Anyone with kids into gaming can always rely on one anecdote to break the ice at dinner parties. They can simply tell the table how many hours per day, or per week, their offspring spend glued to a screen, watching other people play video games. That’s right, not playing them themselves, not even watching their friends play them in the same room (gone are the days of watching your mate win the master league with ‘North West Blues’ on Pro-Evo because he’s only got one controller) but watching complete strangers from the other side of the world blast their way through the levels, commentating as they go.
This is the phenomenon that’s changing the gaming industry.
People don’t just want to play games anymore; they also want to watch other people play them – as walk-throughs, as tutorials or as simple entertainment.
The most successful video streaming site you’ve never heard of, Twitch, is dedicated exclusively to this very modern pastime, and attracts 250 million viewers every month, watching games that span the spectrum of genres and platforms, from high-end desktop shooters like Counterstrike to mobile hits like Minecraft. Youtube, scrambling to catch up with this interloper, has opened its own dedicated gaming channel, featuring a stable of superstar gamers such as Felix Kjellberg, a prolific Swedish gamer whose channel has well over 36 million subscribers and regularly topped 350 million views per month in 2015.
This fundamental shift in the gaming industry from playing to watching has left the big producers wrong-footed, examining their place in this new pecking order. Should they design games focused on the players, or with one eye on the eventual internet audience? We can already see this with titles like Speed Runners, an online multiplayer with graphics, co-op modes and video playback clearly designed to appeal to the viewer as much as the player.
If the games industry is scrambling to stay ahead of the curve, the games localisation industry should scramble with it, and the big question in this evolving picture is ‘where does localisation fit it?’
One easy answer is subtitling – a cursory glance at Twitch tells the viewer that this is a channel in need of an automated subtitling and translation solution to internationalise its content, which is posted in numerous different languages. How many more viewers could the superstars reach if their content was easily localised into the ten most popular internet languages?
Another possibility would be an automated solution for localising content posted on forums and group discussions, a medium that will only become more popular as highly collaborative developers like Twitch crowdsource their way to the future.
On a project where ten different nationalities are working together, facilitating conversations becomes vital.
However, as well as focusing on specific solutions, the localisation industry needs to make sure it’s ready to innovate alongside a gaming space that is changing fast – the next 18 months will be all about having the right conversations, positioning localisation to be in at the ground floor on the biggest thing to happen to gaming since the console wars of the 1990s.