Last year I made a post on the MOTHER 3 translation blog offering the translation to Nintendo in case the game ever gets a Japanese re-release on a new platform. I won’t reiterate the details of the offer here, but one thing I mentioned was that this sort of thing HAS happened before – that game publishers sometimes do license fan translations for official releases.
I sort of skimmed over this topic in my MOTHER 3 post, though, so I thought now’d be a good opportunity to list a few examples of fan translations that went on to become official translations!
Note: As I’m not intimately familiar with the details of these games or their translation projects, I might get some of the details wrong, including some of the screenshots. So if you notice anything wrong, let me know in the comments or on Twitter and I’ll try to fix things!
Ys: The Oath in Felghana
This is probably the most well-known case of an English fan translation being made official.
Originally, Deuce and Nightwolve worked on a fan translation patch for the Japanese PC version of this game. Later on, in 2010 or so, North American publisher XSEED approached Deuce and made a deal to license his fully-translated script.
Deuce’s script was used as the base for the English-language PSP release and later on for the English-language PC release, which is available on Steam now. XSEED also licensed some of Deuce’s other Ys series translations as well.
Ef – A Fairy Tale of the Two
In 2010, Japanese company Minori sent cease-and-desist e-mails to No Name Losers, a fan translation group that was working on an unofficial translation of this game. I actually remember seeing a lot of little news blurbs about this, and was surprised when the end result was that Minori, No Name Losers, and MangaGamer came to an agreement shortly after to produce an official release based on the fan translation.
This is actually an incredibly interesting story that’s probably worthy of an article of its own. I’m still amazed that something like this happened AND that it happened out in the open!
Aselia the Eternal
In 2011, when JAST USA wanted to publish this Japanese game in English, it approached Dakkodango Translations and struck a deal to use the group’s translation for the official release.
School Days HQ
JAST USA made a deal with the localization group Sekai Project to use its unofficial translation of School Days HQ for the official release. JAST USA even proudly posted about it on the company’s official site here (NOTE – parts of JAST USA’s site are NSFW).
The Steins;Gate franchise is a pretty big deal, so the announcement that JAST USA is going to base the official localization off of the fan translation was a bit of a surprise at first. But it also makes sense from a money and resource perspective, plus JAST USA has worked with fan groups in the past, so this is becoming a more normal occurrence now.
The official English game hasn’t been released yet (as of January 2014) but I believe it’s set to come out pretty soon.
Fragile Dreams ~Farewell Ruins of the Moon~
So far, we’ve only looked at English fan translations that have become official translations, but it happens with other languages too. For example, in 2010, Fragile Dreams for the Wii was translated into Spanish by a large group of fans. What’s even more interesting is that the publisher didn’t approach fans; it was fans who approached the publisher, through the Spanish gaming news blog DSWii.
It’s a pretty interesting story, check out the details here!
Update: Some readers have sent in details about this project. Originally, Rising Star Games and Namco Bandai had agreed to release an official translation based on a fan-made translation. Work progressed for a bit, but apparently the fan side fumbled the ball a bit and the official support started to fade somewhat, resulting in the deal falling apart. Later on, a different fan group released an unofficial translation.
Sometimes there are companies that actively encourage fan participation, including fan translations into other languages. A good example of this would be The Fullbright Company’s game, Gone Home. The company not only invites fans to translate the game into other languages, it even provides the technical know-how and support!
These are just a few instances of fan translations that have received official status or have been accepted by the publisher. From the above examples, it’s clear that this is a pretty recent trend in the industry and that these projects can become official in a number of different ways. It’s often the game publisher that approaches fans, but not always. And sometimes there’s even an open invitation to fans!
Again, I’m sure I’ve missed a lot of other examples, so if you know of any others, let me know! And they don’t even need to be English fan translations – if you know of ANY fan translations in any language that became official, share them in the comments!
There’s still so much more to discuss on the topic of fan translations and their place in the video game industry, but for now I just wanted to list some examples of fan translations that have made the leap to official status. Whether or not a particular fan translation can serve as an official translation is a big ol’ issue of its own, so I hope to cover it in a future article of its own.
The concept of companies taking fan-created works and making them official isn’t just limited to game translation, though. I’ve heard plenty of stories about game modders, fan artists, fan musicians, and more getting picked up by companies. If you know of any such examples, whether game-related or not, please share them in the comments! I genuinely want to know more about this whole creator-fan symbiosis thing – it’s fascinating!