When Persona 3 wearable and Persona 4 gold were released last week on new platforms, a lot of attention was paid to the fact that the latter would contain French, Italian, German and Spanish subtitles for the first time. That was great news for European fans, but the people most responsible for this achievement are not getting the dues they deserve.
Last week Katrina Leonoudakis, a former localization coordinator at Sega who left the company in 2022 (and now works on TV), the alarm went off that the FIGS (French, Italian, German and Spanish) translation team she had worked with had not been fully credited for their work on the games.
Those teams were not directly employed by Sega publishers; instead, they were contractors and employees at Keywords Studios, an outsourcing company that handled the games’ localization tasks. The credits of the games only include the most senior employees of Keywords, and not the actual employees responsible for the localization.
“The people who were left out are the translators, editors, and other localization professionals who created the French, Italian, German, and Spanish localizations of the P3P and P4G ports,” Leonoudakis says. “These people were employees and/or contractors of Keywords Studios, a language services provider that SEGA of America hired to produce the FIGS localization. I was the localization coordinator for this title at SEGA from 2021 until my departure in July 2022; part of my job included liaising with the FIGS teams, answering their localization-related questions about the project and relaying any questions/concerns to the Japanese developers.”
She says this isn’t an issue with Sega, who to their credit “takes internal steps during credit creation to ensure that everyone who has touched a title appears in the credits, even contacting each individual to make sure make sure their name is spelled correctly”. . Rather, she says the blame here lies with the keywords themselves. “Keywords has a ‘policy’ of not listing contractors or localizers working on a project, preferring to be listed as ‘localization produced by Keywords Studios,'” says Leonoudakis. “Unless SEGA’s manufacturer, or Japanese developers, specifically tell Keywords to list their contractors, they will not pass on that information.”
“Contractors who work at Keywords have told me that they are ‘forbidden to speak out about lending’ and have been threatened with ‘withholding’,” she says. “They sometimes praise their project managers, but not the contractors who write the text that FIGS players read to play and enjoy the game. Since Persona is a game with an extreme amount of dialogue and storytelling, the localization is crucial to the gaming experience for FIGS players.”
Keywords did not respond to a request for comment on this policy and omissions.
Leonoudakis chose this moment to speak out because she’s had enough of what has become a pattern in the AAA games industry. “Localization teams can work on these games for months or years, often getting paid very little, with no credit,” she says. “Not only is it morally wrong, but it also makes it more difficult for translators and localization professionals to find employment later on. If you can’t prove you’ve done all the translations for a triple-A game, how can you put that on your resume?”
This is the same argument made all over the industry and something we’ve written about extensively. People critical to the release of a major video game are left out of the credits all the time, for a variety of reasons, from petty power plays to administrative errors. Whatever the excuse, the result is the same: people who have spent years of their lives making a game for you are missing out on the public thanks (and professional recognition) they deserve.
“Unfortunately, translators are still quite invisible,” says Leonoudakis. “A good translation is seamless and does not read like a translation at all to the reader. That’s why it’s all the more important to mention the translators, writers and localization staff who make the localizations of games. If game developers want to capitalize on the regions they localize their games to, the least they can do is credit the people who made all those profits possible.”