Which Languages Should I Localize my Game to? – Here’s an Easy Step Guide!

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Congratulations! – You made a game (or are nearly done making your game)!





Now what?!


At this stage in development, many developers wonder if they should localize their game at all, and if so, which languages they should consider for localization.

If you fall into this category, you may have done some preliminary research and found out that there are these things called FIGS (French, Italian, German, and Spanish) and CJK (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean), both of which are popular language groupings within the game industry…

…but localizing into 7 whole languages

Do you really need that many languages?

Would people in Italy bother installing and playing your game? Do French gamers even like your game’s genre? (If you’re going to shell out your hard-earned money for localization, you want to be sure it’s profitable!)

Localization is COMPLICATED!

 

Not long ago, developers were saying markets like Russia weren’t worth the cost of localization because your game would simply be pirated. Now, developers are finding Russia to be a viable market:

There’s a lot to learn when it comes to global markets! Did you know gamers are likely to post negative reviews of your game simply for leaving their language out?

There are a whole lot of countries in the world, and it is a tremendous amount of work to:

  1. Find out if your game’s genre is popular in country X (i.e. France).

  • “Do French gamers like shoot-’em-up zombie games?”





  1. Figure out if your game’s platform (iOS, Android, etc.) is popular enough in country X to even reach gamers.

  • “Lots of people in France must have cell phones…but do many of those French gamers who happen to like shoot-’em-up zombie games also have an iPhone?”

  1. (Optional) Decide if only individual parts of your game should be localized for country X, i.e.:

    1. UI elements only? - “Maybe I can get away with only localizing my Start/Quit Game menu? Will French gamers care if I have minor dialogue with mostly swearing in English? They won’t mind missing a few swear words, right?”

    2. Subtitles only (no dubbing)? - “Will I offend French gamers if my zombie game only has French subtitles?”

    3. Changing art, etc. so your game appeals more to the local population? - “Do French gamers – or the French government – mind the over-the-top gore in my game?”

    4. Etc.

  1. Finally, assess whether the cost of localizing language A is even worth it.

  • “All right, I did all this research. I found out X number of gamers in France will play my game on platform Y. At a price of €Z and a set cost-per-install, I would barely break even.”

  1. Repeat for each country!

  • “Ugh – all this research is so tedious. Forget localization! (misses out on large profits across the globe)”

How Can I Easily Find Out Which Languages Are Best for My Game?

There’s this new, nifty (and FREE!) app that can help you assess which languages to consider for localization – the Game Market Analyzer. It was designed by nearly 25 year old game localization and publishing company LAI Global Game Services and is powered by actual data from leading market research firm DFC Intelligence.

The Game Market Analyzer analyzes anticipated return-on-investment by language and is intended to help game developers identify key languages and markets for game localization.

(Disclaimer: I helped design this app, so I do think it’s a pretty awesome tool! Although I am an indie developer, I do freelance marketing work for the company behind this app – LAI Global Game Services.)


How it Works

Here is a step-by-step guide of how the Game Market Analyzer can help a developer looking to localize their game:

  1. My team heard that FIGS (French, Italian, German, and Spanish) and CJK (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) are popular languages for game localization, so I assume I should localize my game into some of these languages, but I’m not sure which ones. We decide to use the Game Market Analyzer app to learn a little more.


  1. I input my game’s platform and genre. (I’m using a mobile puzzle game for this example.)

(Sidenote: I could also input my target market’s age, gender, and my monetization model if I wanted to find out about appropriate publishers and third party providers in the region.)


  • As this is a newly-released app, this feature currently contains a small but growing list of providers and is continuously updated.
  • Publishers and third party providers should feel free to reach out to us if they would like to be added to this section! – gma@lai.com)
  1. The Game Market Analyzer tool reveals the top regions for this genre.

    1. It looks like North America, Western Europe, and Asia are good regions to consider.

  1. I click on Western Europe and see that the UK is the forerunner here (25% potential market penetration), in addition to Spain (at 18%), Germany (17%), and France (12%).

    1. Hm, okay. Maybe I should localize my game into Spanish, German, and French?

  1. I click “Show Localization Costs” and input a word count of 1000 words.

    1. My game isn’t very text heavy (not like an RPG!), so I don’t feel like I need a localization review for British English.

    2. Spanish, German, and French are available for premium localization of $220 each, but I don’t know whether I want to tackle that many languages initially. Maybe there’s a better option?


  1. I’m curious to see what the “Localization Optimizer™” does, so I click on “Cart Actions” and “Localization Optimizer.”

    1. Okay, this tool will help me choose optimal languages. Let’s give it a shot. Ideally, I’d like to reach about 50% of the market, so I set the slider to 50% and hit “Run the Localization Optimizer™”.

    2. The Localization Optimizer™ shows I only need to localize into 2 languages to achieve 50% market penetration – Simplified Chinese and Latin American Spanish…and it will cost less than the 3 languages I selected before – $230 total.

  1. Let’s give this a shot then. I select “Cart Actions” and “Check Out”.

    1. I see there is a pretty good cost difference between “Standard” and “Premium” quality, so I read about the difference on the info tab. I want to make sure my players don’t notice a quality difference in other languages, so it seems worth it to stick with premium.

  1. I click “Send Localization Request to LAI” after making sure I’ll be able to speak with a representative before localizing with each of these languages. (The info button confirms this.)

  1. A representative from LAI Global Game Services gets in touch with me, and we talk over what I’m looking for from localization.

  2. Since my game is both on iPhone and Android, LAI agrees that these languages are a good fit for me, although they point out that the rules in China have become more complicated this past year and explain what is now involved in bringing a game to the Chinese marketplace.

  3. For the time being, we decide to wait on China. It sounds like a promising market, especially now that mobile revenue in China has surpassed the US, but we would have to make additional changes to our game as well as submitting our game to the Chinese government for review. We’ll wait until we get sales in other parts of the world before tackling China.

  4. We decide to return to our original plan of choosing the most popular European languages instead – European French, Italian, German, and Spanish, while still including Latin American Spanish.

    1. (We don’t want the potential negative ratings to affect our game by not localizing our game into both Latin American and European Spanish!)

    2. LAI informs us we’ll have to make a few art adaptations for the German market since the game includes a few references to World War II, but we decide it’s worth it since we won’t have to change too much in the game.

  5. We also decide to have our press kit and e-mail to the press translated into French, Italian, German, and Spanish so we get more coverage on European and Latin American mobile game sites.

The Benefits to Using the Game Market Analyzer App

While the Game Market Analyzer tool isn’t 100% foolproof, it is a fantastic FREE tool, allowing developers the chance to see more data behind their game’s platform and genre…without buying expensive reports.

We listened to the key concerns of game developers in assessing global markets. You weren’t sure whether localization could:

  1. Help you achieve market penetration in international game markets

  2. Yield the monetary return you want!

In response, this tool gives you:

  1. Estimated market penetration by region (for your game’s platform and genre!)

  2. Estimated market penetration, drilling down into specific countries (for your game’s platform and genre!)

  3. The confidence to take your game global!

The Benefits

  • App data is powered by leading market research firm, DFC Intelligence.

  • A real game localization team (with nearly 25 years of experience!) is on the other end of the app, able to answer your questions about game languages and markets.

  • Infographics by country and region with additional information. Here are a few examples from the app:

The Drawbacks

  • The app doesn’t currently drill down into specifics (Android vs. iOS, monetization model, etc.), but this is something LAI Global Game Services can help you with when you reach out.

  • It also can’t tell you current market trends that can help or hinder your entry into a given market (i.e. new regulations in China), but again, that is something you can learn by reaching out.

Conclusion

  • GMA is a tool that helps you see your game’s potential in different markets, clearly showing you the best case market penetration that can be expected, based on real world data. It’s a great starting point in planning your localization strategy!

  • However, we recommend that you speak to LAI to understand other factors of the target market such as cultural taboos, regulatory requirements,and monetization conventions, that could be key in making your game globally successful.

We wish you the best of luck in bringing your games to global markets! We’re more than happy to answer any questions you might have about game localization.


Check out the GMA app, now available on iPad! (iPhone release early 2017)

– GMA updates are available on both Facebook and Twitter.

Want to Release Your Game in China? Find Yourself a Quality Partner!

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By Karin Skoog (@KarinESkoog) & Michelle Zhao (@MengxueZhao)

We frequently see articles about Chinese regulations on Gamasutra and across industry sites, with talk of consoles being banned and then reintroduced. The Chinese games
market is a complicated space, particularly if you don’t have local ties to China.

