Localisation, in the gaming industry, is the cultural adaptation and translation of products for sale and use in other markets. It can include translation for use in different countries where other languages are spoken, as well as in areas where the same language is spoken in a different dialect with different idioms (think US vs UK English).
One of the most prominent examples of a bad localisation process comes from the classic game Zero Wing. The game was decent, but it was made famous when rediscovered in 1999 and the English version of the intro spread like wildfire across cyberspace.
|The terrible captioning that started it all.|
Thus the "All Your Base" meme was born. Although amusing, the main problem was that when the game was made, the importance of high-quality translation and localisation was being overlooked. This resulted in some of the most horrific English you've ever seen.
Nowadays, the gaming industry is big money and games are created worldwide. However, without localisation it's difficult (perhaps impossible) to sell products globally.
|Perhaps some of the best games... best localisation, perhaps not.|
Once a game is localised, there's still another problem to tackle. Can you translate its cultural setting? Many games now feature detailed narratives. You can translate all the text properly, but can you really localise sentiments felt in one part of the world that may not be felt in another part? The Modern Warfare series probably isn't very popular in the Middle East. You can spend hours playing a Japanese game and still never really understand why any of the characters did what they did.
Although Mario still sells well in Italy...