As further proof that cats rule the Internet and humanity at large, the relaxed, mostly goal-less mobile app time waster, Neko Atsumewhich tasks players with simply collecting a bunch of cartoon cats and kind of just watching them do stuff—proved a massive success in Japan despite a distinctive lack of explosions, destruction and, er, constantly running from left to right that are the typical hallmark of successful mobile games.

In fact, the game is so popular among cat lovers (read: everyone) that the Japanese version of the game began trending abroad, even though the large majority of fans surely had to resort to Internet guides to make any sense of the Japanese kanji plastered all over the in-game menus and inventory.

Said fans were in for a great surprise, though, when last week, developer Hit-Point updated the game with full English support thanks to renowned localization agency 8-4. We had a chance to sit down with the 8-4 team and chat about the behind-the-scenes work that went into localizing the app for an English speaking audience.


For those not in the know, Neko Atsume is an oddly zen-like game which tasks players with building up a garden to attract a variety of quirky kitty companions. The cats, who slowly gather to play in the garden as the game progresses, will occasionally bestow gifts upon the player. Players can also take photos of the cats and add them to an album, but otherwise the felines largely just do their own thing.

The non-competitive, cathartic collection sim struck a chord with players the world over as a fun diversion, but the collection aspects of the game meant a surprisingly large amount of text that 8-4 was tasked with bringing to an English-speaking audience. Here’s what 8-4’s John Ricciardi had to say about the localization process:

RN24: What was 8-4’s role in the localization for Neko Atsume?

John: We’re 8-4, a game localization and consulting company based in Tokyo. We helped localize the Japanese text into English.

RN24: What made you think there was a market for the game in English-speaking countries, if anything?

John: We always felt this game had big worldwide potential. In fact, we were pimping it on our podcast long before it blew up and got super popular! So, it was obviously a huge honor when we heard [developer] Hit-Point wanted us to help them put the game into English. (You can tune in to 8-4’s podcast here.)

My first feline companion arrives!


RN24: The original game was pretty pun-heavy, so understanding it would really hinge on a deep knowledge of Japanese culture. What kinds of things needed to be changed to make the game intelligible to English-speaking audiences? 

John: Rather than go for overly literal translations that would end up sounding awkward or confusing in English, we tried to capture the “feeling” of the Japanese and translate that over in a way that feels natural for Western players. A lot of the cats have names that are super common in Japanese households, but these don’t always translate cleanly to English. Take “Shironeko” for example—“white cat”—it’s a very common Japanese name, but in English, it wouldn’t make much sense, right? So we went with “Snowball”—a similarly common name in English that represents the cat’s appearance and personality. On the other hand, “Kutsushita” (literally, “socks”) works well in English too, so we went with Socks for the English name.

RN24: What was the most difficult part of the localization? Was there a specific moment that really had you racking your brains or anything that required special attention?

John: I wouldn’t say any one part was especially difficult, but we did put a lot of thought into the name, actually. Neko Atsume is an especially rare case where a Japanese game got really popular overseas before it was ever even translated—so rather than change the title, which tons of people had already heard —we instead recommended keeping the Neko Atsume name and adding an English subtitle that helps clarify what the game is about for new players. Fortunately, Hit-Point agreed, and thus we have Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector!

RN24: If there’s anything you’re especially proud of in this localization or any other anecdotes or tidbits, let us hear it!

John: Some of the more rare cats have pretty punny names in Japanese, and we tried to capture that in English as well, but with puns English speakers would understand. I don’t want to spoil any of them, but some of them are pretty cute! But more than that, we’re just happy to be able to help bring such a cool game to a broader audience. We hope it becomes as big a success overseas as it’s become in Japan!

Still haven’t gotten around to giving this ultra-relaxing game a shot? You can check out more details and download for Android here, and iPhone here.