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, or you can even twit us at LanguageAutoInc.

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, 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?

    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 You can also check out the 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 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 You can also check out the 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 or, you can even tweet us at LanguageAutoInc.

Game Art Internationalization and Localization Interview with Lillian Lee

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Our latest installment of LocaLAIse This! takes a look at game localization from an artist standpoint. LAI’s Managing Director of China interviews Lillian Lee, our newest Game Art Localization Consultant with 12+ years in the industry. Lillian has served as an artist for AAA games such as The Darkness 2 and BioShock 2, and her expertise in Asian culture has been a tremendous asset in her work as an artist across studios, including Ubisoft and Red 5 Studios.

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

Game Localization – Art [Featuring Lillian Lee, Game Art Localization Consultant, LAI Global Game Services]


Hello, everyone! Welcome back to LocaLAIse this. My name is Michelle Zhao, and I am the Managing Director for Greater China area here at LAI Global Game Services. Today we are very happy to introduce the newest member of our team, Lillian Lee. Lillian is a game artist and is truly an industry veteran. Now she is also working as an art localization specialist for us here at LAI Global Game Services.  So today we are featuring the artistic aspect of Game Localization. Let’s welcome Lillian.


Q: Lillian, do you mind simply introducing yourself? As I know, you have worked and lived in China for 8 years and North America for 5 years as a game artist.

A: Hi Everyone, my name is Lillian.  I joined the game industry back in 1999, and I have developed PC, web, mobile, console, and online games in China, the United States and Canada.

During my experience in different countries, I have met so many interesting people and made many projects that I am pretty proud of.

For example: the Virtual life series for PC back in 2000.

More recently: Bioshock 2, Darkness 2 are both console games I have worked on.

And the online sci-fi games: Firefall and Warframe which are still very popular in the current game market.

Q: Now my first question is: What do you find are the most interesting facts as a game industry professional who has worked in the two different cultures?

Well, let me think…I think people in different country’s development studios have different work attitudes and team structures.


1.     Work Attitudes
Usually, people in western studios are very creative and very thoughtful.  They have a tendency to dig deeply into a single asset, to focus on certain ideas and to be willing to put more time into lots of ideas. However, hard and creative work always consumes more time to complete, which can make the art design or production take longer than the original schedule.


On the other hand, people in eastern companies are more focused on making the product on time with ok quality. They usually do not focus so much on specific ideas. Their goals are to follow what they are told to do and work quickly and finish the work on time ….  so they might not think so much about the depth of content.


For example, a Western artist could spend one or two weeks to create an art item in the game while a Chinese game artist might only take 3 or 4 days for the same model.


Through this process, I realized that professional developers and artists look at details in different ways. They must be willing to adjust every tiny aspect when it is necessary. That is important when you are willing to make a world class game.


2.     Team Structures
In China, most game development teams are divided into very small groups.  For instance one environmental game art team will be made of many small sub-teams.  Each sub-team will contain 4 to 6 team members. So the whole team will have a top leader and several sub team leaders.


However in North America, the team organization structure is much flatter. One leader might oversee 15-30 team members.  That brings potential issues. One is that some junior guys might lack sufficient training or help. And, if this leader is not available or is away for a long time, the whole team may panic a little without direction or everyone could be waiting for him before proceeding with the next step. This can affect quality and time.


(Different cover art styles for the same game in different markets)


Q: It’s good to know those differences. As a game art veteran, could you give us some general tips on Art Internationalization/Localization (western vs. eastern examples)

(Different cover art styles for the same game in different markets)

A: Sure, I can give several tips here:

First, let’s talk about color: color can have different possible meanings to different cultures.

For example: In the west, the color red is considered an aggressive color that makes people think of blood, fire, and other scary elements. A Stop sign is red!! It makes you think of danger.


However, in China, red is considered a happy color that represents good elements in holidays especially like the Chinese New Year.  And also for traditional Chinese wedding dress.


(Chinese wedding)

To contrast that, let’s talk about the color white. As you know, that is a typical color for western wedding dresses. But in China, white is the color used for traditional funerals.

(Chinese traditional funeral clothes vs Western wedding)

So, we have to think very carefully about what colors are used when you are designing art for different cultures.


After that, let’s talk About the Shape:

Hmm, I’d like to use the dragon as a quick example.  The mental image that pops up when I say the word ‘dragon’ is different between western and eastern cultures.

In western tales, the dragon is often pictured as a dinosaur shaped animal. It is wild and scary, it is a fire-breathing monster!!

But, In the east, the dragon has more of an auspicious image. It’s usually a sign of power and good luck. So when you mention a game about dragons, the Chinese will never imagine the same type of dragon perceived in the western society.

