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Is Localization Worth It?

Did you know that the US, Canada, UK and Australia together make up only 30% of the entire global games market?

That means 70% of games revenue comes from non-English speaking countries! Emerging markets like Southeast Asia, Latin America and the Middle East are among the hottest and fastest growing regions. To get into any of these markets you need to localize your game, otherwise you're at a huge disadvantage and simply can't compete.

Localization is all about adapting your game for a foreign market so it creates the smoothest, most seamless and immersive experience for your gamers. Setting that as your goal will keep gamers coming back to play your game, improving retention and ROI, important for your game to be successful in these highly-competitive markets.

We’ve partnered with LAI Global Game Services, the leading experts in game localization for 25+ years, to provide top localization tips for indie developers.

Top localization tips for indie developers

Tip 1: Not all markets are equal! Follow the top markets for your game!

Take racing games for example - Racing games are popular in the Middle East and Mexico, but action games are more popular in Italy. So, you may want to translate your racing game into Arabic and Spanish, rather than, say, Italian.

Use a tool like LAI's Game Market Analyzer to zero in on those markets where your game can enjoy the widest possible audience and attract the most suitable gamers.

Tip 2: Think about localization early when you're starting to design your game.

Once you've decided on your target markets, you need to make sure your game can be localized for those markets. You need to make sure your overall game concept, character design, story and other assets can be changed if necessary, so they won't clash with cultural norms, monetization preferences, regulatory constraints or other expectations of the target markets.

You will also need to have the right architecture in place so you can scale your game by easily adding locales. Make sure that your localization workflow is robust and scalable so you can push out updates in multiple languages quickly, which will help to improve player retention and LTV.

Tip 3: Work with an expert who can help advise you on local market conditions. 

Work with a consultant or publisher who understands the nuances and cultural preferences of your target markets which are often quite different, especially in emerging markets. For example, Fallout almost made its way to India - but the development team realized too late that a certain cow asset couldn’t be replaced.

Tip 4: To be competitive you need more than good localization. You need great localization.

Be sure your translations are checked by native speakers who are also experienced gamers.Your friend/relative/etc. who speaks (insert language) may be able to translate for free. Someone who isn’t a gamer won’t know how to translate common phrases and acronyms, such as HP and MP, they may also have little to no knowledge of your games subject matter. Google translating your game also won't cut it!

Try back-translating your translation in Google and see what happens. In many languages the same word in English can have multiple translations each with a different nuance, and choosing the right one depends on the context.For example, the word 'play' can have multiple translations, depending on language (Italian and Japanese, for example). Google is likely to choose the wrong translation since it doesn’t understand context.

Experienced game localizers know what other gamers in the target market expect and will give your game the best chance of success.

Tip 5: Don't get overly stressed on costs or budget.

Calculate your localization ROI using a tool such as LAI's Game Market Analyzer app, so you can better evaluate the possible return for each market.It's more important to understand the changes needed to adapt and localize your game to make it successful, and then have a localization expert who knows the target market help you prioritize those changes so you understand the tradeoffs.

Tip 6: Tailor your social media to win at localization.

Think about how to reach your localized audience. Some countries restrict access to commonly used social media platforms. China restricts Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others. Indonesia blocks reddit, imgur and others.

This means that gamers in China won’t see Facebook ads for your game, and gamers in Indonesia will miss out on your Reddit IAMA.

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