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Thought Leadership

A Short Guide for Localizing Your Game into Chinese

Atticus Lai, Mengru Tsai and Tang Wing Yan, linguists across Keywords Studios in Asia, discuss the intricacies behind localizing games into Chinese.

Date Published: 26/04/2023
Looking over the Earth from space.

When you include its 200+ variants, Chinese is by far the most spoken language in the world with an estimated 1.31 billion speakers – about the same as Spanish, English and Arabic combined! With around 16% of the world’s population speaking the language, it’s no surprise the Chinese video gaming market ranks #1 in the world in terms of revenue.

The short guide below will take you through the basics of how to boost player satisfaction and retention in the world’s biggest market through best-in-class localization into Chinese.

Understanding the differences between Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese

Simplified Chinese and Traditional Chinese refer to the different written character sets used among native Chinese speakers. To perform the most appropriate and accurate Chinese localization, game developers must understand the nuances associated with each variant.

Simplified Chinese (SC) is officially used in mainland China, Malaysia, and Singapore. This “simplification” includes substantial reduction in the total number of standardised Chinese characters. After many refinements throughout the 20th century, SC now consists of around 8,000 characters.

Traditional Chinese (TC) remains in common use throughout Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, and is still being used to different degrees in Chinese communities worldwide. The TC set of characters has been mostly untouched since its standardisation many centuries ago.

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More on the Chinese Localization Process:

Choosing the right written subvariant

Traditional Chinese can be adapted to specifically cater for audiences in Taiwan, Hong
Kong and its neighbouring areas. Both are similar but have differences in some of their choice of
words and colloquial phrases. These subvariants are conveniently called Traditional Chinese Taiwan (zh-TW) and Traditional Chinese Hong Kong (zh-HK).

Example: Take the word “strawberry”. In Traditional Chinese Taiwan, it will be “草莓” (literally
“grass berry”). This form can be seen as well in many Traditional Chinese Hong Kong texts and is
the main one we would use for games in both subvariants. However, in TC-HK, it can also be
written as “士多啤梨” as well (a transliteration of “strawberry” in Cantonese). Depending on the
style and context, this form could be preferred on some occasions.


Considering cultural differences

Localizing into Simplified Chinese or Traditional Chinese means identifying the distinct culture and taste of your target audience. Some examples to bear in mind include:

  • Character names are usually transliterated for both Simplified Chinese (SC) and
    Traditional Chinese (TC)
  • Cultural adaptation varies according to region. For example in mainland China, bloody, violent and/or pornographic content is not allowed in games.

These cultural difference play a major role in the localization of games in China, and guidelines differ between SC and TC according to regulations set out by the National Radio and Television
Administration (NRTA).

Example: A sentence like “Kill the enemies” would have to be rewritten as “Defeat the enemies” in Simplified Chinese whilst there would be no change required for Traditional Chinese.


Building teams for each variant

Localization into Chinese must consider the constantly shifting internet slangs and language evolutions of the time. These vary between SC and TC and when confused, impact on a game’s legitimacy. Translators and linguists must be passionate about games and its adjacent culture to keep up with these trends.

With such pronounced nuances between the cultural use of Simplified and Traditional Chinese, it is best practice to find people who specialise in a specific native variant. A traditional SC speaker, for example, is then more likely to be entrenched the evolution of the language and thus implement a stronger Chinese localization.

Learn more about the localization process by speaking with one of our Solutions Architects here.