From Translating Persona to Helping Indies at Xbox With Madoka Ueno

Madoka Ueno on being a 'buddy for developers'

From Translating Persona to Helping Indies at Xbox With Madoka Ueno
Source: Press Kit.

Persona 5's themes of friendship and the whims of society remain one of the best entry points into the JRPG genre. Thanks to an endearing cast, a meticulous day and night system, parallel dimension turn-based battles, and a stirring soundtrack, it's easily one of my all-time favorites.

At IGDC 2023 in Hyderabad, India, I got to speak with Madoka Ueno, a Production Partner Manager at Xbox. Before that, she worked as a translator at Atlus, now part of Sega. With credits in fan-favorite titles like Persona 3: Portable and Persona 5, most JRPG players would have unknowingly enjoyed her excellent work. We got to talk about her first steps in the industry and how she pivoted to helping indie developers work with Microsoft.

SUPERJUMP

How was your experience at IGDC?

MADOKA

It's very fun and it's really encouraging and exciting to see a lot of talent and all the different games coming from India. 

SUPERJUMP

Tell us a bit about your journey so far.

MADOKA

I grew up in a bilingual household in the United States and my parents are Japanese. I grew up playing Japanese games and when I had to start looking for a job, I was very interested in translating video games. 

So I started working at Sega. They're Sega now, but at the time it was just Atlus. And I was able to work on a lot of Atlus titles and localize them into English. That was really fun. The main games I worked on were Persona 3: Portable, Catherine, Persona 5, Dragon’s Crown, and a lot of the Shin Megami Tensei games from that era. So after that, I wanted to do more localization and project management.

So I moved to Japan and that's what I did for a while at Keywords Studios. I was a project manager working on all kinds of projects like mobile games and other titles. I also handled a lot of Western games being translated for the Japanese market.

A few years into that, I got a job interview with Microsoft asking ‘Would you like to work for the Xbox team?’ And I thought, well this isn’t localization but it sounded very fun. So I started working there, luckily. And here I am today, helping developers through the game release process.

Source: Author.

SUPERJUMP

That's amazing. Can you tell us more about your role as a translator at Atlus.

MADOKA

So that's pretty straightforward. I take the Japanese game text and translate it into English, making sure that all of the cultural references are also localized. It took a lot of coordination between different teams at Atlus. This ensures that English-speaking audiences can understand the context.

SUPERJUMP

I think your background would have also helped with that as you grew up in the US. What does your role currently involve?

MADOKA

Currently, my title is Production Partner Manager at Xbox. My expertise lies in platform certification and the submission process. All publishers go through a certification process before they can release their games on a platform. Xbox, Nintendo, PlayStation, everyone has their process for that. I'm just helping them through it and answering their questions and basically being their buddy so that [developers] can release their games on time.

"I'm basically being their buddy so developers can release their games on time."

Madoka Ueno.

SUPERJUMP

Sweet. What games are you playing right now?

MADOKA

So the main game I'm playing right now is Teamfight Tactics. It’s the auto chess game from Riot Games. I'm grinding ranked right now, which is very hard. That's a very fun game. I started playing Shiren the Wanderer on Switch too but I keep dying so the progression is very hard. I also play some indie games that I've been interested in.

Persona 5 was one of the many titles Madoka helped to localize while at Atlus. Source: Press Kit.

SUPERJUMP

Do you have any words of advice for people looking to enter the games industry?

MADOKA

The most important thing is to get your foot in the door no matter what. Getting in is the most important part. I was lucky to have a bilingual background and a passion for translation in general. So I was able to jump in even though I didn't have any game industry experience before that.

For a lot of my friends, their first job in the game industry was in QA, which is the case for many people. I’m not saying QA is not important. But it's a good entry point. Think about what you're interested in and what you eventually want to do in the games industry. Work backward from there.

SUPERJUMP

We'd like to thank Madoka Ueno for making time for us. And best wishes to her efforts at Xbox to bring in the next generation of indie titles.

If you enjoyed this interview, you might want to check out our many other fantastic industry interviews right here.

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