When looking at a blockbuster franchise like Star Wars, you realize a major part of its success will be its global reach. Characters like Han Solo and Chewbacca are known everywhere around the world from Amsterdam to Zimbabwe.
The Internet Movie Database (IMDB) shows the film Star Wars: The Force Awakens is already scheduled for release in 84 countries. The movie’s title has already been translated into over 23 different international languages, and likely more will be added in coming days. It has already opened at the number one spot in 44 separate international markets, and looks to break a myriad of records around the world.
To make this work embraceable by so many target audiences in so many languages is a monumental task, requiring teams to translate everything from the movie’s soundtrack (if dubbed), to marketing and promotional materials, to even the spin-off games and toys.
Disney, Lucasfilm, and its vast array of licensees, such as game-makers BioWare and EA, have decades of experience with such projects.
As far back as 2011’s GDC Bioware’s Gordon Walton said, in regards to Star Wars: The Old Republic, “Localization is essential… Localization being done well is about every part of the team being involved.”
More recently, EA announced in October 2015 its Star Wars: Battlefront will be localized into Arabic, which opens it up to broader adoption among a population of 290 million native speakers around the world. The issue there isn’t just translation of strings, and making sure they read from right-to-left. Other factors of UI/UX also need to be considered, which Polygon dubbed “culturalization” in a 2013 article.
Back to the new movie itself. The Force Awakens is being accompanied not just with traditional localized marketing, but market-specific campaigns and tie-ins. For instance, in Korea K-pop band EXO released a single (and accompanying music video), “Lightsaber” to help usher in Star Wars to a new generation. Yet the licensing may even rise to absurd levels as it has in the past, such as Star Wars-branded hot dogs (with built-in ketchup), foie gras, and ubiquitous breakfast cereals. Which promoted MarketWatch to beg Disney to not give in to the Dark Side!
No doubt about it. The Force Awakens is going to be huge. When you go see it, consider all the elements and efforts required in its global release, and how you might incorporate some of the best of these ideas into your own projects.