If you’re a mobile games developer, you may have noticed that the market became even more complicated this past year.

Yet another regulation introduced will prohibit your mobile game from being released in China unless you navigate very carefully.

Market Opportunity in China

China represents a huge market potential, but it is likely most mobile game developers who try to enter the Chinese market in the near future will fail.

  • China is currently the “most valuable [mobile games market] in the world” according to GamesIndustry.biz.

  • A recent report from Niko Partners estimates 465 million mobile players in China by the end of 2016, generating $1.3 billion from mobile game exports, nearly doubling to $2.1 billion by 2020.

  • Just yesterday, TechCrunch posted an article stating China has surpassed the US in iOS App Store revenue, with Chinese mobile games consumption far exceeding the US (driving 75% of App Store revenue!).

Graphic from TechCrunch’s “China overtakes the U.S. in iOS App Store revenue.

An Overview of Video Games in China

To understand the new regulations, it helps to take a look at the evolution of video games in China:

Although Mario games were widely played in China beginning in the 1980s, it was World of Warcraft that kicked off computer games with its beta in 2005.

It took time for computer games to take off in China due to slow internet connections, but when they did, they quickly drew the attention of Chinese authorities, causing a number to be censored or banned. As creative products (like video games) gain in popularity in China, Chinese authorities crack down and regulate.

Now that mobile games have exploded in popularity – even surpassing PC game popularity in China – we are starting to see the repercussions. (See the graph below from our partner, DFC Intelligence, showing the rise of mobile gamers in China vs. PC gamers.)

Mobile games snuck up on Chinese authorities at an even greater rate than PC games of the prior decade – suddenly appearing and then rapidly spreading to the masses. To the government, games seemed to come with a host of problems due to their widespread popularity, including an influx of lawsuits and IP issues with international entities.

As with PC games from decades before, mobile games have entered a period of careful scrutiny, which brings us to new, present-day regulations.

New Chinese Regulations

China’s governing body of creative media (the State Administration of Press, Publications, Radio, Film, and Television) is the organization responsible for bans on select books and movies, game consoles (in prior years), excessive gore in games, and now, mobile games.

According to this new regulation, any game perceived as being a “story-based game” is subject to review by the State Administration. The approval process can be time consuming due to the limited number of people currently reviewing submissions.

This is big news because this approval process is the biggest barrier ever imposed on video game developers looking to enter China. The vast number of mobile games flooding the marketplace quickly drew the attention of Chinese authorities and led to the biggest crackdown on games in China to date.

The new regulation was put into effect in July, and since the start of 2016, only 22 non-Chinese mobile games have been released in China (according to a list updated by the State Administration on August 29th).

Among the foreign games approved and released this year, the majority were MAJOR foreign IPs, such as Temple Run, Candy Soda Legend, Angry Birds, Subway Surfers, Fruit Ninja, and Monument Valley.

When The New Regulation Comes into Effect

If you go to China and check out the App Store now, you will find thousands of unapproved games. The original plan was to pull unapproved games from the marketplace October 1st (but the deadline was extended to December 31st), meaning that any games released in China before this year are likely to be pulled if they don’t attain approval from Chinese authorities.

There has been speculation over whether China’s State Administration has the resources and time to pull so many games from the marketplace. However, the new regulation made such big news this summer because many believe China will follow through on this regulation.

It may take some time for unapproved games to be pulled (possibly longer than the anticipated end of year deadline), but it is something developers should take note of, to ensure their own games aren’t at risk of being pulled from the Chinese market.

Submission Process

There are currently two types of approval processes – an expedited approval process for games without a storyline and an extensive approval process for games with any kind of a storyline.

- Simplified/Expedited Approval Process: Non-Story Based Games

Here is a brief look at what is required for the simplified approval process:

  • No storyline or an extremely simple storyline.

  • Regulations currently state that the copyright must be owned by a Chinese individual or entity.

This means you absolutely must have a Chinese publisher to assist in bringing your game to the Chinese marketplace.

  • No political, military, nationalities, or religious content.

- Extensive Approval Process: Story Based Games

All other games must undergo an extensive approval process, often taking 2-4 months for approval (in some cases, approval can even take up to 6 months!). If the studio has a good relationship with the government, it is possible to get approval within 40 days.

Here is what’s required for the approval of story-based games:

  • Submit games 20 days before launch.

  • Submit an extensive amount of paperwork.

  • Send a smartphone to Chinese authorities with a build of the game, functioning SIM card, and data plan for each version of the game (i.e. Android and iPhone).

  • Within one week of launch, submit additional paperwork and details to Chinese authorities.

Where Does this Leave Indie Devs?

Based on the games released in China this past year, many publishers in China are focused on bringing over games they know will be a hit – games that already made it big and are guaranteed to bring in the big bucks.

This means that it is increasingly more difficult for mobile game developers without an already established IP to launch a mobile game within the Chinese market. This isn’t to say it can’t be done or that developers shouldn’t target China – the Chinese mobile market alone brings in more revenue than the US!

China has already surpassed US revenue from mobile games!

This simply means that foreign developers looking to release mobile games in China must find a reputable local partner interested in publishing their games.

It is now essential for mobile game developers to work with local partners, as foreign entities are no longer allowed to publish in China. With larger Chinese publishers appearing to support only well-established IPs (i.e. Candy Crush), it may take some time to find a partner willing to publish your game, but quality partners do exist.

A Few Words of Caution

It can be difficult to conduct business in China as a foreigner. It isn’t uncommon encounter scams and to receive false information from people who claim to be looking out for your best interest.

We want to provide you with a few words of caution:

  • Be wary of scams – there are many scam artist “publishers” or “agents” who are more than willing to take your money.

  • Some people may try to convince you they are an “authorized agent” who can take care of the review process for you. This is not the case! These kinds of scams are a known problem for foreign developers trying to enter the Chinese market. Chinese authorities already released an official answer to clarify that no such “authorized agents” exist.

  • Some developers claim this entire process is one big ruse for corruption, forcing developers to share revenue with already large, local publishers. As with any part of business, don’t enter into any deals you don’t feel comfortable with!

Why is a Partner Key to Success in China?

 

China is a country where personal relationships (guan-xi) hold an incredibly amount of importance. Without going through ‘relationship-based channels,’ it is very possible the game you spent so much time and effort developing (and even localizing) for the Chinese market may end up never being released in China.

Find Yourself a Quality Partner

It can be challenging, to say the least, to know which companies you can trust. We would like to take the time to introduce our company – LAI Global Games Services – as we have been helping game developers navigate the global marketplace for decades. LAI has long-standing roots in China and thorough knowledge of the marketplace, as well as localization considerations for the region.

LAI’s office in China.

LAI has decades of experience in the Asian games market. We started out localizing content for Japanese companies back in 1993, and today, we have offices in China, Japan, and the San Francisco Bay Area, offering game publishing services and 35+ languages for game localization.

Due to our long-standing relationship with companies in China, LAI is in the unique position to offer game developers advice on entry into the Chinese market, as well as the best opportunity to actually launch your game in China.

How LAI Global Game Services Can Help You!

We work directly with local authorities and experts in the Chinese market to ensure games have the best opportunity to succeed. This includes:

  1. Helping your company understand the rules within the Chinese marketplace and localization considerations (such as eliminating ALL English characters in the game to diminish the possibility of rejection by Chinese authorities);

  1. Navigating the local market to help you find the most suitable Chinese publishers to match YOUR NEEDS, saving you time and money;

  1. Working as a liaison with the publisher in China to oversee and assist with any operations as needed, including:

  1. B2B business tips in China.

  2. Process interpretation.

  3. Assistance to help avoid misunderstandings, errors resulting from miscommunication/culture shock.

Reach Out to LAI!

We are always more than happy to assist with any questions you might have about current regulations or partnerships in China.

You can reach out to us @LAIGlobalGame or info@lai.com, or better yet, you can contact our CEO, David Lakritz, directly at dave@lai.com! We look forward to your questions and comments!

Visit www.lai.com for more information.

Learning Languages with Video Games!

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One of the first things I do when I start playing a game is to check the language options. I am genuinely curious how many languages developers/publishers chose to localize to, as well as which languages. (I also love testing my language skills by playing games in other languages, usually French, Spanish, or Swedish when available.)

