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Gaming is a pastime that is almost entirely free of demographic boundaries. While certain groups are more likely to show interest in specific genres or formats, in general, gaming is popular across race, gender, age and nationality. Recent projections indicate that a total of 2.2 billion gamers around the world will generate $108.9 billion in game revenues in 2017. That is a 7.8 increase over 2016. Digital gaming makes up the lion’s share of sales, accounting for 87 percent of the global market, and mobile technology is growing fastest, representing 42 percent of video game sales.
Localization and transcreation are vital to video game success on a global scale. However, video games present unique challenges. First, they are marketed differently than other products and services, and second, successful localization requires attention to a wide variety of game features. Understanding the special requirements of creating video games with international appeal is critical to successful market expansion.
Most of the time, advertising campaigns, mobile apps and web-based services start small, releasing new products in limited markets where the source language version of the software is appropriate. That leaves plenty of time to work through localization and transcreation processes. However, video game marketing is managed differently.
There is intense competition, and sales of most games slow down after a few months. Simultaneous release of localized versions on an international scale is a huge advantage, and video game producers typically elect to saturate multiple markets at once to give the game as much exposure as possible. Of course, this adds complexity to development, as video game localization is particularly intricate, which can delay release dates by months or even years.
The basic principles of localization and transcreation apply to video games just as they do to other types of products. Translating language, adapting imagery and modifying content to appeal to specific markets increases the likelihood of successful sales growth. However, unlike simpler advertising campaigns, mobile apps and web-based products, video games require an in-depth examination of hundreds of details.
Candidates for localization include historical events, cultural relevance of levels, and cultural differences regarding drug use, violence, sex and adult language. Special consideration must be given to translation of phrases, which can be longer or shorter depending on the language, and developers have to keep variations in word lengths, font sizes and graphics in mind so that content works in all languages.
In addition to localization of features and content, the process includes careful attention to the premise, storyline, or meaning of the game. This takes on special importance when the game is part of a series. Taken together, localization of video games is a major undertaking, requiring investment of time and resources.
Despite the obstacles that localization of video games presents, many developers launch customized versions of new games in multiple markets with great success. For example, Candy Crush and Minecraft were both developed in Sweden, but due to localization efforts, they rapidly became global phenomena. Using another strategy, Chinese developer ELEX elected to rebuild its popular Clash of Kings to function on multiple platforms. As a result, Clash of the Kings gained 50 million international users who could play using their device of choice.
Gaming is a lucrative industry, but it is challenging to gain widespread market penetration in such a crowded field. High-quality localization and transcreation efforts coordinated for simultaneous release can dramatically increase the odds of widespread popularity and international sales success. Learn more about Video Game Localization.