Google’s Push for Machine Translation in Games: A Boon or Bane?

Google's Push for Machine Translation in Games

In the arena of providing exceptional services to developers, Google has always been a prominent player. The company announced new services for their Android app developers at the annual Google for Games Developer Summit held on March 14, 2023.

These services provide free access to machine translation for developers. The program Initially covered the seven most popular languages in the gaming sector including Simplified Chinese, French, Japanese, Portuguese, Brazilian, Indonesian, and Castilian Spanish.

The primary objective of this new offering is to promote machine translation for developers who are looking for global expansion opportunities. Although MT is fast and cost-effective, it still has flaws that encourage gaming companies to consider a professional game translation service. Human translation is indeed a costly solution; however, it is more effective and accurate. 

Well, the debate of which one is the best translation solution is long. But considering the latest updates, we can foresee a future with MT integrated in every sector. Let’s dig deeper into details to see the pros and cons of both approaches in greater detail. 

What is Machine Translation (MT)?

MT is the process of translating game content from one language to another without human intervention. It involves using software based on artificial intelligence to translate a game’s content. 

To get it done, machine translation typically uses pre-existing data sets to learn the language and automatically translate text from a source language to a target language. One of the most prominent examples  is Google Translate. It can convert text into multiple languages with just one click. Here’s how machine translation works:

  • Understanding the source language: The system analyzes the source text and identifies its grammar, sentence structure, and word breakdown.
  • Finding equivalents: The machine translation system then searches its vast database of existing translations and linguistic rules to find the closest equivalent in the target language.
  • Building the target text: This is the final step of the MT translation process. Here the system assembles the translated words following the grammar and sentence structure of the target language.

Although machine translation can be effective, it doesn’t always account for cultural nuances and can sometimes produce inaccurate or awkward translations. That’s why there is still a need for human translation. But before we get into that, let’s explore machine translation a little further.

How Machine Translation Empowers Game Developers?

For developers, especially indie studios, considering expensive translation options can be a significant financial hurdle. Multilingual game translation is a skill that takes experience and can quickly deplete into profits. Machine translation then considerably becomes a tempting alternative. Here is why:

  • Speed

MT helps you to translate a lengthy text within seconds, allowing for quicker game releases and capitalizes on global marketing opportunities.  

  • Scalability

As machine translation expands its capabilities to a large number of languages, developers can reach a wider audience without completely relying on specialized translators for each language. 

  • Cost-Effectiveness 

MT is significantly cheaper than human translation especially when you need multilingual translations. This frees up the budget to invest in better development aspects. 

What are the Drawbacks of Machine Translation?

Even though MT enhances your efficiency, there are flaws as well. Let’s discuss:

  • Nuance and Creativity: Every language is different from others and is full of unique expressions, and subtleties like wordplay, humor, and cultural references. Machine translation often fails to capture these nuances. As a result, you receive a bland and generic word-to-word translation. Cultural references might completely miss the mark and a side-splitting pun can turn into a nonsensical gibberish.  
  • Accuracy and Fluency: When it comes to accuracy, MT struggles with sentence structures, grammar, and the natural flow of the content. This often leads to misinterpretations, awkward phrasing, and unintended humor. 
  • Technical Limitations: Other than the concept, unique terminology, and complex user interface are the elements that differentiate a game from others. Machine translation might not handle these elements well, leading to confusion for players.  

How is Human Translation Better than MT?

The idea that human translation is replaced by MT is nothing but a misconception. Even though machine translation is a fast, cost-effective, and efficient approach, however, to produce a linguistically and culturally accurate game translation, it is dependent on human expertise. 

Human translators are specialists with a personalized experience to adapt game content to the target audience’s linguistic and cultural preferences. Well, we cannot deny the fact that hiring a professional gaming or software translation agency can cost you an arm and a leg. 

But, no worries. We have got a solution. What about the blend of both approaches? As for basic content such as descriptions, menus, and non-critical text, MT is your superhero. For critical elements, like stories, dialogues, and anything that impacts the core gameplay, you can have the human translation.  


As machine translation continues to evolve, we can expect a better translation experience shortly. The neural machine translation is an improved version that mimics the human brain to produce accurate solutions with speed. Well, it doesn’t matter how much the technology evolves, it will never fully replace human translators. The human touch remains essential for capturing the subtleties of language and creating a truly immersive gaming experience for a global audience. 

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