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Author Topic: What is the standard pay in the game translation industry?  (Read 10314 times)

DragonmasterX

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What is the standard pay in the game translation industry?
« on: August 30, 2012, 10:26:57 pm »
I got hired by a social game company in Tokyo. Contract employee for 9 months. What I'm concerned about is my pay is pretty crappy. 20man a month.

It was supposed to be 30man a month as a full-time employee, but they said I have no "professional" translation or IT experience, so they don't REALLY know if I can do the job right. Also, since it's a game company, my job isn't just localization, but +alpha, they also want to see if I can do that +alpha as well(not sure what it is yet). 

But I SEEM to be able to do the job because of my fan translation experience, I speak Japanese fine and have JLPT1 and Kanken2. So even though I have no "professional" translation or IT experience, they're giving me 9 months to prove my worth. That's their reasoning. Really, does it takes 9 months to prove my worth though? I think they just wanna pay me peanuts as long as possible.

Looking at the contract, it seems like I will get paid for overtime.

Calculating the hourly rate, it looks like I get around 1200 yen an hour. After taxes and insurance, I probably end up with 17man yen. I'm pretty frugal, so I can still manage to save a bit even with this awful salary.

They pay for my transportation, an extra 5,000 yen every month to help with cell phone fee, it's social games after all. Fruit buffet every morning, sports facilities free to use.

But still , my pay seems so low... I'm gonna stick it out for 9 months since it'll be nice to have some "professional" game translation on my resume.

It also concerns me that the answers they gave me at interview#1, interview#2, offer interview, were somewhat contradictory. I'll have to see for myself if this place is ブラック.

As for company name, I'll just say it worked with Bamco on Tales, Capcom on Basara, and their C. Tsubasa game won awards( you can play it on niconico too).
---
But considering Level 5 pays their part-time translators only 750 yen/hour, I guess I don't have it that bad?

http://www.level5.co.jp/creator/parttime03.html
---
I saw a lot of medical translation places hiring, and man, the salary is so much higher than game translation. But I got the impression they're even more strict on who they hire.
---
I spent many hours surfing the Japanese web on low salaries, how people save money, becoming a full-time employee, etc. and found this funny DBZ pic:
http://blog-imgs-33-origin.fc2.com/k/u/s/kususoku/20110728195904_8_1.jpg
« Last Edit: August 31, 2012, 12:45:57 am by DragonmasterX »

FAST6191

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Re: What is the standard pay in the game translation industry?
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2012, 06:20:26 am »
Japanese employment law, wages and general employment conditions is probably as far away from my areas of knowledge as you can get and most of the professional stuff I have dealt with usually comes in the patent world (fairly far removed from other areas of translation), in Europe and not from or into Japanese not to mention it is usually by word in those cases. Indeed http://www.youtube.com/user/BigBossIsBack/videos (a really interesting 12 part interview with Jeremy Blaustein) and http://www.loekalization.com/mistakes.html form the basis for what I know on such matters neither of which are that useful in your case.

However "social game company" aka technology bubble 2.0... been offered shares yet? As it stands from what you said it looks like they are in full incentives/alternatives mode (gym, buffet and such- all cheaper than paying you all extra) and your being able to do the job yet justifiably allowing them to pay you less means you are probably HR's (人事's?) wet dream all of which is good when you are probably still burning capital/yet to achieve profitability. Bonus (for them) is nine months on the average social game portfolio will probably see most of it done* so at the end of that "we are sorry we no longer have a job for you" is a distinct possibility** but do it right and you can walk away with a glowing reference and fodder for you portfolio. Potential two if they are doing the make something and get purchased if you get swallowed up by a big company and they like what you have done that is a very good in. Still I have put in time for small ventures and even if the pay sucks vs a "proper" job it is often quite fun and usually good CV padding; I am who I am but if someone wanders in as a former office drone (I guess in your case it would be someone from a translation agency) and someone wanders in having been knee deep in a new company well the latter is not going to hurt them.

*hiring someone is a big step and you can bet you will be cheaper than an agency. That said if I am not being cynical a single dedicated translator is potentially far better than multiples from an agency so someone might have pushed for it.

**again we are way outside my wheelhouse so speak to someone versed in Japanese accounting and employment law but in Europe and the US myself and others have set up as companies/self employed solely to do stints at companies and not have them worry about employment law although beyond that there are tax considerations which made such a move easier (paying yourself dividends which come with less tax in the case of the UK).

interview#1, interview#2.... again not familiar with Japanese interview practice but was it not the interview with HR, the interview with someone that might be expected to know your trade (mind you if they are employing a translator they might not have one on staff- did you get anything that might as well have been ripped from a textbook/known exam?), the interview with your prospective boss.....