It is usually difficult to find ample language options in games, particularly for voiceover.

Acquiring New Language Skills

Even though I haven’t studied Portuguese, I played WoW on a Portuguese server for a while and ended up picking up a fair number of words by questing with others. I typed to them in Spanish (using my rather limited Spanish language knowledge at the time), and they typed back in Portuguese. Although some words are similar, Spanish and Portuguese are very much two separate languages.

It actually didn’t take long before I was able to use some Portuguese words while playing WoW. It was a whole different way of experiencing the game, and a whole lot of fun!

How to Change the Language

It can be surprisingly tricky to find the language options for different games. In your Steam library, you may have to right click the game in your library and then select a language option, rather than being able to change the language in-game.

Even for consoles, it is possible (for some games) that you will need to turn your console’s language into the language you want to play the game in, as a select number of games don’t have a language menu option available. 

Before we move onto our list of games that are good to learn from, I want to take the time to cover UI/menus and why it can be complicated for even intermediate language learners to understand games that automatically change menu languages as well.

Complex vs. Simple Menus

Pillars of Eternity      vs.      Broken Age

In the majority of games, changing subtitle options also changes the menu text. This can make it particularly challenging to play a game in a language you aren’t already familiar with.

…And I don’t mean you’re familiar with words commonly used in modern day France or Germany

…I mean that, in order to understand most game menus, you need to understand genre and game-specific words.

This may include words like:

  • “Screen resolution,” “magic system,” “poison status,” “durability,” and “weapon repair kit”

…plus detailed descriptions of items, such as:

  • “Used for repairing steel and iron weapons”

  • “Increases relationship points with peasants and farmhands.”

This is a particular challenge in playing RPGs in other languages, especially in games where pop ups are frequent and in-game menus are extensive. It can be extremely challenging to navigate when you don’t have advanced language knowledge (or very specific vocab!).

Let’s dive into the list of games that are good to play in other languages!

5 Games to Increase Your Language Skills!

1. Broken Age

Double Fine

Subtitles: French, Italian, German, Spanish, Russian

Voiceovers: German

Good for the following skill levels: Intermediate and higher

What makes this game good for learning languages?

  • Dialogue selections don’t impact gameplay.

You have time to read each dialogue option carefully (if you wish), and after you select an option, the character repeats the selected option in English. It is an excellent way to test your language skills and learn new words!

Plus, dialogue selections don’t impact gameplay, so (as far as we’ve seen), you won’t unintentionally select an option you didn’t mean to choose.

  • Limited in-game UI.

Since the inventory menu is image-based in Broken Age, the only menu you might have to read is the option menu, with languages and the ability to save and exit the game. This requires relatively minimal language knowledge. As long as you know the word for “Subtitles,” you can easily navigate back to the English option and change any settings before continuing on with the game.

My experience playing Broken Age in other languages:

This is a game I now thoroughly enjoy playing in French because I am able to practice my comprehension and learn new vocab. Because the game has such limited UI, I am still able to enjoy the game without being a complete master in French.

I could see where it wouldn’t be as enjoyable to play with only basic knowledge of a language, but for increasing intermediate language skills, it’s a great learning tool!

Although German isn’t one of the languages I’ve studied, I gave the voiceovers a shot. If you wanted to level up your German language skills, the voiceover option is a fantastic way! You can change the voiceover and subtitle language separately, so you can have spoken German and German subtitles, English subtitles, or any other subtitle language option.

 _______________________________________________________________________

  2. Alan Wake

Remedy Entertainment 

Subtitles: French, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese (traditional), Japanese, Korean, Polish, Russian

Voiceovers: French, German, Italian, Spanish, Japanese

Good for the following skill levels: Intermediate and higher

 

What makes this game good for learning languages?

  • It is possible to enjoy Alan Wake with intermediate-advanced language skills.

Even if you play with voiceovers in another language, the storyline and dialogue is relatively easier to understand than in most other games with voiceovers.

It isn’t an overly complicated storyline to follow if you don’t understand a cutscene entirely, (and if you want to understand a cutscene more completely, you can look it up on YouTube to catch what you missed). As always, it helps if you have some familiarity with the storyline already (i.e. this is your second playthrough).

You’ll notice that further down in this list, I marked another game with voiceovers as more appropriate for advanced language learners – Deus Ex: Human Revolution. This is because Deus Ex has a lot more happening at once story-wise than Alan Wake (due to multiple storylines, background dialogue from NPCs, more intense reading comprehension, in addition to complicated UI/menus).

Have a different opinion about Alan Wake and Deus Ex in other languages? Leave a comment below, or tweet us @LAIGlobalGame!

What makes this game complicated to play in other languages?

  • As with many other games, all in-game instructions are in the target language.

You may have to double check key mappings if you aren’t familiar with how to play the game. Since it had been a while since I played Alan Wake, I had to look up what the key “maj” was in French. (It turns out “maj” is sometimes used for “Shift.”)

My experience playing Alan Wake in other languages:

This is a game I can see myself playing multiple times in different languages in languages where I have intermediate comprehension. My knowledge in Japanese isn’t high enough yet to enjoy the voiceovers with the subtitles (since the voiceovers and subtitles seem to be a package deal), but it is enjoyable to play in languages where I do have intermediate language knowledge.

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3. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture

The Chinese Room 

Subtitles: French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese (Iberian and Brazilian), Traditional Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, Polish, Russian

Voiceovers: French, Italian, German, Spanish, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese, Polish, Russian

Good for the following skill levels: Intermediate and higher

If you think it’s rare to find games with voiceover language options, it’s extremely rare to find an indie game with voiceover options, and the voiceovers in Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture are done extremely well!

I tweeted The Chinese Room about it, and they credited their publisher, Sony, with providing language options for players:

What makes this game good for learning languages?

  • You can change the voiceover and subtitle options separately, plus it uses an icon-based UI system!

I ended up trying voiceovers in French and subtitles in Swedish (German subtitles shown in the below image). What I didn’t catch in one language, I was able to pick up from the other. The UI is limited (and in-game posters, etc. are still in English), so you can understand the full game by changing either the voiceovers or subtitles to a different language and retaining the other in English. 

This is a game I could see myself going back to simply for the language learning value!

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4. The Last of Us Remastered

Naughty Dog

Subtitles (European game version): French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Swedish, Czech, Greek, Turkish

Voiceovers (European game version): French, Italian, German, Spanish

Good for the following skill levels: Any

 What makes this game good for learning languages?

  • You don’t need to be a language wizard to enjoy this game.

This is one of the only games I’ve seen so far where players can separately change subtitle language, menu language, AND voiceover language. Major props to Naughty Dog for allowing users to change each of these language options separately!

What makes this game complicated to play in other languages?

If you decide to play through the game with all text in the target language, it can be challenging to say the least.

There are a lot of letters scattered throughout the game, and they can be rather long and dense (filled with words beyond a regular language learner’s intermediate vocab), but if you’re willing to spend a little extra time, it is a rewarding game to play in another language. (You can always switch the text back to English if needed, although it does take some time to restart the game.)

Before playing The Last of Us with Swedish subtitles, I had no idea how to say words like “infected” or “explosive,” but even made up words like “clicker” (“clickare” in Swedish) were easy to follow. A lot of the new vocab you pick up in games isn’t necessarily the most useful for everyday life, but you certainly learn a lot of useful vocab along the way too.

Crafting can also be complicated to understand the first time you see it in another language. I don’t think language teachers are likely to teach students words like blade, binding, rag, or explosive. Fortunately, the text for the crafting system is rather limited (and includes icons), so it doesn’t take too long to pick up.

My experience playing The Last of Us in other languages:

Since it’s harder to find games that include Scandinavian languages (the majority of Scandinavians prefer to play games in English), I thoroughly enjoy the fact that Naughty Dog offers both Uncharted and The Last of Us in Swedish (at least, in European versions of the games).

I don’t have the most advanced knowledge of Swedish, but I was able to get the gist of most in-game letters on my second playthrough of The Last of Us. Some, I could even read in their entirety. There were some though, where the words baffled me.

I asked a Swede why the word “dagar” (days) became “dar” in one of the letters (“dar” was a word I’d never seen or heard before). It turns out some of the text uses shortened versions of words people use only when speaking, not writing.

It’s a little like how people bunch words together in English when speaking. Instead of distinctly saying each word, “What do you want?” it can become “Whaddya want?” (A dictionary is unlikely to have spoken slang or shorthand (i.e. “whaddya”), so it can be an extra challenge as a second language learner.)

