Japanese video games have entertained players around the world and played an important role in the video game industry since its origins. In order to export Japanese games overseas, they need to be localized, i.e., they need to be technically, linguistically, and culturally adapted for the territories where they will be sold. This article hopes to shed light onto the current localization practices for Japanese games, their reception in North America, and how users’ feedback can contribute to fine-tuning localization strategies. After briefly defining what game localization entails, an overview of the localization practices followed by Japanese developers and publishers is provided. Next, the paper presents three brief case studies of the strategies applied to the localization into English of three renowned Japanese video game sagas set in Japan: Persona
(1996–present), Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney
(2005–present), and Yakuza
(2005–present). The objective of the paper is to analyze how localization practices for these series have evolved over time by looking at industry perspectives on localization, as well as the target market expectations, in order to examine how the dialogue between industry and consumers occurs. Special attention is given to how players’ feedback impacted on localization practices. A descriptive, participant-oriented, and documentary approach was used to collect information from specialized websites, blogs, and forums regarding localization strategies and the reception of the localized English versions. The analysis indicates that localization strategies for Japanese games have evolved over time from a higher to a lower degree of cultural adaptation in order to meet target markets’ expectations. However, it was also noted that despite the increasing tendency to preserve the sociocultural content of the original, the language used in the translations needs to be vivid and idiomatic in order to reach a wider audience and provide an enjoyable gameplay experience.
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