As for medical stuff what little I know of Japanese says it is somewhat odd (downplaying of Kanji and such) and back in single language world (I knew a few that did transcription and/or are medical secretaries) they tend to want some medical training as a few letters sounding quite similar (Mephedrone- a recreational drug, Methadone- something they give to recovering heroin addicts) make a big difference to say nothing of measurements (3 milligrams is fine, 30 might kill you....).

I am sure the others will have far more insightful things to say but much of what you said rang true for things that my associates and I have dealt with in the past. My personal advice there is if you do not have a mortgage to pay, kids to feed or other commitments like that and there is no "proper" job going then jump in with both feet if you can make it happen for you.

DragonmasterX

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Re: What is the standard pay in the game translation industry?
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2012, 07:08:51 am »

interview#1, interview#2.... again not familiar with Japanese interview practice but was it not the interview with HR, the interview with someone that might be expected to know your trade (mind you if they are employing a translator they might not have one on staff- did you get anything that might as well have been ripped from a textbook/known exam?), the interview with your prospective boss.....

Interview#1 was with director and art director(native English speaker), Interview#2 was with producer, (Offer) Interview#3 was with HR.

Contradiction#1:
#1 said "we have very few translators right now, so you'll be doing most of the work there." #2 said "we actually have 4-5 people who are translating, but are also doing +alpha, like web design. There are other things you can do, but it's easier to see what that is after you enter the company."

Contradition#2:
#2 said "do you prefer part-time or contract? Part-time gets only some benefits, but the pay is higher!"
#3 said "Part-time gets absolutely no benefits, pay is not necessarily higher than contract..."

Contradiction#3(well, not exactly):
#2 "We'll try you out for 3 months."
#3 shows me the contract, it says "trial period 3 months, then contract employee 6 months." But the conditions are all the same in those 9 months, it's just my official title changes from trial employee to contract employee. So really, they're paying me peanuts for 9 months.


I am sure the others will have far more insightful things to say but much of what you said rang true for things that my associates and I have dealt with in the past. My personal advice there is if you do not have a mortgage to pay, kids to feed or other commitments like that and there is no "proper" job going then jump in with both feet if you can make it happen for you.


I actually only applied for this one at first, I didn't expect to drag on for over a month. I should've applied for like 10 different jobs at once to see all their responses. My dumb mistake here.

But yea, I have none of those commitments or loans, I have decent savings from the JET Program(god, that salary was awesome). This will be good CV padding indeed, so I'll play it out for 9 months.

If I should change jobs again after 9 months, it'll be easier. I know how Japanese CV and resume writing works now, I'm situated in Tokyo, my passport/visa issues are mostly taken care of, etc.

I can't wait till I become an old geezer though. So many positions in Japan want young people, particularly lower than 35. Was really disappointed when I saw Spike Chunsoft wanted someone 27 or lower(I'm 28).

geishaboy

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Re: What is the standard pay in the game translation industry?
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2012, 07:14:45 am »
That sounds about right for game translation. Translating games for a living doen't seem to pay a hell of a lot because 1) it's super easy, and 2) everyone wants to do it. Also a 9 month evaluation period is pretty crazy, I have never heard of anything more than three months. Don't be suprised that if at the end of those 9 months you get shown the door, but don't stress either because it will be 9 months of professional translation experience which in turn will help you on your way to bigger and better things.

At any rate, congratulations, the job sounds like fun and I hope you have a blast.

Also, do you have a place to live? Rent in Tokyo is insane, my brother in law pays 11man per month for a one room hole-in-the-wall, so be weary of that if you don't already have a place.

DragonmasterX

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Re: What is the standard pay in the game translation industry?
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2012, 07:26:27 am »
That sounds about right for game translation. Translating games for a living doen't seem to pay a hell of a lot because 1) it's super easy, and 2) everyone wants to do it. Also a 9 month evaluation period is pretty crazy, I have never heard of anything more than three months. Don't be suprised that if at the end of those 9 months you get shown the door, but don't stress either because it will be 9 months of professional translation experience which in turn will help you on your way to bigger and better things.

At any rate, congratulations, the job sounds like fun and I hope you have a blast.

Also, do you have a place to live? Rent in Tokyo is insane, my brother in law pays 11man per month for a one room hole-in-the-wall, so be weary of that if you don't already have a place.


