09 Dec 2023

How much does it cost to dub a game? See how game localization works

Game dubbing, as well as textual localization, are crucial parts for the adaptation and acceptance of a game in different markets. Brazil, as one of the main destinations for the industry, is not left out of this complex and important process.

The price for dubbing a game here can vary considerably, depending on several factors. Overall, game size and complexity significantly influence costs, as titles with extensive, branching dialogue require more work from voice acting and localization studios. Have you ever imagined, for example, adapting all the lines and lines of dialogue from GTA 5 or Red Dead Redemption 2? So it is. It doesn’t seem like an easy task.

In a constantly growing market like Brazil, investing in dubbing and localization of games not only expands the reach of the product, but also creates a deeper connection with local players, contributing significantly to commercial success.

Will GTA 6 have dubbing in PT-BR?

A specific post on X (formerly Twitter) brought heated discussions about game dubbing — leaving the topic trending on the social network. The topic would be no different: how laborious it would be to adapt “every word, phrase, joke or pun” in the localization and dubbing of GTA 6?

A good ruler to measure the complexity of the process is the image below, which compares the size of the GTA 3 e GTA 4. Check out:

A localization involves not only literal translation but also cultural and linguistic adaptation so that the game is understood and appreciated by the Brazilian public. Regional terms, double-entendre jokes, slang and specific cultural references are carefully integrated to provide an authentic experience that resonates with the local audience.

Therefore, an undertaking the size of GTA 6It’s definitely quite hard work. Consider that: the larger and more complex the game, the greater the investment to localize it.

In an interview with Folha de São Paulo last year, sound engineer Rubens Scharlack, who has worked for more than eight years at the localization company Keywords Brasil, stated that dubbing all the dialogue in a project with the scope of GTA 5, for example, “would be an investment with no return” for Rockstar — precisely because it is very expensive. This is the main reason why a title of this magnitude only receives subtitles in PT-BR.

Red Dead Redemption 2 It took more than two years to localize, as Rockstar required only one translator and one reviewer to ensure the quality of the project. These two people were doing nothing but working on the game,” a source explained to Voxel, who requested anonymity in the text. “The smaller the team, the greater the chances of maintaining translation consistency and, consequently, greater quality.”

Red Dead Redemption 2’s subtitles took around two years to be translated into PT-BR.Source: Rockstar

Of course, it would be great if GTA 6 was dubbed into our language. However, considering the accounts of Scharlack and the source of the Voxel, we can assume that Rockstar will bring, at least, subtitles in Brazilian Portuguese for the sequel — although not even this has been officially confirmed so far. But it is a fact that an official dubbing would be the dream of many Brazilian fans coming true.

How much does it cost to dub a game?

Firstly, understand that there are two very important stages in the process: text localization and dubbing, which practically complement each other. The translated lines of dialogue dictate how the voice actor will do their job.

“The essence of the localization lies with whoever translates the text. Whoever will effectively determine what will be said by the actor during the dubbing is whoever did the text localization”, detailed the source of the Voxelwho has already been involved in major projects from Capcom, Kojima Productions and Naughty Dog in Brazil.

When it comes to prices, it is difficult to set an exact value, but consider that budgets scale in different ways. A translator usually gets paid for translated words, but there are several factors that impact the numbers, such as the magnitude of the project and the publisher hiring the service — even the level of proficiency dictates how much the professional will receive for the work.

Luiza Caspary, voice actress for Ellie in The Last of Us franchise games.Font: Rolling Stone

According to FreeGameGuide, translating a text-only game can cost, on average, from R$0.20 to R$0.75 per word. Starfield, for example, is a massive project boasting over 150,000 lines of dialogue. Therefore, a title of this scope would cost, on average, around R$500,000 to be located, according to the report.

It is worth mentioning that other RPG translations, such as items, files and menus, are not included in this equation, so the values ​​can easily exceed the estimate. Furthermore, dubbing is a separate job and involves other types of costs.

Michelle Giudice, actress responsible for Ashley’s voices (Resident Evil 4 Remake) e Nami (League of Legends), told Folha de São Paulo that dubbing a game protagonist (who would theoretically have more screen time) can take around 12 hours in the studio to complete and yield, on average, R$4,000 for the professional. Of course, this is not to mention the costs of other voice actors — many of them even provide their voices for two or more characters.

“Depending on the game, we can do 400 to 1,000 words per hour. The less time you spend, the better it is for the business”, explained Giudice.

Keywords game dubbing studio in São Paulo.Keywords game dubbing studio in São Paulo.Source: Tecmundo

It is worth remembering that, in many cases, the voice actor has few references to incorporate the characters. Other than translated lines of dialogue, the only thing it can rely on is an audio file — often with no video or image of what’s happening in-game.

This is why it is necessary to know how to act very well and have DRT to practice dubbing in Brazil, as it is this type of professional who will know how to create the correct intensity when interpreting a character. It’s no surprise that there is even a category for acting at The Game Awards, the “Oscar of games”.

Concluding: The costs for localizing and dubbing a game depend on the size of the project and the time available to carry out the work. The complete package for large games can easily exceed R$700,000, while smaller ones can cost up to half that. It’s really very difficult to establish an exact value, but that’s more or less how things work.

Do you like playing dubbed games? How relevant is it for you that a game is localized for our language? Tell us on social media Voxel!

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