Between the Lines #1: Interview with Natalia Nesterova

In this new “Between the Lines” series, I’ll be interviewing some of my colleagues who are specialized in game localization for their respective language pairs. Learning more about your peers is an integral part of the job, and they always have something new to teach!

For this very first edition, I’ll be introducing an expert in English to Russian / Russian to English localization: Natalia Nesterova.

Hi Natalia, and thank you for taking the time to be our first guest on Between the Lines! Can you please introduce yourself?

Hi Lucile! Thank you for this wonderful opportunity to speak up. I keep signing my e-mails “Nata Nest”, but my colleagues persistently call me Natalia 🙂 Age 40, I’ve been in the industry since 2013, and not going to leave it till the day I die (or lose my mind, which is essentially the same).

Do you have any favorite genre? A particular title that stuck with you?

I’m a huge fan of Fallout, Stalker, and brothers Strugatskies, and I’m currently working on a title set in a post-apocalypse universe, based on Stalker, with numerous references to the Roadside Picnic, a novel by brothers Strugatskies. It hasn’t been released yet. The team I’m working with are very passionate, we’re putting our hearts into this project, so I expect it’ll be a huge success.

You have studied translation at university, but what brought you to the games industry? Do you have any advice for newcomers who want to establish their translation business?

The word is “passion”. Yeah, there’s also master’s degree in linguistics I got in Moscow State University, but that’s way less important than passion. Video games have been my greatest hobby since very early years. And I always had my father’s support. We played together, we discussed and analyzed game mechanics, characters, developed our own tactics… I remember how we spent days trying to kill Diablo, and when we finally did, we celebrated.

Games are a big part of my life. Unless you have that, there’s no point in trying to get in the industry. And remember, speaking two languages does not make you a translator—passion, deep knowledge of the industry, AND speaking two languages do.

Which title you have worked on are you most proud of, and why?

Surprisingly enough, I translated the titles I’m most proud of from Russian to English, not the other way round. Number one on my list is Pathfinder: Kingmaker. The narrative is very elaborate and exquisite, I enjoyed the story like a good book. Last year I found their booth on Gamescom just to see a crowd of fans, you know, as a harmless ego boost. That was very satisfying and rewarding. 

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My other most favorite title is Armored Warfare. It’s very deep and true-to-life in many aspects. My grandpa was a tank commander during World War II, so to some extent, it’s my way to pay tribute to his memory. Besides, I have a soft spot for heavy machinery.

The Russian market is known for being difficult to penetrate, yet it has the fifth-largest gaming population (Source: Newzoo). What would be your advice to developers trying to localize their games into Russian?

Funny thing, even before I opened the link, I was going to compare the Russian market to the Chinese. They’re huge countries with lots of people, some of which are willing to pay for your game, others are willing to try and pirate it.

The curious thing is, not all of the most popular titles were localized to Russian right away. Ten years ago I would have said, localization was not the key. Today Russian players know exactly what they want, good localization included (this goes without saying), so whatever you do, whatever genre or setting you choose, make sure you hire a good Russian SMM (Social Media Marketing) team. Know your players, be flexible, talk to them, listen to them, make them feel important. That’s key to cracking the market.

How can we get in touch with you?

I don’t do any blogs or Instagram, so if you need me, Skype it is: natalia_nesterova

You can also find Natalia on Linkedin.

Me (rightmost) and my Dream Team in one of the coolest offices in the world, Mail.Ru Games

Note: This series was inspired by the Interviews with Localizers series by Jennifer O’Donnell, and adapted with prior approval.

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