I had a lot of fun playing through The Last of Us again with Swedish subtitles. As I mentioned, the UI can be a major hurdle, but if you’re patient with a dictionary, have a bilingual friend to play with, or can find the same text online in English, it can be a great way to pick up new pieces of a language fast!

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Voiceover Options++

The following game will test your spoken language knowledge, as well as written. It can be rather difficult to find games that have a lot of voiceover options, as it is more common for games to have subtitle options only or limited voiceover options.

5. Deus Ex: Human Revolution

Eidos Montréal

Subtitles: French, Italian, German, Spanish

Voiceovers: French, Italian, German, Spanish

Good for the following skill levels: Advanced

UI note: If you change the game into a language you don’t know and try to get back to the menu option to change, it can be challenging to say the least. There are a couple layers of menus you need to go through to find the language selection option.

What makes this game good for learning languages?

  • This game will really test your knowledge!

As far as I can tell, there is no way to separate voiceover language from subtitle language. If you change the game into Italian, your Italian should be at a pretty advanced level already in order to fully appreciate Deus Ex.

That being said, it is less common to find games with localized voiceovers in so many languages. If you played through Deux Ex at least once already (so you are familiar with the story and won’t miss anything!) and have an intermediate skill level in French, Italian, German, or Spanish, you can really up your language skills by playing through it again in one of these languages.

My experience playing Deus Ex: Human Revolution in other languages:

I haven’t played Deus Ex all the way through in another language yet, but this is one game I plan on returning to multiple times to boost my language skills!

Thanks for Reading!

We’re a nearly 25 year old game localization and publishing company here at LAI Global Game Services, and we are passionate about giving gamers the option to enjoy video games in their own languages.

With people now playing games all over the world, it is becoming more commonplace to offer games in a variety of languages, and we are glad to be a part of helping to make games more accessible to a global audience!

Have a different opinion about playing these games in other languages or have other games to recommend? Leave a comment below, or tweet us @LAIGlobalGame!

All language option information (subtitles and voiceovers) gathered Fall 2016. Broken Age, Alan Wake, and Deus Ex were tested using Steam. Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture and The Last of Us Remastered were tested using the European PlayStation console versions.

Pokémon: A Localized Journey

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Video game localization is one part of game development that often remains enshrouded in mystery. Why was place name X changed in the German version of a game? Why did that character’s name become something entirely different? It isn’t always immediately clear to gamers why localization teams make the decisions they do…

Sometimes it has to do with a direct word translation sounding too much like a pre-existing product in another region of the world. Sometimes one possible version of translated text makes no sense in Spanish or Japanese and needs to be adapted to fit within cultural context.

It is even possible a part of a storyline may bear too much resemblance to an actual historical event within, say Asia, and large sections of the text need to be entirely rewritten so the game isn’t banned within the region.

Localized Pokémon Names

Since Pokémon GO has been making such a big splash worldwide, we wanted to take the opportunity to discuss game localization using real world examples. While Pokémon names may not contain particularly historical or culturally-heavy implications, that doesn’t mean their localization is straightforward.

Pokémon characters are a good example of how localization can be accomplished in many different ways. Some Pokémon names are alliterations, whereas others resonate more with the character’s appearance. This means that Pokémon names are a good example of how video game localization teams sometimes use creativity to develop unique names in other languages.

Translation Example

In English, Grimer is a Pokémon name that doesn’t seem to have a particular meaning, although the name may bring to mind a grimy or dirty creature.

However, in French, translators took the opportunity for the name to directly reflect the Pokémon’s slimy appearance. Grimer’s name becomes Tadmorv in French, literally meaning “pile of snot.”

It isn’t always necessary for translators to retain the original meaning of a Pokémon from one language to another, with Pokémon characters receiving different names across English, French, German, Korean, Chinese, and Japanese.

Onomatopoeia

Some names were localized to sound like what the creature is or the noise it would make (an onomatopoeia). One example of this is the English Pokémon Golduck becoming “Akwakwak” in French.

Conveying Meaning through Translation

Other translations describe the Pokémon’s key characteristics. For example, Charizard becomes “Dracaufeu” in French, with “feu” meaning “fire” and “dracau” conjuring an image of a dragon-like creature.

Quite a number of Pokémon translations retain a very literal image of Pokémon. In the below infographic, you can see a number of these examples in Chinese, including Fearow (literally, “big mouth sparrow”) and Bulbasaur (literally, “wonderful frog seed”).

Pikachu & Localization Controversy

Pikachu is one of few Pokémon whose name remains recognizable across all languages. The romanized (Pinyin) version of Pikachu in Chinese is Píkǎqiū. However, earlier this year, there were protests in Hong Kong over a proposed name change to Pikachu.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Pokémon, Pokémon Sun and Moon are set to be released in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland China in both traditional and simplified Chinese.

While Pokémon names differed throughout these regions, Nintendo made a move to “unify” the region through localization by creating one translated version. The issue with this is that Mandarin and Cantonese are separate languages, and by “unifying” Chinese versions of Pokémon names, players felt Nintendo was not respecting their history with the Pokémon brand.

There were protests in Hong Kong following the release of a list showing that most Pokémon names would retain the Mandarin versions of the names rather than the Cantonese. Among these names, the originally named “Bei-kaa-chyu” (比卡超) for Pikachu, became “Pei-kaa-jau” (皮卡丘).

This was unacceptable for Pokémon fans in Hong Kong, where people protested with signs “No Pei-kaa-jau, give me back Bei-kaa-chyu.”

Pokémon Localization Infographic

We hope you enjoy the infographic below showing some of the localized names we find interesting between different language versions of Pokémon. If you have suggestions for future infographics and blog posts you would like to see, feel free to send us a Tweet @LAIGlobalGame.

Making Mind Mould Available in Global Markets – Interview with Indie Developers from SillyWalk Games

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In this podcast, indie developers Arman Kayhan and Levon Sebuhyan of Sillywalk Games discuss the challenges and lessons learned from taking their game Mind Mould to global markets. Below is the transcript of our interview content. Click here to listen. Enjoy!

Michelle: Hello, everyone! Welcome back to LocaLAIse this. My name is Michelle Zhao, and I am the Director for Global Publishing here at LAI Global Game Services. Our guests today are Levon and Arman from SillyWalk Games. They are an indie team based in Europe. Mind Mould, which is also called Nao Li Mo Ju in Chinese, is their newest mobile puzzle game designed with a global interest. They have overcome many difficulties to solve their own puzzle of getting the game ready for a global launch. They have expended quite some efforts to localize their game especially for Asian market. I believe their journey to the East story will particually interest our western listeners. Now let’s welcome Levon and Arman to share their experience with us.

Levon and Arman: Hi, Michelle. It’s nice to be here. Thank you for having me on to talk about our game.

Michelle: OK, let’s begin our interview with the 1st question:

1. How did you come up with the concept?

Levon and Arman:  We were playing a lot of shape filling puzzle games in that time. After a while we figured out that, every single one of it is actually same. They give you a shape to fill and there is only one solution for it, so either you find it or you fail. So it was a matter of time and more tries.

Since we were in love with the puzzle concepts, specially the shape filling ones, we wanted to hold on to the main concept but make some changes to push players to the next level on that genre. That was the time we started working on Mind Mould.

2. Michelle:  Comparing to other puzzle games, what makes your game unique?

Levon and Arman: We created a game in which players can find their own solutions for every single level. Even though it’s your 4th or 5th time with the same level, you wonder how solutions will vary with your choice of filling the puzzles. Because of that, Mind Mould players should push their creativity and visualization skills.

3. Michelle: As an indie game developer, it’s no easy job to develop a game for the global market. Any struggles you met during development?

Levon and Arman: Yeah, of course, of course. Being an indie developer team has many struggles actually. First of all you are a small team and that means that there is more and more work to do per person. The biggest struggle is the limited skill tree, I mean you are a team consisting of 3-4 people. Everyone has his unique skill set, but other than that if something new comes up, you are forced to learn new skill to get the job done. That takes time and makes your project go slower. But that is just how it is as an indie developer.

4. Michelle: When you are looking into the market to launch, why are you particularly interested in Chinese market?

Levon and Arman: We knew China is a huge market with a lot of potential to go. Year by year it’s pace of growth increased and we wanted to be part of this.

