For many video game developers and publishers, Asia is an automatic “must” when considering global markets. At the forefront of global expansion considerations is typically Japan and China, acclaimed video game consumption giants, with a long standing ranking as 2 of the top 3 video game markets in the world. While Korea is often perceived as a market only for online game companies due to the large number of online players, experts see mobile platforms as a strategic opportunity because of recent and expected year-on-year growth for the market. In addition, Asia Pacific has the highest number of gamers than any other region, with roughly 50 million gamers versus North America's 30 million. With Asia’s video game industry comprising the largest market in the world, this region should be high on every game developer’s list of regions to target in the localization of their games.
It’s no secret that the Japanese game market has been struggling the past couple of years, seeing some market growth in 2012. However, game developers and publishers continue to view Japan as a key market for localization, particularly for mobile games. With half of Japan's $10.8B game industry comprised of smartphone spending, European-based companies like SuperCell and King ensure key titles continue to have localization support for Japanese consumers, according to a 2014 VentureBeat article. Japan has long been considered the video game hotspot, and game developers and publishers continue to automatically localize their games for the market, as mobile gaming revenues have grown "five-fold in the last two years," and social gaming continues to outperform mobile (MarketResearch.com).
China is one of the top countries right now, given the incredible growth in the country, reaching $13 billion in total revenue in 2013, with almost 40% year-on-year growth, up from $9.8 billion during 2012 (Kotaku). According to Games In Asia, the majority of the revenue come from PC games, standing at 64.5% of the industry's revenue - equating to $8.7 billion and making it the world's largest market for PC gaming (VentureBeat).
While mobile and PC figures currently comprise significant portions of the video game market in China, console developers are aiming to gain significant marketshare now that the ban on consoles has lifted. Both Microsoft and Sony have big plans for the Chinese market, with Sony representatives stating China is a particularly "attractive market." This interest correlates with analysts' views of the region, as David Rubenstein, a managing director of Advanced Research Japan in Tokyo, states, "In China you don't need to have a large market share to hit your numbers. You just need a few million enthusiastic gamers."
With developers and publishers across various platforms competing for marketshare in China, LAI earmarked China some time ago as a key region for our own operations, having opened multiple offices in main cities of China and adding a special division of LAI - LAI Global Game Services. A major factor for success in China and across the Asia Pacific is ensuring foreign games feel local and culturally relevant to Chinese gamers (LAI Blog). Our use of native game translators and collaboration companies allows us to deliver unparalleled game translation services with local expertise.
South Korea has long been known for its success with online games. Korea currently stands at $2.8 billion in the online games market (2nd in the world, behind China) and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 3.7%, reaching $3.5 billion by 2018. While online games comprise the largest share for the games market in Korea, mobile gaming has grown a significant amount, over 250% in the last year to $1 billion in revenue.
Following a slight dip in the PC online gaming market in 2012, experts feared an oversaturated market, resulting in a push of mobile games. Given mobile gaming's incredible growth in the past year, experts are now questioning to what extent mobile gaming will "disrupt the market."
What Makes or Breaks Business in Asia?
Due to the importance of personal relationships in the business cultures of these countries, when assessing game translation and localization vendors for the region, you should look to an organization that can bring you a deeper connection with key local players. For example, in Japan (according to World Business Culture), it is essential to bear in mind cultural emphasis on old traditions, loyalties, and personal relationships. However, World Business Culture’s Tip #1 for doing business in Japan is to focus on relationships, since “relationships drive business in Japan. Without the right depth of relationships with the right people, it can be very difficult to achieve anything.” Due to the time it takes to garner the relationships necessary to most effectively conduct business at a local level, you should leverage the long-standing relationships of vendors central to your company’s success in the Asian market, such as your localization vendor. With over 20 years in the video game translation and localization business, LAI has a thorough understanding of key players and has spent the past 2 decades fostering strategic relationships in the region with you – the video game developer/publisher – in mind.
As in Japanese business culture, “guanxi” – personal relationships – are considered vital in China. World Business Culture warns that the importance of the relationship building process should not be underestimated. LAI began its China initiative as a result of the incredible value we pass onto you due to our expansive understanding of the Chinese game market and unique resources we have acquired throughout our experience in the Chinese game industry. The Korean industry is no different, as the quality of relationships is considered the “key to business success.” In Korea, there is even a saying that advises the importance of these relationships, “Make a friend first and a client second.” Due to LAI’s strategic decision to remain a boutique game localization and publishing company amidst a growing population of large, corporate translation vendors, we ensure personal relationships are at the forefront of all business activities. (In fact, if you see on LAI's Twitter feed or monthly e-newsletter that our travel plans or attendance at a conference fit in with your own plans, you have an open invitation to coffee with our CEO!)
When considering markets for game translation and localization, from Southeast Asia to the highly competitive space in Japan, China, and South Korea and beyond, to the rest of the global market, it can be rather difficult to determine which region will yield the highest ROI. That is why we at LAI are working to add to our database of pertinent facts and statistics to ensure you are well-informed as you evaluate which markets are best for your organization.
LAI strives to keep game developers and publishers updated on key markets for localization. If you find any errors or have additional information to add, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also stay informed of our new webpages by subscribing to LAI's monthly e-newsletter. Please check back soon on LAI's Global Game Industry Statistics page, as we frequently update our web content to reflect new key facts and market projections. Latest page update: July 2014.