The 2 TOP Markets for Prominent Indie Developers

INTRO – OPEN CALL FOR GAME LOCALIZATION DATA!

LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing - Chinese - The Witness - Indie Developers - SteamSpy
Before we dive into this article, we’d like to take a moment to let you know we have an OPEN CALL for additional information.

If you are a game developer or publisher with any relevant localization data to contribute:

We appreciate your help in collecting more data for other indie developers to learn from!

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THE RISE OF LOCALIZATION: INDEPENDENT GAME DEVELOPERS

We decided to write this SPECIAL ARTICLE on game localization among prominent indie developers, because…

In just the past year or so, we’ve seen a tremendous rise in independent game developers –

  • Realizing game localization leads to boosts in sales!
  • Paying for localization in markets such as China and Russia.

This is a stark contrast to the past decade of indie development, where developers wouldn’t necessarily localize, or particularly PAY for quality localization.

We share our top picks of prominent indie developers who saw the advantages of localization – and enjoyed a sales boost as a result!

THE LOCALIZATION REVOLUTION – FROM EFIGS TO CHINA & RUSSIA

Not long ago, the go-to languages for localization were EFIGS – English, French, Italian, German and Spanish.
https://www.lai.com/en/eastern-europe-russia-game-markets
Now, we’re seeing a NEW TREND in game localization:

According to Sergio’s Steam Spy article “Steam in 2017,” the top 5 countries for players of independent games were:

  • 1. USA
  • 2. China
  • 3. Russia
  • 4. Germany
  • 5. UK

LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing Indie AAA - Global infographics - Market analysis
This data is reflected in the numbers seen by prominent indie developers localizing for other countries in recent years:

OUR TOP PICKS:
JONATHAN BLOW – THE WITNESS – THEKLA, INC.
CHINA

LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing - MENA Middle East Arabic - The Witness indie game developersCheck out Jonathan Blow’s video sharing China’s growth numbers for his game, The Witness.

The Witness came out in 2016, beginning with a low market penetration in China.

Just two years later, in 2018, China comprised more than half of the number of players (as compared to the USA).

Steam 2016 country breakdown for The Witness (shortly after launch):
LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing - Chinese - The Witness - Indie Developers - SteamSpy 2016

As Jonathan Blow states:

“In just two years, we’ve gone from this [China at 4% of players, #7 country], to this [China at 15% of players, #2 country], and that’s quite extreme.”

“Many games in the West, both small, independent games like mine, and bigger AAA games, are seeing this same kind of pattern.”

Steam 2018 country breakdown for The Witness:
LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing - China Russia - The Witness - Indie Developers

Why Blow Believes the Indie Sales Numbers Increased Globally

Jonathan Blow believes these numbers are at least partially due to accessibility:

“The market conditions changed in 2008 [...]

  • First of all, we had a big audience, as console and PC games had been getting more and more popular for years.
  • Secondly, all those people had access to fast internet, so they were able to download games, as in previous years, if you wanted to download a game you had to go to a store, and for a developer, getting a game into a store is very hard and very expensive.”

He also attributes this market shift to a decrease in the number of AAA games available (as production costs increased)…

creating a hole in the types of games available for purchase – a demand that indie developers easily met.
LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing Indie AAA - China Asia infographics - Market analysis

LAI’s Conclusion

LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing - 5 Stars Best - Indie AAAAs Jonathan Blow mentioned, the popularity of games has increased, not only in the USA, but in other parts of the world as well.

Internet penetration and speeds are increasing globally, and are catching up in emerging markets, such as the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Thumbs up icon made by Icon Monk from www.flaticon.com.

LAI’s Prediction:

Indie developers will not only see increasing user bases from China and Russia, but soon from emerging markets, meaning languages like Arabic will become more important in the future.

Just look at all the AAA studios localizing subtitles AND voiceover into Arabic now!

LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing Indie AAA - Middle East MENA Arabic infographics - Market analysis

JANE NG – FIREWATCH – CAMPO SANTO

LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing - Japan Japanese - Firewatch indie game developersIn this video, Jane Ng explains why popular indie game Firewatch opted out of the standard EFIGS (English, French, German, Italian, Spanish), and instead, localized into French, German, Spanish, Russian and Simplified Chinese and how this translated into game sales.