Michelle: You are right – according to a few research institutes like Newzoo and TalkingData, China’s mobile games market will reach $6.5 billion in revenues this year (2015), more than one fifth of the $30.1 billion generated worldwide. This positions China as the world’s biggest market for smartphone and tablet games, ahead of the US with an anticipated $6.0 billion in revenues this year (2015). And the most popular mobile games are among either really hard-core games like MOBA games, or extremely casual games.

5. In terms of localization, what have you worked on to make the game more appealing in the other market?

Levon and Arman: Players must have fun playing your game, and it starts with the proper localization. We wanted them to feel Mind Mould like one of their own.

So other than classic translation work, we started to read about the history and mythology of the country. We re-created our cut-scene, mascot, colors and music to be closer to the Chinese culture.

Michelle: Exactly! While the first touch of localization is the language and locale, it seems that you have put a great deal of thoughts on the habits, favorites and gameplay of local gamers. From our experience, we knew that Chinese users normally stick to a game more than Western gamers within a short time period. But they are also early quitters in front of difficulties in games.

 

6. Next question is a follow up to this: any difficulties you meet when localizing it? What lessons have you learned?

Levon and Arman: We face with many difficulties actually. Most significant one was working with Asian fonts. We used to work with Latin fonts, but Asian fonts are something new for us. Like, if there is a mix-up in the texts, we wont notice it immediately. And also the layout and readability is not easy to check for us. Certain graphic effects will work fine on Western fonts, but will mess up on Asian fonts. So that was the difficulty we face.

Michelle: I’ve heard that later on, you’ve worked out the issues during the testing phase with the help from LAI’s Asian game localization experts. That’s great news!

7.  And talking about testing, what have you found out from the gamers in other cultures during testing?

Levon and Arman: We figured out in China, players expect to see lots of tips in the game. The players are more familiar with a busier window comparing to western gamers. That was a real surprise for us.

Another thing we learned from testing phrase is that gamers will have different preferences and leave very different comments. We will listen to their ideas but can’t integrate all, of course.

8. Michelle: What are other tips you could give to developers looking into publishing their game overseas?

Levon and Arman: First of all, It is important to work with a localization company. It is a must actually. You can’t afford to make big mistakes regarding culture and language. Publishing a game is hard enough by itself, imagine what would happen if elements of the game would be offending to people in those culture.

Michelle: Thank you very much for sharing your story with us, Levon and Arman! Hope Mind Mould a global success!

Levon and Arman: Oh, thank you, Michelle.

 

Michelle: Back to our listeners, hope you enjoy today’s discussion with our friend Levon and Arman from SillyWalk Games. And as always, if you have comments, suggestion or questions for us here at LAI Global Game Services, please feel free to email us at podcast@lai.com, or you can even twit us at LanguageAutoInc.

Interview with Carme Mangiron of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

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In this episode of LocaLAIse This!, we interview Carme Mangiron, an experienced game localizer and chair of the Master in Audiovisual Translation program at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, where she developed the localization curriculum. In this podcast, Carme talks about the skills needed to break into the game localization industry, her perspectives on the industry, and new developments we can expect to see in the days ahead.

Below is the transcript of our interview content. Click here to listen. Enjoy!

David:    Hello, everyone! Welcome back to LocaLAIse This!, a podcast in which we bring you interviews with industry experts on topics of game localization and global game publishing.

I’m your host, David Lakritz, President & CEO of LAI Global Game Services.

Our guest today is Carme Mangiron, an experienced Japanese to Spanish game localizer  and chair of the Master in Audiovisual Translation program at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Carme is also the co-author of Game Localization: Translating for the Global Digital Entertainment Industry. Carme will be sharing her perspectives on game localization with us today.

David:    Carme, welcome to the podcast!

Carme:   Thank you, David!  Thank you for having me.

 

1. David:   Carme, your work in academia teaching game localization to aspiring students along with your prior work in the industry localizing popular games such as Final Fantasy must give you an interesting perspective on game localization.

What advice would you offer to someone looking to break into the industry about the skills that are important to have to be a successful game localizer?

Carme:  I think that game localizers must be very passionate about their job, and usually students who want to become game translators or localizers are avid gamers, but it’s not essential.  But I think an interest at least in the industry and some knowledge about the game industry and global pop culture are essential, as well as of course any skills that any translator should have such as good competence in the source language, target language, intercultural awareness, and good creativity because it’s very important to be very creative and I also think good writing skills. So, a good game translator has to be a good storyteller.

 

2. David:   Can you talk about some of the challenges that game localizers face when translating a game and how they can most effectively work with the rest of the development team?

Carme:  I think one of the most – the biggest — challenges we face is lack of space, and also the lack of access to the context, like sometimes you’re translating the game without actually seeing it and this is what’s known as “blindfolded translation” can be very challenging, especially if translators are not very familiar with the game medium or the genre that they’re translating. I think for that reason communication with the development team is essential especially if you don’t have access to the original game because it’s being developed at the time or because it’s been outsourced, that you don’t know if you’re translating from Japanese, you know it could be a male or female, it could be 1 or 2 gender, and number agreement issues, so I think that it’s important that developers try to provide as much information as possible about the game, about character limitation, about gender, about for example if a string, if it’s a verb or it’s an order, etc. So I think communication is very important and also the localizers have to be good with dealing with space constraints, also time pressure, etc. things like that.

 

3. David:    And have you seen those issues improve over time? In other words, has life gotten easier for game localizers compared to what it was maybe 10 years ago?

Carme:    Yes. Yes, I think so. I think developers are getting more and more aware of the importance of localization and also trying to make it easier for them. For example, using variables for gender. Or even when we started, with the Final Fantasy series in 1998 into Spanish, we had to ask for all the special characters, to be able to see them in the game without them being corrupted, and now all these things are being accounted for. I’ve been very lucky because as Square – Square Enix now – we always had access to the context of the game, and I also think that some translators who work from home it’s getting easier because most companies are becoming aware of the importance of context, character limitations, etc. and they’re providing this information in the localization kit. So, I think it is getting better, and I think the work of the Localization Special Interest Group has been very important for this, within the International Game Developers Association, to promote and raise a bit of awareness about how important good quality localization is, and that you need a certain amount of information, walkthroughs, style guides, etc., screenshots if possible to be able to provide the best quality translation.

 

4. David:   Now, Carme, I want to ask you a question on a completely different topic. You know, one of the trends we’ve seen in the last several years is more developers using agile methodologies and moving towards a more agile project workflow. And I know that one of the pillars of agile is that change is the norm rather than the exception. That of course has implications on the game localization team.

What has been your experience with agile and how have you seen that impact game localization?

Carme:  Yes, that actually makes your life harder because you’re working with text that’s in a constant state of flux, and maybe some particular fragment that took you a long time to localize, then it’s kind of left behind, and it’s replaced. So basically, you need to be also very agile translating…and be ready to let go of your translation and change it, and revisit it and also I think that means that you do not have access to the context or the game because it’s being developed and that also implies that you need to have more intuition or sometimes, apply, ok, what’s the less risky decision here, is this likely to be, a group of people talking, or is this likely to be, a fighting technique, or sometimes then you need to be more quick and also a bit more adventurous with your translation and be ready to change it as well. Sometimes, we don’t like it because it’s taken us a long time to come up with a nice translation, or a ?, or the name of a weapon. I’ve worked a lot with RPGs, so you have to be ready to let go and also ready to maybe make it shorter, change the scene. I think we need to work very quickly as well and respond quickly to the changing needs and the changing working process.

 

5. David:   I know exactly what you mean Carme. It is very challenging not compromising creativity or quality when too many constraints are imposed.  Well, since we’re talking about future trends, I think our listeners would be very interested if you could gaze into your crystal ball (laugh) and tell us what you see are some of the changes on the horizon for game localization.

Carme:  I think we’re going towards more and more interactive movies, especially for some genres like RPGs or action/adventure games and I think if that happens, game localization is going to need to look into more seriously like dubbing practices, or subtitling practices, more like it’s done in movies,  for example, lip-synching, and all these things I think they’re going to be taken into account much more and that might be an issue and might be challenging when you don’t have access, because if you know if you have a close up of a character speaking it would be nice if it was perfectly synchronized, but if you don’t have access to the image. So I’m hoping as well, that localizers are going to have more resources to have access to the product and be able to localize it better and take into account dubbing and subtitling practices.

