We already talked about what video game localization is (don’t forget to check that blog here) and what makes it important, and we have also touched briefly upon how you should localize. Today, we will be diving into the specifics of how you should localize!
Game localization is important, but how do I decide on the languages?
Now that you have decided to localize your game, you might be thinking about which languages you want to localize into. You might have a limited budget and want to minimize the number of languages you localize into, or you might simply want to try out localization with just a few languages at first. You need to choose the right languages to maximize your revenue. So, how can you make this decision?
Let’s say you have developed a game and it’s only in English. You see that your game is getting popular and you decide to read the reviews. If the players are repeatedly asking for language support for certain languages, then it might be wise to listen to them and choose to localize your game into these languages. But what if you can’t find any clues about what the players want? Then, you’re going to have to ask yourself some questions.
Know Your Own Game
No video game is identical to each other. In order to make an informed decision about your own video game localization path, you need to take your game’s features into account. Here are some of the questions you might want to ask yourself:
1- Is my game suitable for the target market? Your game could be a phenomenon in one market, but maybe it isn’t suitable for the target market. There are many cultural differences to take into account; a very popular game in the East could have no impact on the players in the West, or the content of your game might be seen as insensitive and disturbing in a certain market, etc.
2- Can the players in the target market afford my game? You might think you chose the perfect language for your game, but if nobody buys your game, you can’t see the expected results. To further this question, it is also important to consider if they are willing to pay for your game, regardless of whether they can afford it or not.
3- What is the English proficiency level in the target market? If it is very high, you might think there is no need for localization, and you may be right. But remember, even if the target audience can understand English, most of them still prefer their mother tongue over English. So especially if your game is content-heavy, it might be a smart move to still localize your game. You can take a look at the English proficiency levels in EF EPI.
Top 10 Countries for Gaming Revenue
Okay, now that you answered these questions, and you are closer to making a decision, let’s take a look at the top countries for gaming revenue. According to Statista, when it comes to gaming revenue, the United States is the leader in 2022 with China right behind. Keeping in mind that we are assuming your game is in English, the most profitable language to localize into seems like Chinese. Right after China, we can see other Eastern countries. So we now have three languages to localize into: Chinese (but which Chinese?), Japanese and Korean.
I am excluding the UK and Canada because they speak mainly English. Next on the list, we have Germany, France, and Italy. Most developers’ first choice is to enter these markets, so they localize their games into FIGS, that is French, Italian, German, and Spanish. To be honest, it might be a good idea to start with these, but if you localize ONLY into these languages, you’re gonna be missing out a lot!
The different versions of languages
Let’s talk a little bit about the thing I said before: which Chinese?
People in China and people in Taiwan do not speak the exact same language.
People in Portugal and people in Brazil do not speak the exact same language.
The same thing goes for people in Argentina and people in Spain. So how do we get out of this situation?
The answer is simple: have a different localization for each region. The purpose of localization is to eliminate the element of foreignness for the target audience. If you localize into European Spanish, your players in Argentina will feel neglected and the game will still feel foreign to them.
On the right, you can see the most common main languages of Steam in February 2023. If you have a limited budget and cannot localize into multiple versions of the same language, this chart could give you some ideas as to which versions you should prioritize.
We see Simplified Chinese, European Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese. Of course, we should highlight that the ideal solution is to localize into all versions, but if you have to choose one, you might consider localizing into these to reach a bigger audience.
Don’t Forget MENA!
We see Turkish is the 10th most common language of Steam. With 1.2 billion dollars worth of gaming revenue in 2021, Turkey ranks 7th for gaming revenue among European countries and 1st in MENA. It is one of the fastest-growing markets.
Arabic is also an important language when it comes to video game localization. Since there are many Arabic-speaking countries, when you localize your game into Arabic, you open the door to 400 million Arabic speakers! Yet this is not the only reason why developers prefer to localize their games into Arabic. The players in Saudi Arabia are willing to pay a lot for mobile gaming. The average revenue per paying user in Saudi Arabia is 270 US$ while it is only 32 US$ in China. By localizing into Arabic, even if you cannot reach as many people as you would if you localized into Chinese, you might still earn more revenue in the end.
Let’s wrap it up, shall we? Here are the languages we have talked about:
As stated before, there are important aspects to consider as well, such as your game’s audience, target audience’s paying habits, English proficiency level, etc. Each game is unique and therefore needs special attention. Yet starting your localization journey with these 10 languages and expanding as time goes by might be the best decision. It is perfectly normal to be confused, you have a certain budget for localization and you want to see the best results. This is why it might be wise to resort to an experienced video game localization agency. They know the markets, they know the trends, and they will be helpful every step of the way.
Looking for getting tailored solutions for your game localization projects? Let’s open up a whole new world together!