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

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?”

  2. 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?”

  3. (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 Discover the Best Languages 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.

  2. 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.)

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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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)

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