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Localization in game publishing a meticulous process but key to success: John Lacey

Localization is an often misunderstood concept in game publishing. Taking a meticulous approach to localizing each aspect of a game can ensure the title’s success in specific markets, according to an industry veteran.

Speaking on the Gaming Matters stage in Dubai, John Lacey, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) head for Level Infinite and Tencent Games, underscored the complex yet essential process of game localization. He emphasized that crafting successful games goes beyond transcending geographical boundaries—it demands an intimate understanding of the local culture, preferences, and nuances.

(L-R) Akshat Rathee, Je Alipio, Lucy Chow, John Lacey, Robert Fisser

« As it often happens with the MENA region, people’s first thoughts fall on camels, pyramids, or the Arabic language. But that’s a very limited view of localization, » Lacey explained. True localization is a comprehensive process, touching every aspect that shapes a game, from language and audio to infrastructure and esports.

“With the MENA region, people’s first thoughts fall on camels, pyramids, or the Arabic language. But that’s a very limited view of localization.”

John Lacey

A game’s strength, Lacey said, is defined by the solidity of each localized aspect. « For a AAA game to thrive in the MENA region, you need to consider localization for every single aspect of the game. You are only as strong as your weakest link. »

Shifting to mobile-first development

Lacey’s responsibilities at Level Infinite include managing the successful launch of AAA titles and overseeing a host of mobile games. He noted that the lines between these two categories are blurring, driven by rapid advances in mobile technology. 

“Mobile is now the device of choice for gamers”

John Lacey

« Mobile games have maybe been looked down on for a long time, there were restrictions in technology in the past, compared to consoles or a PC, » he said. 

« Mobile is now the device of choice for gamers. This is the age of mobile gaming, » he said, noting that MENA is « a mobile-first market now. »

This shift towards mobile-first development has allowed Level Infinite to engage more closely with a younger, tech-savvy audience. These young users, often dedicated to a single game for years, are seen as significant investors. Lacey celebrates the vibrant partnerships and inclusive culture that this audience fosters in the MENA region.

He also offered advice to young developers entering the industry, suggesting they focus on the joy of their work and let their creativity shine. « Remind yourself you have the opportunity to work in something that is extremely fun. It’s a blank canvas and an open landscape to create great games, so let your imagination run wild, » Lacey encouraged.

The rewards of being able to work on a breakthrough project or IP could result in the next great hit. Retaining the passion for fun and creativity in video games will go a long way in helping the younger generation in the game industry get there.

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