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How Mobile Game Localization Can Increase Your Global Market Share


The gaming industry is no longer limited by geography. Gamers are now easily connecting with peers and developers across the globe. What does this mean for the industry?

Opportunities are bigger, but competition is bigger, too.

The global audience also has much less patience for mistakes and imperfections. If your game is not immersive, then gamers will simply look to one of the other thousands of developers that they can easily access from a mobile phone.

Many countries, especially those in Southeast Asia, have recently experienced huge upticks in the number of people with Internet access. The Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia are new markets that have plenty of room for new developers to bring their mobile games.

However, these new gamers are just as picky as any other market. You need to localize, transcreate and culturalize your games to these target audiences if you want to infiltrate!

Expanding into New Markets

Obviously, if you are sourcing a game in English, you will have trouble selling it in a place that does not speak English. This was the driving issue of gaming globalization fifteen years ago. Today, even games that have been translated cannot cross over into new markets. Why? There are more than language barriers getting in the way of acceptance across global borders.

Gamers in all locations have so much choice in games that they will not deal with games without a cultural bond to the local space. If a Western game goes to Tokyo looking like a Western game, it will not sell as well, if at all. If the game contains stereotypes or historical tidbits that could be considered racist or detrimental to the country, it may be completely banned from sale. This was the case for Bully in Brazil, Battlefield 4 in China, Reservoir Dogs in New Zealand, Homefront in North Korea and Medal of Honor: Warfighter in Pakistan.

The Look of Localization

Translated text is only the first step into the global gaming market. The second step is to get the images and icons transcreated into the culture of the target market.

For instance, Uber changed its seminal icon from a black car to a red car for China. The company also changed its slogan to imitate the official political title of the country, calling Uber “the people’s taxi.” Although Uber is not considered a game persay, it was one of the most successful app rollouts in history. Why? Red is an important color in Chinese culture, representative of good luck, fortune and joy. The country also stands firm in its marketing of “the people’s” resources, so Uber likely won major kudos from the government with that move.

Uber actually served as a leading indicator for consumer readiness in the gaming market around the globe. Lists of early adopters for the app coincide closely with upticks of mobile game downloads in an area. Simple visual cues that Uber used also work for many games, including resizing fonts to fit the differences in language and tweaking icons to correspond to common symbolisms in the culture.

Emerging and Mature Markets

Total downloads for mobile apps will be flatlining in mature markets. This does not mean that downloads will become a trivial pursuit in these markets – they will just be a smaller percentage of downloads in the global marketplace.

If you are looking to increase revenues in the Apple app store, China is the easiest place to do it. 75% of Chinese iOS downloads come from games. However, your games should be sophisticated enough to include in-appc subscriptions and social networking aspects. Coupons and mini games are great ways to market to this audience.

In South Korea, mobile games have increased while online gaming has actually decreased. This country also leads the world in digital adoption, so social games will perform very well here. It can be a challenge to localize a game that will be played between Asia and Europe, but it has been done with top MMORPGs like Tibia Micro Edition, Alchemia Story and AdventureQuest3D.

In emerging markets such as India, mobile localization requires slightly different tactics. The so called “Zombie Effect” in the country means that mobile games that require a lot of resources will not do well here – the digital infrastructure is weighed down from installations on cheap mobile phones. Smaller, simpler, one player games perform much better here because most people are looking for resource-light entertainment.

However, localization in India works in much the same way. Any game that is looking for success here should consider the native language and culture of the country (Hindi and Buddhism). Taking the time to do this will get you access to a $4.1 billion market in Latin America, $23.5 billion in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and $46.6 billion in the Asian Pacific region.

Expansion into the global marketplace is an important aspect of growth for any game producer or gaming studio. The world will only become more connected in the future, and producers who get out ahead of the curve will become the huge studios of the future. Learn the culture of the target countries and how to localize to them. This creates the immersive experience that gamers around the world search for. The political and technological backdrop of each target country will be very important for you to consider as well.