In addition, some other things to consider are removing sensitive culture, religious, and political elements. You want to remove those culture tabooswhichmake your audience uncomfortable or could be potentially banned by the government.

(Dragons: East on the Left, West on the Right.)

Q: My next question is: Will certain Logo styles help to sell the game when people are searching on the App Store?

Yes!  That is for sure!!

Hmm, Logos are the first selling window of the game.  You need to make your game stand out quickly in the game logo ocean.   It is essential that you use some bright color and high contrast to draw the player’s attention, like a cute and beautiful style is always very welcome in China, or very unique design to be eye-catching. A good example is Minecraft’s logo matches the simple and unique art style and it blends nicely with the game.  This helps the game stand out visually compared to the other games in the market.

Bottom line, this logo is also part of your game, so it is very important to maintain the same art style and also convey the deep meaning to your game as well.


Do you have some additional tips for us in terms of UI and icon design?

A:  I think each game has its own unique style.  But a golden rule is that this style must be meaningful and make a connection to players in different cultures.  When I’m analyzing a game for art localization, I don’t just update the icon or UI with localized text, I dig deeper into why it should be changed and how it should be specifically designed to appeal to a certain target audience. In the meanwhile it must also still match the established style which comes from the original game.

Making a good UI design has so many aspects to it!  This is like asking the question, how do I become a millionaire?  The answer is, there are many paths to reach the same goal, however the same path is not appropriate for every game.


So here are a few tips:

  •  First, You’ll need to focus on your intended target audience group.  There’s not one simple solution to cover all situations. It’s a very creative process to customize a localized Logo and UI to the projected market.
  • Then, you have to know what kind of circumstance the player will be in when they are playing a particular game.  Will they play it at home or on the way to somewhere?

For example, in China, many mobile games are played on a shaking bus or metro train.  So, this will affect how they can use the icons and buttons.

It is better to design a simple game UI and icons that are not too complicated.  So:

  • The UI or icons should be designed to be very bright without too many small details or too colorful.  It is very easy to wear your eyes out during these moving conditions, and there are moments where it is hard for your fingers to press a button accurately.  People might get annoyed very quickly.


  • On the other side, all buttons should be easy to find. Most of the time, people are playing games just to relax and enjoy a little spare time. If the game screen is too busy, it’s hard to press precisely or even difficult to find where the button is.  If that happens, you will lose this player forever in just a few minutes.


All in all, it is very important to have a deep understanding of each particular game you are working on while doing the localization. This understanding will help you make better UI and icons that match the existing game as well as help to consolidate the whole game play experience!


Q: From your observation, what are the art style preferences in the different game markets you’ve worked for (west vs. east)?


A: In the Chinese market, the mainstream art style is cute and beautiful. However, in the West, we often find more varieties in art style.  So as a general rule, in China, people prefer only a very few particular art styles.

At the same time, we believe the definition of beauty also needs to be localized  For example: Shrek and Mulan. Those are popular cartoon images in US. However in China, people might consider they are not that pretty because of how they look. Shrek is neither cute, nor handsome. Many Chinese audiences don’t think Mulan in the Disney movie represents an Asian beauty in their eyes. Mulan is a very famous story in China, so people all expect that she should be very beautiful and brave.

(Mulan -Disney vs.a Chinese version)

(Mulan’s image from the Chinese movie Hua Mulan)

In China, many Chinese players find Japanese or Korean cartoon styles cute and perfectly beautiful characters very appealing.  The reason behind this is in China in earlier times, most players could not afford a gaming console and also it really was not accessible.  So many players have a long history of playing free Korean or Japanese online games or watching Japanese cartoon TV series.  People are quite familiar with those styles after so many years of exposure.

To help you visualize the art styles let me give you a few examples:

Japanese Games

  • SAGA2, Secret of Mana, and the very famous one: Final Fantasy series

Korean Game

  • Blade & Soul and AION.

Japanese Cartoons

  • Mobile Suit Gundam, Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball.

(A comparison between US and Japanese version of a very popular Japanese show)

Another significant group of popular games are ones themed in ancient Chinese history stories. These games are usually supported by the government because they are considered to carry forward history and culture. So those game themes and style are very popular in China as well.


Q: Last question: As a native Chinese speaker, what are your suggestions for a western game going into Chinese market?

A: Well, I know that in China, because the population is so huge, all public facilities including the transportation system are crowded. Waiting in queues is very common in everyday life. In the larger cities, people will consistently spend one or two hours commuting.  While waiting in the queue or transferring to the bus or metro, people play games to make this time more enjoyable. It’s important to design mobile game modes around these typical settings.