And also, there is a trend now which and I don’t know how this is going to affect professional translators, but also crowdsourcing. It’s here, especially indie game developers sometimes are resorting to that because they cannot afford or do not have the budget at the moment, and I think it’s a trend that might be here to stay but I don’t know how and of course I don’t think the quality can be comparable at all but I think it’s something else that we need to look at and how that’s going to develop.

 

6. David:    One last question – can you tell us about any other interesting projects you’re currently working on?

Carme:   You know, we organize a game localization conference in Barcelona every 2 years. It’s called “Fun for All” –  well, “Fun for All” video game translation and accessibility. We actually also cover a little bit of game accessibility. We’re going to host the 4th edition in June, the 9th and 10th of June.

It’s a great forum of discussion for academics, and practitioners, and we try to bring people from the industry as well. That keeps me busy. We’re organizing on that, and then,  I also try to do research on game localization, what’s been done and from what aspects. And I’m also very interested in the concept of quality. Quality, and immersion and reception of the localized version. So that’s all things that I want to look at in the future.

David:   Sounds like you’re going to be pretty busy, Carme. Good luck with all of your endeavors! And thanks again for being on the podcast.

Carme:  Thank you for having me.

David:    And I would like to thank our listeners for tuning in.  If you have any comments or suggestions on topics you’d like us to cover in future podcasts, please e-mail us at podcasts@lai.com or tweet us at @LanguageAutoInc. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

God of Arena – Localizing a Chinese-style Game for the Western Market

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In this episode of LocaLAIse This!, we interview the Community Manager (CM) of Firevale Games about the challenges of adapting and recreating a Chinese-style game for the western market.

Below is the transcript of our interview content. Click here to listen. Enjoy!

Michelle:   Hello, everyone! Welcome back to LocaLAIse this. My name is Michelle Zhao, and I am the Managing Director for the Greater China area here at LAI Global Game Services. Our guest today is Rory Schussler, gaming community manager of Firevale’s new mobile game: God of Arena. What is unique about this team is that they are a Chinese company that achieved success in western mobile market. Today they are going to share their experience and insights about this new game. Now let’s welcome Rory.

Rory:   Hi, Michelle. It’s nice to be here! I am Rory, Community Manager for God of Arena from Firevale Games. Thank you for having me on to talk about our game.

Facebook Community Organic Growths –
The 1
st month after Community Manager took over – a tremendous growth on the 3rd week

1. Michelle:  Could you tell our audience about your company and your new game, God of Arena?

Rory: Firevale was founded by some industry talents from EA, Ubisoft and Zynga. Now we are based in Beijing and we have offices in ShangHai and HongKong.

As a startup in 2012, our first game was a social game. We spent 6 months building the game and then launched the game on some social networks in China. However, the game was unfortunately not successful due to some design mistakes and the downward trend of the social game market.

On Dec 2012, we decided to cancel the social game project. We reformed the company and kicked off our first mobile game – KongFu House. We released the first version of the game on May 2013. It brought us our first income and we were pretty excited at that moment. Later on in July 2013, we started to launch the game with our publishing partners in more territories. We were so lucky. The game had great success in China Mainland, Taiwan, HongKong, Macau, South Korean and Thailand. It ranked in the top of the AppStore for all of those countries. We reached Number 1 top grossing in China, Taiwan, HongKong, Macau, and Thailand. We were Number 4 top grossing in South Korea.

2013 was our lucky year. In early 2014 we started looking into the mobile game market of North America and Europe. We wanted to make games for the world. As the first step to the West, we decided to bring our successful game (which had proven itself successful in Asia) to the western market. However, our game – KongFu House – is an eastern culture game, and to make it a western game, we would have to have changed the game background to western culture. This is no easy task. But Firevale is always like that; we get an idea and we go for it. We chose our best designers, artists and engineers and told them that there is only one goal for this project: make the new game a much better game than KongFu House. To make this happen, our team put in a lot of effort working on it, and a few months later, the western version of KongFu House, God of Arena, was born.

Now God of Arena is launched on AppStore and Google Play. Our team is continuing to work on the game, add new features, and collect feedback from our players. We are confident that we will definitely continue to improve this great game.

2. Michelle:   After you decided you wanted to go for a western story and target market, how did your team decide on the theme for God of Arena? What are your team’s strengths and advantages that you used to make this happen?

Rory:  The reason for choosing this story is pretty simple. Like a lot of people around the world, we like the historic setting of Rome and we think the gladiators of Rome are very cool. That’s what motivated us to build a gladiator game. If you want to make an idea become real, you have to be excited about the idea first.

Our team is a proven fighter in the industry. There are no doubts about our strength in game design, art and engineering. And since a gladiator game is definitely a western setting, we want to serve our target market in North America and Europe.

3.  Michelle:    We’re interested to hear about some of the great ideas your team came up with during development.

Rory:   There was a lot of great creativity during the development. For example, when we started writing the story, we decided we wanted it to be something original. Then someone from the team suggested that we should add the great men from the history of Rome into the story, such as Caesar, Spartacus, etc. and let our players challenge them and even recruit them as fighters. Another idea came when we started building our competitive PVP feature, the Brave Tower. We thought about how to make a top player really feel like they are a champion. We came up with the idea of building a tower as a visual metaphor for this feature. The champion stands on the top and accepts challenges from everyone, while everyone else fights to climb up. There are a lot of great ideas that came from our team.

GOA’s Wiki pages

Michelle:   What about moving to a different market? Could you share with us about your localization experience?

Rory:   It was also challenging moving between two very different settings and deciding on what to do with thematic elements that don’t translate precisely. In a wuxia setting, it’s typical for all of the characters to use supernatural techniques in combat, so we made that an important gameplay element in Kongfu House. However, you don’t usually see warriors in the western classical era stories using the same kind of magical powers. We didn’t want to take it out of the game, though, so we worked hard to come up with titles and descriptions of the combat skills that didn’t seem out of place in a game about gladiators.

In terms of characters’ names and in-game dialogue, we worked with LAI’s localization team and we really like how they can come up with Greco-Roman flavor names to align with the style and setting of the historic time period. Their creative writing and translation makes the story and environment more immersive for the gamer.

In the end, I think we struck a good balance. Characters still use attacks that can strike through a line of enemies in one blow, but it doesn’t clash with the aesthetics or take you out of the grim and brutal atmosphere that characterizes combat in the setting.

4. Michelle:     On the subject of translation, localization and international publishing, I am curious, did you meet any issues during the development and publishing phases?

Rory:    Yes, we met a few more challenges in the publishing phase.

First of all, user acquisition is much more expensive than in Asia, so it’s more challenging to get people to try your game.

Secondly, there is more for the development team to learn about the preferences of western players. We needed feedback to understand what they like about the game and what they don’t like in order to serve our players better.

5. Michelle:    How are you dealing with those issues?

Rory:   Currently, we’re using the power of Facebook. We have integrated Facebook social features into the game. We have more features based on social systems in store on our production roadmap.

Our Facebook fan page is also an excellent way for us to collect feedback from players and to help us serve western players better. We’re also working on expanding our social media presence and using a game Wiki to help get players the information they want.

6. Michelle:    Are there any other interesting developments related to the game?

Rory:   There is one more thing makes all of us very excited. About 10 days after God of Arena was launched, we got an email from Apple informing us that God of Arena had been chosen as a featured game. And just before Christmas, our game was featured in Best New Games on Australia’s AppStore.

7. Michelle:    What is next for God of Arena and Firevale?

Rory:   For God of Arena, we plan to keep updating the game and bringing more fun to our players.

For Firevale, we will keep trying our best to build great games. Now we have stepped out from Asia, we will continue to learn from the world’s great game developers such as SuperCell, Kabam and Machine Zone. It’s our goal to make games for the whole world.

Michelle:   Thank you very much for sharing your experience with us, Rory! Hope Firevale will bring many more great games to our western players. 

Rory:   Oh, thank you, Michelle.

Michelle:   Back to our listeners, hope you enjoy today’s discussion with our friend Rory from Firevale Games. And as always, if you have comments, suggestion or questions for us here at LAI Global Game Services, please feel free to email us at podcast@lai.com, or you can even twit us at LanguageAutoInc.

 

Global Payment System For Video Games Interview – Part 2 Transcript (LocaLAIse This! Podcast) [Michael Johnson @FastSpring and Michelle Zhao @LAI]

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Below is the transcript of our interview content. Click here to listen. Enjoy!

