The Pros and Cons of Software Localization

It’s second nature for us to proclaim the benefits of localization, but is there ever a downside to going global?  Software localization services are a net benefit for enterprises, but they can also have drawbacks which are seldom discussed. A recent article by the Common Sense Advisory found that while localization makes software attractive to foreign buyers, it also opens up the possibility of foreign piracy.

 The Pros and Cons of Software Localization

The CEO of tinyBuild recently provided country-specific figures for the game Punch Club, revealing initial piracy rates of 97% for Brazil. In other markets, more Germans bought the game than pirated it, with the highest buy rate of any country. The next best countries were the US (23%) and France (17%), but less than 4% in Russia, China, Turkey, Ukraine, Romania, and Poland bought the game.

There is a clear need for developers to balance negative factors such as piracy against positive outcomes.Some potential benefits of software localization include:

  • Gaining competitive advantage
  • Long-term sales increase, and better customer retention
  • More usable product across cultures (entry fields such as name, date etc. are formatted to suit each country, with different types of keyboards taken into account)
  • Reduced support costs, allowing your company to invest in other activities

 However, localization creates an extra step in the production process, and in some cases, higher costs. Other downsides to language localization are:

  • Coding process can be longer
  • Up-front cost is higher
  • Developers must have specialized skills
  • Technical translation is necessary

 If you are still concerned about piracy, the CSA article highlights some important considerations:

  • Study which markets respect intellectual propertyStudies of unlicensed softwarefind that North America and Western Europe have very low piracy rates compared to the rest of the world. Germans overall are likely to buy localized software, while Russians and Brazilians are likely to download illegally. Chinese users tend to pirate software regardless of if it is localized or not. Do your own analysis and factor in these differences in when projecting market revenues.
  • Consider a locale-specific pricing strategy.Brazilian readers of tinyBuild’s post commented that individuals in lower-income countries are more likely to download pirated games, which are otherwise unaffordable. If you want to fight piracy in developing markets, lowering prices to make your product more attractive at local salaries makes sense. However, the ideal price point will vary from country to country. You will need to do your research and look at price differentials for products similar to yours to figure this out.
  • Reconsidering platforms, moving to the cloud or implementing digital rights management may be wise. TinyBuild found that piracy rates vary by platform, with 69% of piracy on PC, 28% on Android, and 3% on iOS. The shift of software to cloud-based solutions promotes legitimate purchasesbecause cloud services are inaccessible without valid credentials. 
  • Even with piracy, localization makes sense. TinyBuild remains committed to Brazilian localization, because the sales increase justifies the effort, despite piracy. While it is discouraging to see such high piracy rates, in the end the localized sales represent revenue they would never have had otherwise.

Ultimately, developers must consider not only how localization affects sales, but also how it influences piracy in the context of specific countries. In most cases the benefits of localization will outweigh the cons, but being aware of both sides will help developers make informed decisions about the best plan for taking their apps global.

Do you have questions about software localization? Get in touch to let us know about your potential plans and markets, and see how we can help.