Room 407 is my place.
http://www.sakura-house.com/en/B00104/4/room.html

The 78,000 yen includes utilities up to 1man and internet(wifi included for PS3 online play!).

The landlord lives on 1st floor. He keeps the surroundings clean and takes care of the garbage that we all leave on the 2nd floor dump(no extra charge). Washing machine is on 2nd floor, 200 yen charge.

Everything I need is nearby: pull-up bar, cheap supermarkets, cheap Lawson 100 yen, bank, big shopping mall with movie theater, station, etc. The room itself is big enough for me to do a home workout routine. 10 min walk to station(at my pace), 12 minute train ride to Nishinippori(Yamanote-sen) coming in from NE.

In general, stay away from central Tokyo, either it's too expensive, or it's so small you won't even have room to do push-ups.

---

I already handed in my contract, but one of you guys apply for this!

http://www.skillhouse.co.jp/emerald/job.detail.aspx?id=71b7c01c-d8aa-4068-8571-1d779aa09d70

This is the best pay I've seen for game localization.

That's a very big difference from Level 5's hourly wage of 750 yen!
« Last Edit: August 31, 2012, 07:38:42 am by DragonmasterX »

geishaboy

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Re: What is the standard pay in the game translation industry?
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2012, 07:54:32 am »
There is no way in hell I'm moving to Tokyo. Seriously.

FAST6191

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Re: What is the standard pay in the game translation industry?
« Reply #6 on: August 31, 2012, 08:22:45 am »
Various edits for grammar/clarity
I can't wait till I become an old geezer though. So many positions in Japan want young people, particularly lower than 35. Was really disappointed when I saw Spike Chunsoft wanted someone 27 or lower(I'm 28).

That would be a prime example of my lack of knowledge of Japanese employment law - UK wise if any job listing/interviewer/..... ever put a formal age requirement and in some cases even an informal one ("we would have hired you but you are [age]") on it barring things like military and acting they would be pulled up on age discrimination in very short order and it would probably not be a slap on the wrist. On top of that it usually goes the other way and anybody under 25 is doing well if they have something (usually things like "must have 5 years experience", sometimes on a technology that has only been around for 3, for a ultra basic entry level thing are used as a workaround for it) but that is getting off topic.


Interview#1 was with director and art director(native English speaker), Interview#2 was with producer, (Offer) Interview#3 was with HR.

Contradiction#1:
#1 said "we have very few translators right now, so you'll be doing most of the work there." #2 said "we actually have 4-5 people who are translating, but are also doing +alpha, like web design. There are other things you can do, but it's easier to see what that is after you enter the company."

Contradiction#2:
#2 said "do you prefer part-time or contract? Part-time gets only some benefits, but the pay is higher!"
#3 said "Part-time gets absolutely no benefits, pay is not necessarily higher than contract..."

Contradiction#3(well, not exactly):
#2 "We'll try you out for 3 months."
#3 shows me the contract, it says "trial period 3 months, then contract employee 6 months." But the conditions are all the same in those 9 months, it's just my official title changes from trial employee to contract employee. So really, they're paying me peanuts for 9 months.

Heh sounds like most formal interviews I have done. I read that as we have a few people that can claim knowledge of both languages and they have got us where we are today but nobody that actually knows what goes as far as being able to call themselves a translator but 2# is a bit more optimistic. Either way I would be shocked if you do not end up doing all the public facing translation and probably giving a hand with any documentation (the other reason that called your IT skills into question- might want to skim a book on SQL or general databases and such).
Contract is lower pay.... contractors are usually renowned for charging more/being paid more most places I go ostensibly to make up for possibly not having work for a little while.

I actually only applied for this one at first, I didn't expect to drag on for over a month. I should've applied for like 10 different jobs at once to see all their responses. My dumb mistake here.

If I should change jobs again after 9 months, it'll be easier. I know how Japanese CV and resume writing works now, I'm situated in Tokyo, my passport/visa issues are mostly taken care of, etc.

I am of two minds about applying for a tonne of jobs- you are usually advised to tailor your CV but having to do that for say 100 jobs in a mailshot gets really tedious. This said being part time/contractor/probationary is potentially useful if something good crops up a few months down the road.

