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Where will your app go today? Language choice is key, find out which ones work best
by Christoffer Nilsson on 05/31/13 11:39:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

This blog was originally posted on Localize Direct's blog on May the 30th, 2013.

As a mobile game developer it can be difficult to decide which languages to localize a game into. In addition it also has to be decided what to localize. There’s the text that appears in the game and if you publish via Apple App Store or Google Play you can also translate the description, updates and keyword texts.

To localize the app-store description text is a no-brainer. This is what you front your game with and what people will base their buy or download decision on. Remember, most people on this planet don’t speak English. In “Can’t Read Won’t Buy”, the Common Sense Advisory showed that on average, 52% of people reported that they would buy only at websites where product information is presented in their language. In France and Japan the figure was 60 percent! The amount of text in your description is limited so it won’t be expensive (you pay per word when you use a translation service). All other text surrounding your description will be in the country store’s native language (Google and Apple fully localize their stores) so localized material will blend in much better and give a professional impression.

If you are localizing the description you may as well localize your keywords, again as the amount of words will be low, so will the cost. Be sure to check out this interesting article on the subject

How To Get 767% More Downloads By Localizing App Keywords

With regards to localizing updates, you need to consider how often you plan on releasing updates. It becomes important to work with the right translation service provider - you need speedy turnaround and stay away from vendors with minimum fees as the translation batches will be small.

Now, with the store metadata out of the way. Should you translate the text in the actual game? Distribution is worldwide, by localizing you extend your reach and achieve a global audience. Allowing your players to enjoy the game in their native language will positively increase their experience and lead to better reviews. These benefits do of course need to be weighed against the cost. Localization costs will be driven by the number of words in your game and the number of target languages. It’s a common approach to localize the app-store metadata into more languages than the actual game.

So, what languages then... App Annie to the rescue! During App Annie’s very interesting GDC 2013 talk they ranked countries in iOS App Store and Google Play for downloads and revenue specifically for games. Most developers would have the common goal of either wanting to get their game downloaded as many times as possible or generate as much revenue as possible. Based on that assumption lets for each platform (Apple and Google) create two language lists; one for  for developer seeking world domination (maximize downloads) and another one for the greedy (read maximize revenue). Our lists will be called Top Downloads and Top Revenue.

We'll exclude English with the assumption that English is your games source language.

iOS App Store Top Downloads: Chinese, Japanese, Russian, French, German, Italian

iOS App Store Top Revenue: Japanese, Chinese, German, French, Russian, Korean

Google Play Top Downloads: Korean, Russian, German, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese, Traditional Chinese, Spanish

Google Play Top Revenue: Japanese, Korean, German, French, Russian, Traditional Chinese

Luckily it seems that France is included in all ranks that also have Canada so we don't have to add French.

Spanish is notably missing from all groups but Google Play Downloads. As the App Annie rankings are based on countries and not languages this makes sense. Spain with it’s 25M internet population, according to  T-Index, is fairly small. If we consider Spanish speaking  internet users we’re talking about a whopping 187M users - the third largest cluster after English and Chinese. Also given the dominance of United States in the rankings and that 15%+ of the population in the US is hispanic it would seem a good idea to add Spanish into our recommended languages.

Simplified Chinese is also missing from the Google Play groups - the reason for this seems to be Google Play being blocked and other local Android stores being more popular with the Chinese. If you use other app-stores (like Amazon) then we’d most definitely would recommend translating into simplified Chinese.

Based on the developers main goal with localization (maximize revenue or downloads) and what app-store they are targeting; our recommended target languages are:

iOS App Store Top Downloads

Chinese, Japanese, Russian, French, German, Italian, Spanish

iOS App Store Top Revenue

Japanese, Chinese, German, French, Russian, Korean, Spanish

Google Play Top Downloads

Korean, Russian, German, Japanese, Brazilian Portuguese, Traditional Chinese, Spanish

Google Play Top Revenue

Japanese, Korean, German, French, Russian, Traditional Chinese, Spanish

* If you’re distributing an Android game via a Chinese app-store then also add simplified Chinese

If you are interested in game localization you should really check out the cloud version of LocDirect - it's a content management system for game developers tailormade for game localization content.


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Comments


Kenneth Blaney
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Spanish is a prime example of the difference between "translation" and "localization". That is, the Spanish spoken in South and Central America is rather different from the Spanish spoken in Spain (a major difference being "vosotros vs ustedes", but I'm sure others will comment on other differences).

I wouldn't mention it because the differences are somewhat comparable to UK English vs US English (in that communication is still possible in the vast majority of cases), but it is surprising that this distinction is not drawn because South/Central American Spanish and Spain Spanish are just as different from each other as are Portuguese vs Brazilian.

Petrucio Stange
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But can the people speaking Spanish from South America understand the people from central? I'm from Brazil, and I can't use software translated into Portuguese from Portugal, and I can hardly understand Portuguese people talking (it has already happened that I was listening to them talk and didn't even know what language they were speaking!)

So I do consider them to actually be different languages that should thus be named differently. Plesantly surprised to see 'Brazilian' named as a language instead of 'Brazilian Portuguese' in the article.

Alejandro Valenzuela
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Communication is definitely possible between Castilian ("Spain") Spanish and Latin American Spanish.

There's also regional differences among the different countries in LatAm, but for series and movies that are dubbed, as far as I know we generally get a somewhat country-agnostic Latin American release (usually leaning towards Mexican accent).

Castilian Spanish dubbings are generally not liked in Latin America because even though they can be understood, they sound foreign. So for best results, both Castilian and Latin American dubbing would make sense.

If only the text is translated, but not the voice acting, it is possible to get away with a only Castilian Spanish translation because the written language is perhaps not so different (or not as obnoxious) as the differences in pronunciation.

This is only my perception and I am fairly critical of dubbings - in general I prefer to hear the voices in their original language and have the possibility to use subtitles in a language I can understand.

It would be interesting to hear others' opinions on this matter.

Alexia Brume
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If you want to be fair it goes the same way between France's French and... "Other" French :) First, the accents differ terribly - it is common for a person from Quebec not to be understood by a person from France. I won't even talk about the different words we use for the same item (char vs voiture, appartement vs condo, ...). The difference is lighter in terms of vocabulary in regards to Switzerland and Belgium vs France (nonante vs quatre vingt dix), but the accent still causes the Hexagon's inhabitants some issues!
In the end however - it is a very neutral French from France used for worldwide releases.
As for dubbing and personal tastes (I am from France), even though I was raised on it, I am like Alejandro and would rather watch series / movies in their original language dubbed in English (for my part). I can see this as a trend among people my generation (18 - 30).

Titi Naburu
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"But can the people speaking Spanish from South America understand the people from central?"

Yes we do. But like Kenneth said, that's translating, not localizing. European Spanish sounds very foreign to Latin Americans, especially when spoken. When I play Dirt 3, British or American voices sound more local and European Spanish.

The neutral Latin American Spanish used in film dubbing stems from Mexico, but it's not exactly like a Mexico City news anchor would pronounce it - it's neutral. Which means that it sounds a little foreign too, the further away the more. A few years ago, some animated films were translated to Mexican and Rioplatense Spanish.

Christian Coimbra
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Brazil's language is called Portuguese, not "Brazilian".

Christoffer Nilsson
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Thanks for the feedback! Brazilian is now changed to Brazilian Portuguese


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