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

A Unique Offer for Indie Developers & Publishers!

OPERATION: “Bring My Games Global”

There’s an idea we floated around for a while at LAI Global Game Services, and we’re finally ready to share it with all of you!
 

We’ll go into more detail below…but basically, we developed an INNOVATIVE WAY of providing LOW COST (and, in some cases, even FREE!) game LOCALIZATION and GLOBAL MARKETING services, for select developers and publishers.
 

This is an OPEN OFFER, with no deadlines – open to teams of all sizes! – who have:

 

  • Limited capabilities in game localization and global game marketing (due to financial restrictions) or,
  •  

  • Difficulty convincing upper management of the viability of markets abroad.

 
This may even include a degree of financial support available for developers with limited funds!

 

Background

For years now (we’ve been around since the ‘90s!), we watched as independent game developers burst onto the global stage and dazzled the world with your creativity and innovation.

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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.

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LAI Interviews IndieDevs: Why More Indies Now Pay for Professional Game Localization

With the world increasingly more global and games reaching broader audiences than ever before, indie developers are localizing their games at higher rates.

In this blog post, we interviewed two indie studios, both of which used professional localization services to localize their games.

IndieDev Game Localization - Stupid Stupid Johnny Graves - MegaDwarf Games God of Word
 

As a localization & publishing company, we were curious to understand why more indie developers are starting to make the leap in paying for professional game localization.

LAI Global Game Services - Best AAA & Indie Agile Game Localization
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LAI’s Official GMA Contest – Win FREE Game Localization!

Calling all game developers & publishers!

You may have heard of an app we developed called GMA – the Game Market Analyzer. Well, we’re looking for feedback and giving YOU the chance to win FREE game localization!*

 

The top 3 submissions will receive FREE localization of app descriptions (of up to 200 words) for 3 languages of your choosing! See the Official Contest Graphic below for more details.

 

The rules are laid out in LAI’s Official GMA Contest Graphic below, but it’s really simple! All you have to do is:

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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

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

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Learning Languages with Video Games!

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

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

Acquiring New Language Skills

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

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

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

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

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

Localized Pokémon Names

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

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

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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