Chinese Game Localization: A Billion-Player Market

China is one of the largest countries in the world, and in terms of population, it is the biggest. Did you know that China was also the biggest game market in the world? Continuing our game markets series, today we are talking all about China’s game market and the importance of Chinese game localization. Don’t forget to read our take on the Turkish, Arabic, and Russian game market as well!

Unlocking China’s Gaming Goldmine: Revenue, Players, and the Power of Localization

In 2022, the gaming revenue of China reached 45.5 billion USD. I know it’s hard to imagine how much money that is, so let me put it this way: game companies from China generated 47% of the mobile gaming revenue worldwide. That’s almost half the total mobile game market! There are two big gaming companies in China: Tencent and NetEase. These two companies together make up 61% of domestic game revenues.

The number of players in China was 668 million in the first half of 2023. That means more than 600 million Chinese speakers (well, considering most of them speak Chinese). Let’s also not forget that the English proficiency in China is not high. China ranks 62 out of 111 countries in terms of English proficiency, which means that it is quite low. So, what can game developers do to reach this fruitful region? The answer lies in Chinese game localization.

Chinese Game Localization is Crucial


Localization should always be a priority for game developers and publishers, but in the case of China, it becomes even more important. Let’s look at some key elements:

1- The number of Chinese speakers is more than 1 billion! There is a great opportunity there that you, as a game developer or publisher, should not miss.

2- The smartphone penetration is quite high as well, exceeding 1 billion in 2022. This is especially important when it comes to mobile games. Chinese players prefer to play on their mobile phones more often, but it is crucial that they bond with the game. In order to create that loyalty, Chinese game localization is crucial.

steam3- One of the most common languages of Steam is Chinese. According to Statista, the latest research done in October 2023 shows that Steam users use the platform in Chinese almost as much as English! In February 2023, the percentage of Chinese was only 23%, which means there is a big boom in Chinese-speaking users. As you can see, 1/3 of Steam users are Chinese -or they prefer Chinese as their first language-. By prioritizing Chinese game localization, you can reach this big portion much more easily.

I won’t go into much detail about the importance of localization here, but if you are curious about that, check out one of our previous blogs, The Art of Game Localization.


Key Points to Consider in Chinese Game Localization

It is important to enter the Chinese market with a lot of research and information. Making mistakes along the way could be detrimental to your brand. So, it’s important to become an expert or start this process with experts. What should you keep in mind if you want to enter this lucrative market?

simplified vs. traditional

1- Simplified or Traditional Chinese?

Basically, this distinction refers to differences in writing systems. Simplified Chinese is used in mainland China, Singapore, and Malaysia. Traditional Chinese is used in Taiwan and Hong Kong. How do you decide between these two? Well, the optimal way to go is to conduct localization with both of them so that you can reach a bigger audience. But if you have to choose, it all comes down to which area you’re targeting. If you want to reach players in Taiwan, go with Traditional Chinese; however, if your target audience is located in mainland China, then Simplified Chinese might be a better choice.

Mandarin vs. Cantonese

2- Mandarin or Cantonese or something else entirely?

When it comes to selecting the appropriate Chinese dialect for your game localization, it’s again essential to consider your target audience and the regions you aim to reach. The choice between Mandarin, Cantonese, or other Chinese dialects can significantly impact the success of your game. Prioritize Mandarin if your primary target market is mainland China or if you want to reach a larger audience. However, if your primary target market is Hong Kong or Southern China, prioritize Cantonese. And if you are targeting very specific regions where other dialects are used, then you might want to opt for other dialects.

In the ideal scenario, conducting localization for both Mandarin and Cantonese and potentially other dialects would maximize your game’s reach across various Chinese-speaking regions. However, if you must choose, it all boils down to your target audience’s geographic location and cultural alignment. Prioritizing the correct dialect can make your game feel more relatable and engaging for players, increasing its chances of success in the Chinese market, especially if you’re doing voice-overs as well.

3- Technical aspects are also important

When dealing with Chinese localization, it’s essential to consider layout and text lengths. Chinese is known for its conciseness, often resulting in translated text with fewer characters compared to the original content. However, to maintain legibility, we might have to use a larger font size. This is usually for the quality assurance part, but it is important to keep this in mind during the localization process as well. This difference in size can lead to the content occupying more vertical space, potentially impacting the layout and overall user interface design.

4- We cannot ignore cultural differences

Cultural considerations play a pivotal role. China is a country rich in history and traditions. It’s imperative to navigate these cultural nuances with sensitivity. From symbolism and color choices to historical references and social customs, understanding and respecting these cultural subtleties is essential. Not doing a good job with culturalization can lead to alienation or even offense among your target audience. Therefore, a deep appreciation for Chinese culture, combined with rigorous research and consultation, is crucial to ensure that your localized content resonates positively and authentically with Chinese players.

There are also some sensitivities that need to be taken care of. Game developers must exercise caution, especially regarding political content. For instance, a ban was imposed on Football Manager 2005 due to its recognition of Taiwan and Tibet as independent states. Additionally, scenes featuring elements like blood, drugs, skeletons, sexuality, or any form of defamation against the government can lead to the prohibition of your game.

Chinese game localization is not just a suggestion; it’s a critical strategy for game developers looking to thrive in this flourishing market. And it’s also clear that if you’re contemplating making your mark in China, working with a top-tier localization agency is a must. We understand the intricacies of the Chinese market, and we’re here to guide you through the labyrinth of localization. Your journey into the world of global gaming success starts here with us.

Written by
Ecenaz Batur
Marketing Specialist

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