Here are few tips:

  1. The game is not very complicated.  It should be very easy to handle in just a few minutes from the start.
  2. The game has an on-hold function.  This allows players to easily get into and out of the game for a short time. Like getting off the bus or getting on the bus.
  3. With slow or limited internet access during commute or waiting time, people can still play certain social or online games without noticing the poor connection.
  4. The game could do better if they connected with Chinese social media like Weibo, Renren or Wechat. Which helps the players in their own social circle to play the game and communicate all the time.
  5. In China game playing is very limited to a certain group of people.  A majority of the players are in the age range of 6-28 years old. This demographic has a high impact on the desired art style – cute and beautiful, which makes the popular art style lean towards a younger crowd.
  • On the other side, because of the population size, people in China are highly competitive. This is seen through how they compare their social status with each other through their cars, clothing, and even games.  When it comes to games what matters most is who has the better weapons, armors, scores, and even nicer in-game skins.
  • Games will need to offer possible functions like a ranking list, different item levels, different skin styles, armor, and special items to purchase.
  • Oh, I have to mention this: Showing off is really an important ability to lot of Chinese game players. That is the whole reason why free to play online games are so popular! There is a new word:  Chinese pronunciation:土豪 (English meaning: The new money or newly rich),those people are establishing their online virtual social status by buying so many expensive and super cool weapons or skins. Yeah, I know it sounds quite crazy, but it is a true phenomena really happening everyday In China’s game world.

Oh, don’t forget, In China, obeying government policy is very vital because if a game contains porn, violence, or bloody content, it will be permanently banned.

(Final Fantasy art style is viewed as perfectly beautiful in many Asian eyes.)


All in all, think deeply and carefully about the following questions when you are considering localizing a western game for the Chinese market:

  1. Who are the major players you are aiming for?
  2. What are their game play habits?
  3. What does their lifestyle look like?
  4. What are their favorite images, styles, stories and game prototypes?
  5. What are their game consumption habits?
  6. What type of game design would players play for one day? One week? One month? One year or even longer?
  7. How do you want to build user retention within a game?

Once you can clearly answer all of these questions, I think you are good to go!


Lillian, Thank you very much for joining us and sharing your tips and experience about Art Localization today. We’ve learned a lot from you about art design in the east and west, and Does and Don’ts while East Meets West.

For our podcast followers, thanks for listening. We hope you find today’s podcast interesting and useful. If you have any questions or comments, please contact us by emails. Our email address is


Thanks again, we will see you soon.



What’s the Video Game Market Like in the MENA Region? Check out our EXCLUSIVE Interview!

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New this month is an interview we conducted with Lebanese-based game developer Game Cooks.  After describing the state of the video game market in the Arab region, we sat down with Lebnan Nader, General Manager at Game Cooks, to learn more about the company’s regionally-inspired games and his take on MENA gamers.

We discussed topics critical to developing a deeper understanding of the cultural nuances and preferences of local players.  Central to the discussion was the importance of localization and the need for culturally-sensitive video games.

INTERVIEW BELOW!  Some hot topics include:

  • How much of your games were influenced by the Arab region, and how have players responded to the integration of Arab elements?
  • What music was selected for Birdy Nam Nam and Run for Peace, and why was that music chosen?
  • What is the video game market like in the MENA region, and how has it evolved?
  • Are other game developers in the region creating culturally and regionally-focused games, and would you like to see more developers within the MENA region and around the world create culturally-focused games?
  • What do you think about the way in which AAA developers portray Arabs and Africans in video games?
  • Do you believe MENA gamers prefer locally-produced games or games made abroad and then localized for your region?

Check out our three part video, and be sure to sign up for our company newsletter to stay up-to-date with future interviews, blog posts, and industry conferences & updates!

Part 1: An Overview of the Video Game Market in the Arab World

Part 2: An Introduction to Lebanese-Based Developer Game Cooks and the Integration of Arab Game Elements

Part 3: An In-Depth Discussion of MENA Gamers, Local Preferences, Regionally-Inspired Games, and AAA Developers’ Portrayal of Arabs and Africans

LAI’s New Video Interview Series about Culturally-Focused Video Games – Mexico & Day of the Dead

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This month marks the start of our new video interview series beginning with an independent developer based in Mexico City!  Our interview series highlights game companies that create video games inspired by culture and rooted in regional tradition.  Below is our 3-part interview series with Phyne Games, a company recently featured on MTV for Mictlan - a game based on Day of the Dead.  The entire interview can also be viewed on our YouTube playlist.


Part 1 includes an introduction describing the state of the video game industry in Mexico. Part 2 marks the beginning of the interview and Part 3 the second half and conclusion. If you have suggestions for improvements or interest for future participation in a LAI interview, please tweet us @LanguageAutoInc.


Part 1: Introduction to Phyne Games and the Mexican video game market


Part 2: The beginning of LAI’s interview with Phyne Games


Part 3: The second half and conclusion of LAI’s interview with Phyne Games