The global mobile game market is expected to grow throughout the years. According to statistics, it’s no surprise that there are countless mobile games aimed to expand overseas each year; however, very few can achieve success.
Part of the problem is that mobile gaming has become a modern-day gold rush. Developers all over the world flooded the market in hopes of enriching it, making today’s mobile game market extremely competitive, no matter in domestic or global markets.
But the biggest factor is that developers often underestimate the challenges and importance of mobile game localization.
Here are 4 common mistakes they make when entering the international market. Avoid these, and you will greatly increase your chances of success.
The most basic and early-stage mistake a game developer can make is not to understand that localization is more than just word-for-word language translation.
Whenever you plan to go global with your game, first establish a localization strategy that answers questions like:
What factors characterize an attractive market for your company?
What’s your prioritized list of the top 10 world markets based on these criteria?
Should you find a local partner?
Lack of commitment and understanding in localization often kills an international initiative. Therefore, be sure your company has a strong corporate champion to drive thorough research, discover the target markets and own the execution once the strategy is done.
Without formulating the right strategy and translating it into actions, your game will get a failure, no matter how many languages it provides.
Many game developers try to delay discussion rewarding localization until the end of the development cycle, but they don’t realize that they have made a big mistake from the moment they write the first line of code.
This often equates to a lot of rework and additional costs to go back and modify your code to work when you add new language and localization requirements, costing your company thousands (or millions) of dollars and months of delay in entering foreign markets.
Instead of doing costly rework, your team should make an explicit decision on internationalization upfront.
Is your code well prepared for the pre-translation phase? Are your UI strings all externalized? Have you given careful consideration to international non-text elements such as symbols, colors, time and date formats, currency symbols?
If your code isn’t localized in the beginning, the problem is getting worse with every line you add.
To increase the success rate of a title in international markets, it is essential to pay close attention to the cultural aspects.
Basic language translation is the bare minimum that any game developer should be doing. Ideally, your translators should be able to adapt your game content to the local culture because culturalization is a necessity.
To create the best gaming experience, your translators must understand foreign cultural traditions and customs, the latest pop culture in the targeted country, local points of reference, etc.
The same applies to non-text assets. For example, while giving a peace sign is normal in the USA, a reverse peace sign suddenly becomes an insult in places like the UK. Keep in mind that you can build gamers’ loyalty by fully capturing a regionally exclusive experience within the game.
If you think that all the mobile game distribution channels stay the same in every country, you are making a huge mistake! In the rush to launch global, this is often the most overlooked problem by game developers.
Do you know that China doesn’t use Google Play? Instead, it has around 200 Android app stores creating a highly fragmented market. Without a system to track the performance of these channels, you can’t have suitable strategies for distributing your app in this country.
Each of those app stores serves a separate audience with its characteristics. You need to look at their different behaviors and adapt your games to different situations. For instance, market leaders often create different versions for different app stores. In other words, if there are 20 app stores they want to target, they will create 20 different versions and marketing strategies for their games.
When your team builds the localization strategy plan, make sure to discuss whether a local partner is needed.
International expansion is indeed hard to get right. Therefore, clear ownership, good strategy up-front, and great execution are critical. That way your mobile game will be in a great position to take advantage of the huge international opportunity!