts in every field and in every language pair.

Avoid them at all costs.

If someone claims to be an expert in everything, chances are, he's not expert at all.Click To Tweet

It’s true. Smart translators and companies choose to specialize in 2-3 fields. And build their businesses around their specialization and market niche. I specialize in video games, IT and marketing. I occasionally take projects from other fields of interest, for example, medical and legal, but you’ll never see me translating poetry or literature or something from oil and gas field.

3) Lack of Quality Assurance

Nobody is perfect. That’s why rigorous quality assurance procedures have to be in place. Work with companies and translators who understand that translation is just one step of a complex process. Does your translator proofread his/her work? What kind of quality assurance process do they have in place? Do they check the translation for consistency? Do they work with an editor? Those are the questions you should ask your Language Service Provider.

Let’s Sum Up

Just like game development translation is a complex process that consists of many factors and variables. It is important to understand that bad translation can happen to anyone. It can damage your reputation and affect your sales in a new market. Be careful and use only those providers you can trust.

Dmitry Kornyukhov

Entrepreneur. English-Russian Translator. Video game localization specialist. Helping small and medium-sized businesses go global. Loving every minute of it.


Natalia · July 9, 2015 at 3:14 am

“The paradox of translation industry: there are translation agencies that make millions, yet professional translators would never work for them.” – so true!

Excellent post, Dmitry! I would recommend it to any outsourcer looking for translators. When you understand nothing in a services which you are going to outsource, it is so easy to run against a nonpro.

    Dmitry Kornyukhov · July 9, 2015 at 11:02 am

    Thank you, Natalia! “When you understand nothing in a services which you are going to outsource, it is so easy to run against a nonpro.” – this happens all the time, unfortunately. If we look on World Wide Web objectively and try assessing the quality of translations, I’d say about 60-70% will be bad or borderline awful. The sad thing is that end-clients have no clue. They trusted a translator (or translation agency). He delivered and got paid for substandard work, but the client doesn’t know that. They think the quality is a given. It’s not always true, I’m afraid. Just like with any service provider you have to spend some time before you find a real professional. There are a lot of wannabes. Plus the image of a modern-day translator is not very visible. That’s why many clients have this misconception that if you speak two languages you can be a translator. But that’s just not true. Finding a professional English-Russian translator can be tiresome and can take several hours or even days. But it’s much better than hiring the first and the cheapest candidate you could find online.

      Natalia · July 9, 2015 at 12:41 pm

      To some extent it is even good that there are more bad translators than real professionals, but the problem is that many customers look at rates first of all, so it is too hard to convince them that quality cannot be cheap.

        Dmitry Kornyukhov · July 10, 2015 at 10:53 am

        That’s true, Natalia! But it’s totally doable! You just have to show them the value that professional high quality translation can bring to their company or brand. E.g. better visibility, higher sales, better growth rates, loyal fans that can relate to their message.

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