A primary goal of any business is to generate revenue and ensure continued revenue growth. The gaming industry is no exception. But how can gaming apps generate more revenue and grow their business? For one, breaking into new markets.
One of the largest and fastest-growing app markets is Russia. The Russian gaming market is rapidly growing, reaching $1.2 billion in 2015. As such, gaming developers looking to expand should definitely explore what the Russian market has to offer.
There are basic things that are needed when looking to enter a new market, one of which is localization. What is localization, and why is it necessary for success?
Russia ranks low on the English Proficiency index, which means the number of people who are fluent in English is extremely small. As such, launching an English title is a bad idea.
However, it’s also important to note that the degree to which localization is necessary for a game can vary depending on its genre and unique characteristics. Here’s a good rule of thumb: the importance of localization increases in proportion to the amount of text and degree of cultural orientation in a game. The following chart shows the importance of localization for various genres:
The graph shows that small, casual games do not typically require deep localization, and can get by with a simple translation. That’s because that these games generally do not feature any special cultural orientation or very much text. Their gameplay is intuitive, so sometimes all you need is a good translation of the interface, main menu, messages, and a decent in-game tutorial. In this case, localization, which can involve redrawing graphics, voice over, cultural adaptation, etc., is probably not necessary.
How can you avoid problems during the localization process and make the process as simple and efficient as possible?
• One of the basic requirements for a solid translation is providing context. Therefore, you need to make sure you have the following:
• Close interaction with the developers. During the localization process, translators frequently have questions about the use of specific terms or the context of in-game text, and they need to get these questions answered in a timely fashion.
• Many words have multiple translations, and translators need images in order to choose the right one. This is critical for hidden object games, for example.
• A build of the game. Translators will have a much better idea of how to translate certain sentences if they can play the game and get a first-hand idea of what actually happens during a game.
Additional information. Gameplay videos, cut scenes, developer commentary, etc. can help localizers convey the developers’ ideas across more effectively.
If a developer provides a non-standard lockit, this can create certain difficulties. Due to the lack of a unified standard, project managers may have to spend a lot of time combing through, sorting, and filtering large numbers of individual files that are frequently scattered throughout several hundred folders.
The lockit’s system and logical structure is, more often than not, known only to its creator. An Excel file created with a unified tab structure and signatures can help save an enormous amount of time and make checking materials much easier.
We would be remiss not to mention that changing providers while localizing a project usually leads to dreadful results. Changes in style — and, typically, terminology — can lead to a game getting negative reviews in the wake of an overall poor localization.
Suitability for localization
One other important consideration is a game’s suitability for localization. This can be impacted by the following factors:
• The size of the windows and the interface. The most common problem is insufficient line length. Chinese words tend to be a third as long as Russian words, and there are words that can be written in two or three Chinese characters but require a long word or even a word combination when translated into Russian.
A potential solution to this problem is to make dynamically-sized windows and provide enough space in the interface. This has to be planned during development.
• Structural differences between two languages. A sufficiently skilled localizer can get around challenges such as the need to specify a character’s gender, case endings, and differences in the way numbers are written, but the most elegant solution would be to insert tags showing characters’ genders and avoid using placeholder tags wherever possible.
• The use of Cyrillic characters. Cyrillic fonts that are inappropriate, do not support all the letters of the alphabet, or vary in terms of style can leave a negative impression. This should be considered during development.
• Text woven into the fabric of the game or is part of bitmap images. This kind of text can be forgotten when compiling a build, but de-crypting it and transferring it into a textual format can take a lot of time, and the images will also have to be redrawn. For example:
• A plot, graphics, or gameplay with a strong national orientation. In this case, the localizer will need a lot of time and effort to make the game more comprehensible and familiar to players in Russia, where Western culture is dominant and players are not familiar with Chinese history or a settings.
Changes to gameplay mechanics
There are times when significant cultural differences require changes not only to a game’s text or graphics, but even to its mechanics. For example, in one game we worked on, there was a Mother’s Day event in which players had to collect flowers to give to their mothers. The developer chose red carnations, which in Russia are associated with the memory of fallen soldiers and are a symbol of valor and masculinity. This was an easy problem to solve — all we had to do was replace the name and image of the flower a red rose.
Another difficulty came up because players were able to give bouquets containing an even number of flowers, which is taboo in Russian culture because even numbers of flowers are only placed on gravestones.
Fortunately, the developer became aware of these pre-launch and was able to change the game mechanic to fit Russian players.
To sum up, by adhering to these important considerations, you can make the localization process faster, easier, and less expensive, while producing a higher-quality result that will lead to success and ultimately revenue growth.