“I’ve heard from other developers that China is becoming a big market for them, especially if you do the step of localization.” – Jane Ng

She explains why the traditional EFIGS (English, French, Italian, German, Spanish) no longer makes sense, attributing it to the current breakdown of Steam users by country:

LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing - FIGS Russian Chinese - Campo Santo Firewatch - Indie Developers - SteamSpy Popular Countries

In these charts, you can see that as of late 2017, the top 5 game markets for Steam are:

  • #1: USA at 15%
  • #2: Russia at 10%
  • #3: China at 8%
  • #4: Brazil at nearly 5%
  • #5: Germany at 4.5%

According to Jane Ng, “Steam was only allowed to be in China in 2015, so in two years, [China] became [Steam’s] 3rd biggest market.”

LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing - China Chinese Wegame - Firewatch indie game developers

Following Campo Santo’s decision to localize into French, German, Spanish, Russian and Simplified Chinese, the top owners of Firewatch on Steam were made up of these language users:

  • #1: USA at nearly 34%
  • #2: China at 9%
  • #3: UK at nearly 7.81%
  • #4: Canada at 6.6%
  • #5: Russia at 6.2%
  • #6: Germany at 5.53%
  • #7: Australia at 3.72%
  • #8: France at 3.15%

(Further down on the list, Spain added 1.14% of players, bringing the total to over 25%.)

LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing - FIGS Russian Chinese - Campo Santo Firewatch - Indie Developers - Popular Top Owners Steam

Campo Santo could have lost out on nearly 24% of players by not localizing into French, German, Russian, and Chinese!
LAI’s Conclusion

LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing - 5 Stars Best - Indie AAAIn addition to EFIGS, consider localizing your games into Chinese and Russian!

With China and Russia in the #2 and #3 spots on Steam (under the USA), the market opportunity in both countries is significant and well worth the cost of localization.

Thumbs up icon made by Icon Monk from www.flaticon.com.



We compared Firewatch’s numbers by country to LAI & DFC’s Game Market Analyzer app (available for free on the App Store):

Countries Firewatch’s Top Language Owners on Steam GMA Predictions (Adventure)
China 9% (#2 Firewatch language market) 16.6%
Russia 6.2% (#5 Firewatch language market) 5.1%
Germany 5.53% (#6 Firewatch language market 7.0%
France 3.15% (#8 Firewatch language market) 4.8%
Spain 1.14% (#13 Firewatch language market) *1.3%
Total Actual: 25.02% Estimate: 34.8%

* Note that GMA recommends Latin American Spanish, comprising an estimated 6.3%.

** Note that in Jonathan Blow’s slides above, he listed China as 15% of The Witness owners. The Witness is also listed as an Adventure game on Steam, and this data is closer to the GMA app’s prediction for China at 16.6%.

LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing - China Chinese Russia Russian - Game Market Analyzer app - game market predictions Adventure
Screenshot of LAI & DFC’s free Game Market Analyzer (GMA) app. GMA Localization Analysis run for the PC Adventure genre, with a rough word count estimate of 40,000 (similar to a small novel).

* GMA’s other top picks for the PC Adventure genre include Korean at 8.9% estimated market penetration, Japanese at 8.9%, Portuguese Brazilian at 1.6% and Italian at 1.5%.

Additional Insights from Jane Ng:

LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing - China Chinese - Firewatch - Indie Developers - SteamSpy
LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing - FIGS Russian Chinese - Campo Santo Firewatch - Indie Developers - Steam China Jane Ng
LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing - FIGS Russian Chinese - Campo Santo Firewatch - Indie Developers - SteamSpy China Dont Starve Jane Ng

LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing - Russia Russian - Dont Starve game developers

LAI Key Facts:

The following facts are from LAI Global Game Services’ detailed insights on game industry statistics:

CHINA
  • China surpassed the US’ game revenue back in 2015 at $5.5 billion, back when Steam officially launched in the country.
  • China remains the world’s largest market for PC gaming for 8 years in a row. The US ranks 2nd for PC gaming, though it lags far behind at $4.2 billion.

LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing Indie AAA - Asia China Chinese infographics - Market analysis

RUSSIA
  • Russia’s game sales are higher than Spain, Europe’s 5th largest market.
  • Russia’s gamers are nearly double the size of the UK’s (40 million), France (44 million) and Italy’s (38 million).

LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing Indie AAA - Russia Eastern Europe CIS infographics - Market analysis

RAPHAEL VAN LIEROP – THE LONG DARK – HINTERLAND STUDIO

LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing - Long Dark Hinterland - China ChineseFollowing the trend of China and Russia surpassing many other game markers, Raphael van Lierop chimed in with The Long Dark’s top sales – China was the #2 market and Russia #3 (after the USA).

In the below conversation, Jane Ng also concludes that piracy is no longer an indicator of market viability in these countries:
LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing - FIGS Russian Chinese - Campo Santo Firewatch - Indie Developers - Steam China Russia Jane Ng Long Dark

CLIFF HARRIS (AKA CLIFFSKI) – DEMOCRACY – POSITECH GAMES

LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing - China Chinese - Democracy 3 - Indie Developers

Last year, Cliff decided to add Chinese support (and other languages) to one of his most popular strategy games Democracy 3:

LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing - China Chinese - Cliffski Cliff - Democracy 3

In December 2017, Cliff shared his growing numbers from China on his blog, “the % of revenue for Democracy 3 that comes from China each month has risen from 1% to 8%!”

LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing - China Chinese - Cliffski Cliff Blog - Democracy 3

Cliff has also been thinking about Russian localization for years:

LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing - Russia Italian - Cliffski Cliff - Democracy 3

LAI Insights

LAI Global Game Services - Best Video Game Localization Publishing Service Provider - FIGS CJK Russian ChineseAccording to the Game Market Analyzer, PC strategy games like Cliff’s may see the following market share by language:

Thumbs up icon made by Icon Monk from www.flaticon.com.

  • #1 English at 24%
  • #2 Simplified Chinese at 16.6%
  • #3 Korean at 9%
  • #4 Japanese at 8.4%
  • #5 German at 7.2%
  • #6 Spanish (LatAm) at 6.3%
  • #7 Russian at 4.8%
  • #8 French (Europe) at 4.6%
  • #9 Brazilian Portuguese at 1.6%
  • #10 Dutch at 1.6%
  • #11 Italian at 1.6%
  • #12 Spanish (Europe) at 1.3%

LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing - China Chinese Russia Russian - Cliffski Cliff Democracy 3 - Top Language Markets - Indie Strategy Games
Screenshot of LAI & DFC’s free Game Market Analyzer (GMA) app. GMA Localization Analysis analysis run for the PC Strategy game genre.

* Full breakdown of language by estimated market penetration listed above.

TANYA SHORT – THE SHROUDED ISLE – KITFOX GAMES

LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing - Japan Japanese - Shrouded Isle Kitfox Tanya Short
Tanya Short reported a heavy dose of localization for The Shrouded Isle, including French, German, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, and Korean.

She strongly recommends Japanese and Chinese localization:

LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing - Japanese Chinese - Shrouded Isle - Indie Developers - Tanya Short Kitfox

Following the release of Kitfox’s Moon Hunters into Russian, Tanya released a detailed Gamasutra article on indie game sales in Eastern Europe, where she gathered information from 18 indie games.

Her conclusion:

“Localizing to Russian could double your revenue in Russia, but has no effect in the rest of Eastern Europe.”

LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing Indie AAA - Russia Eastern Europe CIS infographics - Market analysis

LAI REFLECTIONS

LAI Global Game Services - Best Video Game Localization Publishing Service Provider - FIGS CJK Russian ChineseOverall, indie developers are seeing the importance – and reaping the rewards of localizing their games across genres – from open world adventure games, to linear story-driven games, to strategy games.

While independent developers are still seeing the benefits of French, German and Spanish (not necessarily Italian, giving that the market share is smaller than the aforementioned language markets), there are 2 languages that developers are particularly excited about:

  • Chinese (Simplified)
  • Russian

China and Russia were among the top 3 markets for The Witness, The Long Dark, and Don’t Starve Together, and among the top 5 for Firewatch.

LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing - Russia Russian - Moon Hunters - Indie Developers - Tanya Short Kitfox

Something LAI finds particularly interesting is that China and Russia are consuming independent games across many genres – puzzle, story-driven, strategy and action/survival.

This phenomenon isn’t evident in just one select genre.

It is unclear from the collection of presentations, articles and tweets we found whether any of these companies specifically marketed their games to Chinese and Russian players, or whether these numbers were solely due to organic growth from localization.

LAI Global Game Services - Game Localization Publishing -Japan Japanese - School Simulator - Indie Developers

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ANY INSIGHTS TO SHARE?

LAI Global Game Services - Best Video Game Localization Publishing Service Provider - FIGS CJK Russian ChineseIf you have any insights into whether any tailored marketing was involved for any of the above games, absolutely, let us know!

If you are a developer/publisher with data or insights for specific games, let us know.

We’ll continue to share more insights with people like you! Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter & Facebook!

Some of our clients:

LAI Global Game Services - Best AAA Indie Agile Game Localization Publisher - Clients Sony Ubisoft Level Up Havok SuperHot

LAI Global Game Services - Video Game Translation and Localization - Best Affordable Vendor Service Provider

Recommended articles & podcasts:

AAA & Indie localization

Localization Interviews

Guides to Global Markets

Thanks for reading!
- LAI Global Game Services Team

2017 Summer Trip across China: Chinese Indie Games, Publishers, E-sports, VR & More!

This article will talk about interesting game industry topics (RPG, Strategy Games, MOBA, Game License Number, Publishing in China, IP, monetization, art, risks, etc.) LAI encountered during our summer business trip (May to early August 2017) in China. 

Heading to China

Watching San Francisco’s summertime fog rolling in from the ocean, bringing continuous waves of cold, we decided to celebrate summer in a proper (red hot) way. Across the Pacific, with so many exciting events and lined-up meetings covering hot topics such as new publishing regulations and the rise of indie games in Greater China area, we packed our bags and headed East.

On the way to China, we had a short stop at Singapore, where our CEO gave a presentation, Free Tools and Strategies for Publishing Your Games Globally at Casual Connect Asia 2017. After a short flight, we continued our conversations in major cities in China, the world’s biggest consumer of games.

Continue reading

How LAI Adapted Mind Mould for the Asian market

by Michelle Zhao, Director – Global Publishing of LAI Global Game Services

asia infographic

The Asian market is doubtlessly one of the largest, most lucrative and fastest growing markets in the mobile gaming space. Market research firm Niko Partners predicts the Chinese market alone will reach $8.3 billion in 2017. [1] China is also well-known for its complex mobile gaming marketplace. Continue reading

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


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!).

Continue reading

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

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? Continue reading

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

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. Continue reading

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

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. Continue reading

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

 

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? Continue reading

Game Art Internationalization and Localization Interview with Lillian Lee

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. Continue reading

关注主机游戏:中国上海自贸区文化市场开放细则

1月初,中国政府解除了长达13年的游戏主机生产和销售禁令,给中国游戏市场未来注入一支新的兴奋剂。4月21日,上海市政府公布了《中国(上海)自由贸易试验区文化市场开放项目实施细则》。LAI在此转载,内容摘自上海市政府网站:

http://www.shanghai.gov.cn/shanghai/node2314/node2319/node12344/u26ai38861.html

英文版请查看:

Detailed Implementation Rules for Cultural Market Opening in the China (Shanghai) Free Trade Zone

 

市政府办公厅印发市文广影视局等制订的《中国(上海)自由贸易试验区文化市场开放项目实施细则》

沪府办发〔2014〕18号
上海市人民政府办公厅关于印发市文广影视局等五部门制订的《中国(上海)自由贸易试验区文化市场开放项目实施细则》的通知

各区、县人民政府,市政府各委、办、局:
市文广影视局、市工商局、市质量技监局、上海海关、中国(上海)自由贸易试验区管委会制订的《中国(上海)自由贸易试验区文化市场开放项目实施细则》已经市政府同意,现印发给你们,请认真按照执行。
上海市人民政府办公厅
2014年4月10日
中国(上海)自由贸易试验区文化市场开放项目实施细则 Continue reading