Michelle:   Hi everyone, welcome back to LocaLAIse This!, a podcast for the video game community, in which we interview experts on hot topics in game localization and global game publishing! My name is Michelle Zhao, Managing Director for Greater China here at LAI Global Game Services.

 

In the first part of this edition, we talked about global payment systems for video games, including its localization, challenges, tips and solutions with our guest, Michael Johnson, Director of Marketing & Business Development for FastSpring. In the second part of the episode today, we are going to discuss a little more about how you could utilize global e-commerce platform to increase your game sale.

Michael, thanks again for joining us today!

Michael:   Hi Michelle, thanks for having me!

1. Michelle:   For our game developer audience– Based on your experience, do you know which markets are most willing to spend money through e-commerce platforms in the video game industry?

Michael:    Well, the US, Europe and APAC are definitely the largest markets; these are by markets we think all companies should potentially target. But, to get into more of the specifics of that question, it depends on the nature of the game – there is a big difference between MMOGs, Casual Games, Serious Games, etc. Out of all the games played online we know that puzzle, board game, trivia, and card games make up 34% of the total global market. Action, sports, strategy, and role-playing make up another 26%. Casual and social games make up about 19%, and a few other categories make up the rest. The key question is, where is the most profitable market for your particular type of game. After we talk with the client and figure out their goals in terms of expansion, we take a look at their games and determine which of the larger markets makes sense to target first and that’s where knowing which types of games do better in certain markets comes into play. It all depends on the client goals and their particular game type.

2. Michelle:    Which currencies does FastSpring support?

Michael:    We support more than 19 different currencies, all the major currencies like the Japanese Yen, the Chinese Yuan, Australian Dollar, the Euro, and of course the US Dollar. And we are adding to that list of supported currencies every day.

3. Michelle:    What gaming platforms do you support now?

Michael:
    Our platform is geared for online games (typically subscription-style games), as well as games that run in Windows, downloadable Mac games, games written and sold for Android, and also games for iOS. So, we cover a lot of ground here, for monetizing video games globally.


4. Michelle:    How does an e-commerce platform help video game companies increase their revenue worldwide, aside from the basic currency and platform support?

Michael:    Well, without e-commerce platform, you couldn’t really sell overseas or anywhere online. And a good platform will come equipped with a verity of tools you can use to customize for your specific type of store. So those tools are what you use to increase revenue worldwide. One of the biggest tools would be to have many payment methods, so you can reach as many global markets as possible. For us specifically, we help the client figure out which individual tools or which combination of tools makes sense to their specific game. Once a company is set up with us, we take a look at their games and their current order pages.

The first thing we do is to make sure the specific store design is optimized to attract and convert the maximum amount of customers. So, product branding is important here, and by product branding, I mean, making sure that there is a cohesive visual theme for all important pages associated with the game– From the game’s main website, to the game’s app store page, and everything in between. In this industry, the game itself is the product, along with all digital media associated with it. So, it is very important that all the digital media is branded together as a whole entity, including the digital store where customers will come to purchase or download the game.

5. Michelle:    Absolutely! We know in the videogame industry, the user acquisition, conversion and retention process could be very tedious, tricky or even expensive, so branding plays a very, very important role here, and making sure you find the right solution for your digital storefront is very important as well.

Michael:    Sure. Second, we take a look at which couponing tools make the most sense, things like: cross-sells, up-sells, the name-your-own price tool, or other add-ons that customers (who typical buy a certain type of game) would be interested in.

6. Michelle:    Well, that’s smart. Who doesn’t like coupons?!

Michael:    We can also check order pages and make sure they’re optimized to get the best results on search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo.  Another thing we like to do is to take a look at the price points for games to make sure the price is right for a particular market the company wants to enter. We want to find that sweet spot that consumers are willing to pay, not too low but also not too high, so we have testing environments where clients can test which pricing strategy makes the most sense.

7. Michelle:    Yes, gamers from different regions have different incomes, use different currencies and prefer their own payment methods. A well-localized game must be equipped with locale-targeted monetization and pricing strategy. For example, we know for a fact that in China, Alipay, QQ coins and WeChat purchases are very popular besides paying through three big mobile phone carriers. Studies show that including culturalized elements could also increase in-game purchases, sales, in f2p games. For example, in China there are items sold for 88 cents, versus in America, some items are sold for 99 cents.

Michael:   There are other things that take place behind the scenes every time a transaction takes place and all these things help our clients increase revenue as well.

  • One is multiple merchant accounts and an intelligent payment routing infrastructure. This allows for maximum credit card acceptance rates while still effectively managing fraud risks. Having multiple merchant accounts helps sales a lot because the payment is routed to the gateway with the highest chance of succeeding, so that catches a lot of sales that otherwise would have been lost.
  • We also host the deliverables for our clients. Doing so eliminates their support or bandwidth expenses, this doesn’t really increase sales per se, but helps our clients save money that would have been spent if they used a solution that charged extra fee for file hosting. So our clients margin per game are on average larger because of this, and their lives are a tad less complicated.
  • FastSpring’s cart-abandonment tools are awesome, so if anyone listening is comparing solutions this is a great tool to have. It allows you to capture certain customer data if they abandon the checkout process. You can then followup up with that customer via an automated email function and offer things like a discount, or something similar, if they complete the purchase.
  • And sometimes a client will start by simply selling their game on their website but it’ll be a game where users like to try it before they buy it. At times we will recommend that a client think about letting customers play the game for free, fall in love with it, but in order to get to the next level, for example, the customer will have to do an in-app purchase via our embedded SDK, and purchase level-by-level or buy the entire game before they play on. So we can do things like F2P trails that expire after a designated time period.

So we like to look at the big picture, when it comes to increase the client revenue globally. A good platform will also come with great reporting tools, so you can measure the effectiveness of your store and keep track of your growth. So this is how we and our platform can be used to increase revenue from a global prospective.

8. Michelle:    Can you give us an example of how a game developer would see revenue increases by following these steps and taking the right approach to market their game globally?

Michael:    We literally sell thousands of different game products and tens of thousands of other digital assets so there are numerous examples, rather than trying to dive into a single example let me point out what our clients experience most often. What we see is that a new Client who is selling only in one currency, USD for example, and only with the most common US payment methods will see a 5-25% lift simply by turning on global payment methods and currencies (which is free to do on our platform). And by taking advantage of our optimized order forms, which use geo-IP services to automatically preset themselves in the appropriate language and currency for the consumer in any area of the world. By going that we can increase a number of orders online. In addition to these two things, making sure the correct tools that we talked about a minute ago, are utilized and structured appropriately adds to that 5-25% revenue increase as well.

Our clients like us because we are a full service solution. We have all the tools necessary, and the customer support to enable and empower companies to enter into new markets and expand their product footprint. And it’s crucial that our clients stay focused on their products and not become distracted or have to worry about the hassles of e-commerce. We are super passionate about empowering people and companies to sell easily online. So finding an easy solution, and one that offers you everything you need to be crazy successful in your business, it’s crucial.

Michelle:   Definitely!  Well thank you, Michael for a very informative discussion. Global e-commerce will only continue to become more and more vital as the world markets become more and more interconnected, so its great to hear some expert advice about the state of the industry right now, and how it can help growing businesses bloom and thrive.

Michael:   You’re welcome, Michelle! It was great to be here and discuss these things. So thanks so much for having me! I really enjoyed it.

Michelle:    It’s been a pleasure to have you!

Back to our listeners, Thanks for listening to the latest episode of LocaLAIse This! With our guest, Michael Johnson from FastSpring. If you have any questions, feel free to contact Michael directly at michael.johnson@fastspring.com. You can also check out the FastSpring.com website to get a feel for the company’s presence. And as always, if you have comments, suggestions or questions for us here at LAI Global Game Services, please feel free to e-mail us at podcast@lai.com or, you can even tweet us @LanguageAutoInc.

Global Payment System For Video Games Interview – Part 1 Transcript (LocaLAIseThis! Podcast) [Michael Johnson @FastSpring and Michelle Zhao @ LAI]

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Below is the transcript of our interview content. Click here to listen! Enjoy!

Michelle:  Welcome to the latest edition of LocaLAIse This!, a podcast for the video game community, in which we interview experts on the hot topics in game localization and global game publishing! My name is Michelle Zhao, Managing Director for Greater China here at LAI Global Game Services.