Anyway if my first post was nothing of great note this is worse so I am out. Your links did reaffirm my position of "never buy a flat unless you are buying it in Tokyo, London or New York" though.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2012, 06:24:50 pm by FAST6191 »

SteveMartin

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Re: What is the standard pay in the game translation industry?
« Reply #7 on: September 02, 2012, 09:20:08 am »
Am I correct that this is the equivalent of nearly $4,000 a month? Is the cost of living in Japan so great that that's not enough? Because otherwise that sounds like quite a bit of money to me, MUCH better than minimum wage  :P
Currently working on Moon: Remix RPG Adventure translation

LostTemplar

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Re: What is the standard pay in the game translation industry?
« Reply #8 on: September 02, 2012, 09:34:03 am »
200,000 yen is more like $2500. And yes, I'd say the cost of living in Japan is generally higher than in most countries.

geishaboy

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Re: What is the standard pay in the game translation industry?
« Reply #9 on: September 02, 2012, 08:28:06 pm »
Rent is biggest paycheck-drain but utilities aren't that bad. In my experience, it's food and eating out that can either make or break your finances in Japan. Train fares tend to add up suprisingly fast as well.


DarknessSavior

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Re: What is the standard pay in the game translation industry?
« Reply #10 on: September 02, 2012, 08:45:40 pm »
Rent is biggest paycheck-drain but utilities aren't that bad. In my experience, it's food and eating out that can either make or break your finances in Japan. Train fares tend to add up suprisingly fast as well.
This is easily fixed by buying a JR pass and by eating a lot of rice. Buy giant bags of rice, and use it with all of your meals. It's cheap and healthy.

Also, many foods are incredibly cheap in Japan. Rice, as I said. White meat chicken is INCREDIBLY cheap (as Asians prefer dark meat, for some strange reason). I could get one big boneless chicken breast for less than 100 yen. Ground beef is also relatively cheap, as I get the feeling most Japanese people don't eat it. Eggs, tofu, and plain yogurt are also cheap.

What I would do for meals would be have toast in the morning, with peanut cream and jam. Or eggs and toast, if I had the time. Possibly with some bacon in that case. For lunch, I would generally have a ham sandwich (there are GIANT packs of ham in Japan that only cost like...600-700 yen. It'll last you more than a week if you eat one sandwich a day). And for dinner, I'd have rice with a portion of a bag of frozen veggies and a chicken breast. Sometimes mixed to make fried rice, sometimes separate. Or I'd have pasta with homemade sauce (canned tomatoes are INCREDIBLY cheap. I found cans for 50 yen that were IMPORTED FROM FREAKIN' ITALY. I'd take two cans of that, one can of Japanese premade meat sauce [~100 yen] and add spices, flavorings, mushrooms, and veggies). The pasta would be more than one serving, so you could easily have it for two or three meals (buy some Ziploc containers).

Food was honestly pretty cheap, if you cook a lot. If you go eat out all the time, you'll go broke. Unless you find some really good deals in that regard. I found a chain restaurant that was in a stall in a nearby mall. They had "Mini Sauce Chicken Cutlets" for 250 yen. This was a medium-sized bowl filled with rice, cabbage, and pickled ginger. Then topped with one chicken cutlet, cut into five pieces. They had free sauces at the counter, and free water. That was easily a REALLY cheap meal that was really filling.

What'll really kill you in Japan is rent, and CD/DVD/Game prices.

~DS
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geishaboy

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Re: What is the standard pay in the game translation industry?
« Reply #11 on: September 02, 2012, 09:03:51 pm »
What'll really kill you in Japan is rent, and CD/DVD/Game prices.

Oh holy hell don't get me started. DVDs, and games are definately on the expensive side, but relatively cheap second hand (I love you Book-Off). I would consider books and manga to be resonable at full price and super cheap at used book stores. The one thing I can't get my head (or wallet) around is the price of CDs. Un-be-fucking-lievable. Even second hand they are crazy expensive. DVD rental places are pretty expensive too.
« Last Edit: September 02, 2012, 09:12:17 pm by geishaboy »

DragonmasterX

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Re: What is the standard pay in the game translation industry?
« Reply #12 on: September 02, 2012, 09:16:33 pm »
This is easily fixed by buying a JR pass and by eating a lot of rice. Buy giant bags of rice, and use it with all of your meals. It's cheap and healthy.

Also, many foods are incredibly cheap in Japan. Rice, as I said. White meat chicken is INCREDIBLY cheap (as Asians prefer dark meat, for some strange reason). I could get one big boneless chicken breast for less than 100 yen. Ground beef is also relatively cheap, as I get the feeling most Japanese people don't eat it. Eggs, tofu, and plain yogurt are also cheap.

Meat doesn't apply to me since I'm vegetarian. Fruits I buy regularly are bananas grapefruit, avocado, most everything else I only buy at half-price. Oh, and mikan in the winter. Most fruit in Japan at full price is overpriced. As for rice, I buy 300 gram microwaveable rice packs for 98 yen each. I used to a rice cooker in the past and absolutely hated it, I'm too lazy. 19 yen packs of yakisoba and udon are super affordable too.

