Getting it right is important: around 70 per cent of revenue from recent titles in the “Yakuza” series is from overseas.
But in recent years, booming interest in manga comics, anime cartoons and wider Japanese culture has made the job easier.
“People know what ramen is now … we don’t need to say ‘noodles’ any more,” Genty said.
His team at the European headquarters of Bandai Namco has adapted games including the “Tekken” fighting series and the smash-hit role-playing game “Elden Ring” into a dozen languages.
The job is as much a cultural challenge as a linguistic one, said Pierre Froget, localisation project manager at Bandai.
“The player, whichever country they’re from, should understand and feel the same thing as someone playing in the original language,” he said.
“No longer acceptable”
A better understanding of Japanese culture among players means adaptations can be more subtle – the “Yakuza” series is now called “Like a Dragon”, closer to the original Japanese.
LGBTQ caricatures and sexist cliches have also been axed.
“Many representations which were normal in Japan in the first ‘Like a Dragon’ games are no longer acceptable today,” Masayoshi Yokoyama, the series’ executive producer, told AFP.
“We ask our teams in the United States and Europe to read the game’s script, and they tell us if they see things that wouldn’t be acceptable in their country,” he said.
Changes often focus on “alcohol, politics or religion”, Froget said, while cultural reference points also differ.
“When there are people dressed in black boots and big leather coats, in Europe that could bring to mind a Nazi uniform,” he said.
With global release dates now the norm, these decisions must be made under tighter deadlines than before.
And despite improved communication between developers and localisation teams, challenges remain – especially when translating a game into languages other than English.