This edition of LocaLAIse This! is dedicated to the global payment systems for games, and we’re very pleased to have as our guest, Michael Johnson, Director of Marketing & Business Development for FastSpring.

Michael, Welcome to LocaLAIse This!

Michael:  Hey Michelle, thanks for having me! It’s a privilege and I’m super excited to be here!

1. Michelle:   Michael, thank you for coming to talk with us about global commerce for the video game industry! We are looking forward to hearing all about your expertise in this field with FastSpring—Would you please introduce to our listeners what FastSpring is and what FastSpring does?

Michael:   Sure! FastSpring is a global e-commerce platform that supports payments and subscriptions, both online and within games. So if you’re a game developer, we do the heavy lifting for you so you can monetize and sell your game assets globally, in a multi-language and multi-currency fashion.

2. Michelle:   That sounds like a great solution, especially for developers with a global vision! Talking about selling globally, we noticed that the growth of Free-to-Play (F2P) games has been phenomenal. In China, or say, in most parts of Asia, F2P games have already dominated the market. Can you also help game developers sell their virtual goods or in-game items for this type of game?

Michael:   Sure, absolutely!  We have an embedded store solution so that items or virtual goods can be purchased from within the game itself.

3. Michelle:   Now, we know there can be a lot of complications that arise when game developers are looking to publish and sell their games in overseas markets. From your experience in the e-commerce industry, how would you explain localization to someone who might not yet be familiar with the whole process?

Michael:   Sure, so there are like two sides of localization, one is appearance and the functionality of the game itself, like how it looks and feels to the player; and the other side is transactional part, the order pages on a website or within the game itself.

To explain the order pages part, it is good to think about, you know, taking a trip into a foreign country: you are at a store, and you want to buy a souvenir; or maybe you are going to a restaurant for dinner. But you can’t understand what the items on the menu are because you can’t understand the language. And of course, the price displayed in that particular local currency, so you don’t know how much it costs because you didn’t convert your money into the local currency when you arrived at your destination. So localization from a transactional stand point means translating those order pages in the correct language or dialect, and being able to convert that currency in accepted local currency methods as well. So customers around the globe can make purchases and business can make more money. Localization is all about being ready for opportunities in the other areas of the world. When you have a customer in another country wants to purchase your product, you need to be ready for that.

The other part of localization is taxes. This is not the most fun part. But every country has their own tax rates and laws. One thing that is helpful about our platform is we automatically handle the collection of Value Added Taxes, or VAT tax. And it is important to get this part of localization correct, because it is something very important for selling overseas. So that is another kind of localization that is critically important.

4. Michelle:   Great analogy! Based on your experience, what is the current role or status and what are some of the challenges of providing a global e-commerce platform, as a whole industry in and of itself?

Michael:   So over the past decade the world has become a very small place in terms of selling online. There are particular challenges or fears that often times paralyze companies from selling aboard. One of the biggest is not getting paid and lack of integrity and quality of financial institution overseas.  No one wants to be duped or be a victim of fraud or have their hard work undervalued, through the scope of a different economy. This economic variability is always a concern for those looking to expand their business overseas.

Companies are also challenged in regards to global tax collection and compliance, and this part alone can seem particularly overwhelming. Tax laws change on a regular basis and keeping up with that can be a full time job. Companies are afraid of getting the tax part wrong and having a foreign bureau come after them for back taxes, penalties, or whatever. So tax compliance can be complicated enough in your home country, let alone in another country. As you can imagine, getting the tax part wrong is a risk businesses should not have to deal with. It’s important to find an e-commerce partner who handles international taxes as a part of their overall solution!

Some other challenges with selling globally include currency conversion, order page translation, and of course, pirated sales. The odds of someone ripping your game off increase if you start to sell in unfamiliar markets. And this is also another deterrent for companies considering global sales. We have many Digital Rights Management options to choose from to avoid pirated sales. Luckily, currency conversion and order page translation these days happen automatically based on a customer’s IP location; however, there are some solutions in the industry that charge a fee for adding new currencies to your store. So its’ important to be mindful of what’s included or what’s not included in the solutions that you may be looking at. We don’t think businesses should be charged if they want to offer customers that a variety of payment methods or currencies.

As challenging or intimidating as it may seem, selling overseas, the benefits of it far out way the difficulties! We specialize in helping companies see the advantages of global sales, and help them navigate their way through turbulent water so that they can reap the benefits of the global market.

5. Michelle:   Michael, can you tell us a bit about some of the solutions you see in the global e-commerce space?  Maybe share some industry-related advice for listeners who are still in the beginning phases of learning about global sales?

Michael:   Yes, absolutely! There is definitely a lot to know, and it’s always going to be changing! Solutions in the industry handle currency exchange and monetization in a variety of ways and some charge extra fees to do these two things.

When it comes to monetization or anything really, we recommend that you try to limit your liabilities as much as possible.

Here are some things to think about:

  • Determine what the liabilities of solution A would be as opposed to solution B. Make a list.
  • Know what accounts are included, what accounts are NOT included, who delivers the product to the end customers, who handles and is responsible for fraud. So, in order to monetize and sell online or in-game a lot of things are needed to facilitate a transaction and 90% of that transaction happens in the background. Things like: merchant accounts, gateways, payment methods, fulfillment methods, fraud services, taxes services, banking relationships, and optimized payment routing technologies. They are part of every transaction and a good solution will have multiple layers of each for redundancy purposes. Be cautious of solutions with low advertised rates because a lot of them require you to setup things like your own merchant account and handle fulfillment and taxes. But doing that also exposes a company to a lot of liabilities and additional fees that add up quickly. So if you go for a solution that isn’t full service, it probably means that you have to provide those things, like your own merchant account, which exposes you to extra liabilities.
  • Make sure there are no fees for turning on different currencies. I know there are some solutions that will charge a fee just to turn on or off a specific currency or a payment method. Some of these fees can be expensive depending on how big your business is. I’ve heard some fees for turning on the Euro currency, for example, it could be several thousand of dollars, just for turning those on or off! So pay attention to those fees.

  • And things like in-game stores or purchasing are a given these days. If a solution doesn’t offer in-game stores or some kind of in-game purchase, it may be good to pass on that solution.
  • Selling online is probably going to be the biggest part of your revenue so it’s critical to have customer service that’s available to you 24/7/365. It’s easy to overlook this part in order to get what seems like a cheaper rate. If you have an online business, the e-commerce solution you choose is absolutely critical to your success in the long run. If something were to go wrong, or you’re launching a new product or have a very tight deadline, you need to be able to actually get in touch with your ecommerce provider. So look for solutions with high customer reviews and ones that have won customer service awards in their industry.

Michelle:   Thank you, Michael!

Back to our listeners, thanks for listening to our first part of the episode.  For the later part, we will further discuss how e-commerce platform helps video game companies increase their revenue worldwide.  I’d like to thank our guest Michael Johnson from FastSpring for his contribution to this topic. If you have any questions, you could reach out to Michael directly at michael.johnson@fastspring.com. You can also check out the FastSpring.com website to get a feel for the company’s presence. And as always, if you have comments, suggestions or questions for us here at LAI Global Game Services, please feel free to e-mail us at podcast@lai.com or, you can even tweet us at LanguageAutoInc.

2015 Language & Translation Conferences

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Here is an updated list of upcoming conferences in language and translation, all around the globe, for 2015. Please feel free to contact us if you know of other related conferences that you don’t see posted here– The more the merrier!

 

January 9, 2015: Legal Translation Symposium, University of Roehampton, London, UK.

January 29-31, 2015: AIETI7 New Horizons in Translation and Interpreting Studies, Málaga, Spain.

March 27-28, 2015: Translation & Localization Conference. Warsaw, Poland.

April 23-25, 2015: ITI Conference 2015. Newcastle Gateshead, UK.

May 1-2, 2015: BP15. Zagreb, Croatia.

May 27-29, 2015: IV International Conference on Corpus Use and Learning to Translate. University of Alicante, Alicante, Spain.

June 1-7, 2015: Bread Loaf Translators’ Conference. Middlebury, Vermont, USA.

June  27-28, 2015: NZSTI Conference 2015, New Zealand Society of Translators and Interpreters. Wellington, New Zealand.

August 24-27, 2015: 15th International Conference on Translation, PPA15. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

November 4-7, 2015: ATA 16th Annual Conference, American Translators Association. Miami, Florida, USA.