I've done enough sightseeing in Tokyo in the past, I can't afford to do so on this salary now, will generally only take the train to work and they'll reimburse for that anyway. Gotta buy a train pass soon for that.


Food was honestly pretty cheap, if you cook a lot. If you go eat out all the time, you'll go broke. Unless you find some really good deals in that regard. I found a chain restaurant that was in a stall in a nearby mall. They had "Mini Sauce Chicken Cutlets" for 250 yen. This was a medium-sized bowl filled with rice, cabbage, and pickled ginger. Then topped with one chicken cutlet, cut into five pieces. They had free sauces at the counter, and free water. That was easily a REALLY cheap meal that was really filling.

Yea, I'm very picky if I'm gonna eat out. 300 yen kitsune udon, 1000 yen Indian buffet, etc. the cheapest places I can find that I happen to pass by. Eating out at most places is a rip off.


What'll really kill you in Japan is rent, and CD/DVD/Game prices.

This is where it's at. I regret buying games at a whim all the time back when I had a nice salary. I can't afford to do that anymore, have to extremely careful with my game purchases now.
---
As for the original topic, my hourly wage comes down to about $13 an hour. How does that compare to say, freelance pay?

DarknessSavior

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Re: What is the standard pay in the game translation industry?
« Reply #13 on: September 02, 2012, 09:33:10 pm »
Well, you've at least got regular pay. My last freelance job (which was three days of concentrated fucking hell, btw) netted me $1,000 at 8 cents a character. It should've gotten me more (I had to OCR at least a dozen images and spend hours upon hours making sure their transcriptions were accurate and fixing it when it wasn't). But I haven't gotten a freelance assignment since then and am now down to about $350. >_<

~DS
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geishaboy

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Re: What is the standard pay in the game translation industry?
« Reply #14 on: September 05, 2012, 10:16:45 pm »
Quote from: DragonmasterX
As for the original topic, my hourly wage comes down to about $13 an hour. How does that compare to say, freelance pay?

It doesn't really compare at all. I know in-house translators who make literally twice that much and most full time freelancers aim for around 4 or 5 million yen per year.

Freelancing is a completely different animal when compared to salary based work. Two freelancers that make the same amount of money in a year would probably have completely different "houry rates" due to their own speed and accuracy. A little while back I took on a job paying just two yen per character (normal rates are bewteen 8 and 12 yen), however because the whole thing only took me the better part of an hour (it was super easy, phrase-book level stuff), the "hourly rate" was almost at the $30 mark.



DragonmasterX

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Re: What is the standard pay in the game translation industry?
« Reply #15 on: September 05, 2012, 11:15:44 pm »
Meh, what can I do. I'll stick it out for the 9 months. They do not give me a decent raise after that and I'm out.

I'm still waiting on my VISA type change form from them. It's getting ridiculous. They've had almost a week now for a piece of paper that shouldn't take more than 10 minutes to fill out.

Compare that to me: They gave me 2 weeks for their localization test, and I e-mailed it back only a few hours after receiving it. And they can't fill out a simple piece of paper in a timely manner...

---

On the bright side, my crap salary will still be better than the average animator in Japan! Those animators must really love their job to work for such a low pay!
« Last Edit: September 05, 2012, 11:26:27 pm by DragonmasterX »

geishaboy

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Re: What is the standard pay in the game translation industry?
« Reply #16 on: September 05, 2012, 11:23:36 pm »
Meh, what can I do. I'll stick it out for the 9 months. They do not give me a decent raise after that and I'm out.

Exactly. The experience you will get from this job will be far more valuable than your paycheck. It sounds like this job will be a stepping stone more than anything else.

DarknessSavior

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Re: What is the standard pay in the game translation industry?
« Reply #17 on: September 05, 2012, 11:29:26 pm »
Exactly. The experience you will get from this job will be far more valuable than your paycheck. It sounds like this job will be a stepping stone more than anything else.
Yep. Happened to me too. My awful job for a company that had a contract with Chrysler? The hours were shit, and the pay was decent but not great. But it looks DAMNED good on my resume that I translated an entire tool's OS into Japanese for a Chrysler product, not to mention that I've personally contacted the service manager of EVERY Chrysler dealership in Japan, and helped install the diagnostic tools in at least two of them. :D

~DS
Red Comet: :'( Poor DS. Nobody loves him like RC does. :'(
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