When Persona 3 Portable and Persona 4 Golden were released on new platforms last week, much was made of the fact that for the first time ever the latter was going to feature French, Italian, German and Spanish subtitles. That was great news for European fans, but the people most responsible for this achievement aren’t getting the dues they deserve.
Last week Katrina Leonoudakis, a former localization coordinator at Sega who left the company in 2022 (and now works in TV), sounded the alarm that the FIGS (French, Italian, German & Spanish) translation team she had worked with had not been fully credited for their work on the games.
Those teams were not directly employed at publishers Sega; instead they were contractors and employees at Keywords Studios, an outsourcing company that handled the games’ localisation duties. In the credits for the games only the most senior staff at Keywords, and not the actual workers responsible for the localisation, are included.
“The people left out are the translators, editors, and other localization professionals who created the French, Italian, German, and Spanish localizations of the ports of P3P and P4G”, Leonoudakis tells me. “These people were employees and/or contractors of Keywords Studios, a language service provider that SEGA of America hired to produce the FIGS localization. I was the Localization Coordinator on this title at SEGA from 2021 through my departure in July 2022; part of my job included staying in contact with the FIGS teams, answering their localization-related questions about the project and passing on any questions/concerns to the Japanese developers”.
She says this isn’t an issue with Sega, who to their credit make “internal steps during credit creation to ensure anyone who’s touched a title is represented in the credits, even reaching out to every individual to make sure their name is spelled right”. Rather, she says the blame here lies with Keywords themselves. “Keywords has a ‘policy’ not to credit any contractors or localizers that work on a project, preferring to be credited as ‘Localization produced by Keywords Studios’, Leonoudakis says. “Unless SEGA’s producer, or Japanese developers, tell Keywords specifically that they MUST credit their contractors, they will not pass that information along.”
“I’ve been told by contractors who work at Keywords that they have been ‘forbidden to speak out about crediting’ and ‘low-key threatened’ about it”, she says. “They do sometimes credit their Project Managers, but not the contractors who actually write the text FIGS players read to play and enjoy the game. Given that Persona is an extremely dialogue and narrative-heavy game, the localization is crucial to the game experience for FIGS players.”
Keywords has not responded to a request for comment on these policies and omissions,.
Leonoudakis chose this moment to speak up because she’s fed up with what has become a pattern in the AAA games industry. “Localization teams may work on these games for months or years, often being paid very little, to zero credit”, she says. “Not only is it morally wrong, but it makes it harder for translators and localization professionals to find work later. If you can’t prove you did all the translation for a triple-A game, how can you put it on your resume?”.
This is the same argument being made across the industry, and something we’ve written about extensively. People crucial to a big video game’s release are left out of its credits all the time, for a variety of reasons, from petty power plays to administrative oversights. Whatever the excuse, the result is the same: people who have spent years of their lives working to bring you a game are missing out on the public thanks (and professional recognition) they deserve.
“Unfortunately, translators are still pretty invisible”, Leonoudakis says. “A good translation is seamless, and doesn’t read like a translation at all to the reader. This is why it’s all the more important to credit the translators, writers, and localization staff that create the localizations of games. If game developers want to profit from the regions they’re localizing their games for, the least they can do is credit the people who made all that profit possible.”