Brazilian Gamers Get Local:
The rise of game localization in Brazil
BY melissa harkin
Brazil is home to one of the largest gaming markets in Latin America. Still, game developers and publishers have historically overlooked this market, leaving it untapped — until relatively recently.
Game translation and localization in Brazil have certainly seen some progress in recent years, but it’s still a relatively new market compared to other countries. More companies appear to be recognizing the importance of providing localized content for Brazilian gamers. Some companies have even begun to invest in localization there, particularly for popular titles with a significant following within the country.
There are also Brazilian companies specializing in gaming translation, providing high-quality translation and localization services for games. These companies have been growing in number and expertise, allowing Brazil’s gaming industry to reach new horizons. According to Localize Direct, a multinational game localization company, Brazilian Portuguese was the fourth-most-sought-after language for localization services in 2020, indicating significant interest in the national market.
“As more and more developers worldwide catch on to the potential of Brazil’s game market, Brazilian Portuguese has become a top choice for video game localization. The demand for work has increased as a result of that, offering numerous opportunities,” said Diego Perez, a game localization professional who specializes in Brazilian Portuguese.
“If the 2010s saw the boom of localization agencies, emerging from the decline of in-house localization, the pandemic and post-pandemic periods may have pushed small-to-medium game studios to look into contracting freelancers directly instead of outsourcing the work to localization agencies,” he added.
In the 2020-2021 fiscal year, Perez notes that direct clients made up 0% of his overall revenue. The following year, however? He saw a huge surge, with the contribution of direct clients escalating to roughly 40%. Today, this percentage has soared to an impressive 100%, solidifying the dominance of direct clients in his portfolio.
According to a 2022 report by Newzoo, Brazil emerged as the world’s fifth-largest gaming market — 101 million players — driven by the country’s rapidly growing player base and an insatiable appetite for gaming content. As one of the fastest-growing gaming markets in Latin America, Brazil’s year-over-year game revenues have ranked tenth globally, at $2.7 billion.
Perhaps the most surprising finding in Newzoo’s report was that an overwhelming majority of Brazilians identify as “game enthusiasts” — 80%. It’s clear, then, that the gaming industry in Brazil continues — and will continue — to thrive. More than 40% of Brazilians spend money on video games, with their top-five motivations being to unlock extra or exclusive playable content, personalize characters or things built in-game, advance quicker or easier in the game, play with friends or family, and access a subscription.
Additionally, watching gaming video content has become a popular pastime, with more than half of the covered population tuning in. Brazil’s budding esports scene is also worth noting, with a quarter of the covered population actively watching and engaging with esports.
Paula Ianelli, an ATA- and Abrates-certified translator and localization professional with more than 15 years of experience who has translated and localized AAA games like The Witcher 3, Fallout 4, Far Cry 3, Far Cry 4, and ZombiU over the last decade, says the demand for games in Portuguese has reached remarkable heights recently, indicating a strong interest.
“While a substantial portion of the market audience has a reasonable grasp of English, thanks to their exposure to the language during their formative years of gaming and learning, the prevailing reality in Brazil reveals a significantly low level of English comprehension,” she said. “In such a context, the appeal of games localized in Portuguese becomes evident as players yearn to fully comprehend and immerse themselves in the gaming experience.”
“The ability to engage with a game in one’s native language allows gamers to focus on the intricate mechanics and captivating graphics without the burden of deciphering foreign languages or interrupting gameplay to search for translations,” Ianelli added.
The impact of Portuguese translation on sales numbers simply cannot be ignored. The top-selling video games in Brazil during the first half of 2020 were The Last of Us: Part 2, Pro Evolution Soccer 2020, and FIFA 2020, all of which were localized into Brazilian Portuguese.
0% Diego Perez notes that direct clients made up 0% of his overall revenue
40% Contribution of direct clients escalates
100% Today, the dominance of direct clients dominates in his portfolio
This trend is not unique to Brazil; in Portugal, FIFA 2020 was the top seller. Gamers in both countries have demonstrated a preference for games localized into Portuguese rather than English or Spanish, indicating the importance of investing in Portuguese translation.
Companies that embrace Portuguese have greater penetration in the Portuguese-speaking market, as evidenced by Electronic Arts, who localize their FIFA games into both Brazilian and European Portuguese but only offer Brazilian Portuguese for their second-largest franchise, The Sims. This presents a potential opportunity for video game producers willing to invest in Portuguese translation, particularly for games with a significant following in Brazil.
In Brazil, it is common for players to organize themselves online and ask for the adaptation of games to Brazilian Portuguese. In January 2022, for example, fans of the Legend of Zelda franchise pressured Nintendo to localize Tears of the Kingdom to Brazilian Portuguese. The subject even became a trending topic on Twitter at one point, though Nintendo ultimately failed to release an official Brazilian Portuguese version of the game.
Other Nintendo games — usually those with less text — have been localized to Brazilian Portuguese, such as Super Mario Party and Mario Strikers: Battle League. The highly popular Legend of Zelda franchise, which has released numerous critically acclaimed games across multiple platforms and has sold over 100 million copies worldwide, definitely has more space to grow in Brazil if it were eventually localized to Brazilian Portuguese.
Fig. 1: Brazilian gamers flock to check out their favorite titles at a convention.
With such a new momentum in game localization, São Paulo is no longer just the financial heart of Latin America — it is now also the region’s leading city for gaming and development, home to many domestic game startups, indie developers, and localization professionals who have brought the city into the global spotlight.
There are several major gaming events in Brazil, including the Brasil Game Show (BGS), the largest gaming convention in Latin America, which takes place annually in São Paulo. BGS attracts tens of thousands of visitors and has hosted major companies such as Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, and Ubisoft. Another important gaming event is the Game XP, which takes place in Rio de Janeiro and is held in conjunction with Rock in Rio, the famous music festival.
Game XP features a variety of gaming experiences, including esports tournaments, virtual reality, and more.
Other notable gaming events in Brazil include the BIG Festival, which focuses on indie games, and the Independent Games Festival – IGF in São Paulo. These events are generally well-received and attract a large number of visitors, demonstrating the growing interest and importance of the gaming industry in Brazil.
In addition to being a significant market for gaming, Brazil also has a growing number of game developers and publishers. According to a survey conducted by the Brazilian Association of Game Developers — Abragames — in 2020, there were approximately 375 game development studios in Brazil, employing over 4,500 people. The industry has grown steadily in recent years, with many Brazilian game developers creating high-quality games for domestic and international audiences alike.
With such a thriving industry, Brazil’s gaming landscape continues to evolve, presenting exciting opportunities for future growth and innovation.
Melissa Harkin is an ATA-certified translator specializing in Portuguese, Spanish, and English..