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The Reasons Why Mobile Games Don't Go Viral Abroad

Today, many good games fail to be successful in international markets. What's the main reasons why they don't go viral? In this article, I gathered the main miscalculations that developers make while conducting localization measures.

Anastasiia Bobeshko, Blogger

February 24, 2016

6 Min Read

According to the recent research made by The Wall Street Journal, Asian countries headed by China and Japan introduce the most attractive and perspective platform for mobile games distribution. Besides, game developers can earn more by focusing on Asia-Pacific market. Today, the mobile gaming industry is extremely competitive due to the fact that smartphones become more and more popular, and the demand as you known breeds supply. There are three times more development companies compared to last year. Taking into consideration these stats, no wonder that many development companies are planning to release their games internationally. However, not every mobile game will go viral outside of the boundaries of its target countries. Partly, developers can fail trying to expand their audience because they often don't take into account the weight of game localization. In this post, I would like to introduce the most common mistake and miscalculations that dev companies and single developers make when going internationally.

#1 No Plan For Worldwide Promotion

The most fundamental thing that many developers and company owners fail to realize is that localization is not just a translation of a game content. I allowed myself to jot down a short list of questions that everyone should ask before entering an international market. These points can help a company or a single developer to build the strategy that will take into account the peculiarities of a foreign market.

  • How can you describe the most interesting and attractive market for your product? (player's age, gender, language, supported devices, country population, product competitors, etc.)

  • What overseas markets fit this description?

  • What demands do they have?

  • Are your company capable of entering numerous markets synchronously?

  • What strategy do you suggest for each country?

Carefully study each market you are going to enter before even considering such possibility. Examine popular games and the ones that similar to yours, analyze their pros and cons and do the research about possible competitors. Then develop the strategy that includes both your strengths and features of the market. Without that your game, no matter how good you think it is, will go into oblivion at an international market.

#2 Disregard Localization From The Beginning

Localization should not be put away until the final stage of game development or adaptation, however, it's one of the biggest and the most expensive mistakes. Instead of spending a lot of money for bug fixing and modifications after adding new localization settings and language content, you can write the first line of code already knowing that you need to localize the game. Make sure that your code is ready for translation phase and you respect international currency symbols, time and date formats. Moreover, to increase the chances of success of the game in the international markets, developers and marketing specialists should comply with cultural facets of the target country. Language translation is just a part of work, however, inseparable. In an ideal case, developers and translators adjust the game content in accordance with a local culture. In order to provide an astonishing user experience developers and translators have to examine country traditions, trends, religion, traditional clothing and food, etc. Here I collected some of the localized versions of popular games that were adapted for the China market and invite you to take a look at the pictures below.

One of the world’s popular games Angry Birds has released the special edition of the game for China.


XMG Studio Inc. in collaboration with popular Chinese company Yodo1 launched a localized version of Powder Monkeys.


Fruit Ninja got more than 200 million downloads in China not only because of interesting gameplay but thanks to the special ‘chinese’ design.


Plants with Zombies 2 became one of the top best games in China thanks to artists and developers who work tremendously on the design.


#3 Not Paying Attention To Local Game Distribution Channels

You are fooling yourself if you believe that different countries have similar ways for app distributions. Well, ok, some do not have too many differences, however, Asian market has little in common with US one. For instance, did you know that China doesn't have any access to Google Play? Alternatively, Chinese people download and buy applications and games via approximately two hundred stores with Android apps. This system divides the market into separate fragments where each store represents a certain target audience. Generally, you can be interested in more than a couple of stores and you will have to optimize the game for different situations. Many top companies often invest in an adaptation of their popular game for a variety of app stores. In simple words, if there are ten stores of interest, they will build ten different versions of the game and develop a separate marketing strategy for each. Furthermore, in order to launch the game as quickly as possible developers often overlook another big problem - lack of knowledge about the market you are going into. For that reason, many dev companies cooperate with local companies and partners who know market demands. So, the discussion about local partner participation needs to take place.

#4 Unclear Monetization Strategy

So you get your content localized and think your work is done and you can release the game for massive using. Not so fast. Don't forget about the monetization model since it's critical too. In most Asiatic countries players earn far less money compared to Western or European ones. For example, the Chinese market is perspective, however, can seem strange for overseas developers. Your revenue strategy should reflect the rules and realities of foreign markets. Don't make the game too difficult to play in order to get more profit from in-game shops or power-ups because this step could seriously backfire on your rating. Dissatisfied players leave negative reviews and your rating will drop to one star. To build the proper strategy for your game, it's better to examine user experience and try to achieve a balance of difficulty and reasonable monetization.

#5 Not Enough Testing

Commonly believed that only amateurs make this mistake, however, it's not exactly true. Localization measures are fraught with many pitfalls, such as linguistic peculiarities of the language to which you are translating. For instance, German contains a lot of extra long words that can ruin User Interface. It's developer responsibility to take about such little things. That's why it's critical for you as a dev guy to test or as a business owner to check testing of the translated game on a number of mobile devices. In addition, don't forget to include in the testing process common or special mobile gadgets that aren't necessarily available in your country, but popular on China market, for instance. You should do your best on testing procedures because once entering the market with a bad-quality game, you will no longer be trusted by players and destroy your chances on a good rating.


If you consider entering an international market is hard, you are right. On the other hand, thorough research, clear strategy and help of local partners can make mobile game development a lot easier and ensure its successfulness so you can enjoy the advantages of worldwide expansion.

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