This article was originally published on Level Up Translation's blog
Mobile devices are the most commonly used gaming platforms in the world, which means making a mobile game is a wonderful way to acquire a bigger audience.
However, not everyone speaks or reads the language you are developing for. Even if you are developing your indie game in English, remember that English proficiency varies from country to country.
In order to reach a bigger audience with your mobile game, you will need to carefully consider which languages to localize your game into. But don’t just pick languages at random and hope to succeed!
Here’s what you should consider when choosing which language to localize your mobile game into, as well as some of our top suggestions.
This post is part 1 of a 3-post series on what languages to localize your game into! Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3, in which we will cover how to choose which languages to localize PC and console games into.
A few questions to ask yourself before localizing your game
A number of factors should be taken into account when you're trying to decide which languages to opt for, especially when it comes to mobile games.
For instance, what monetization model are you planning to use? Unlike PC or console games, the majority of mobile games are free-to-play. If your mobile game isn’t free-to-play, countries like China may not be a good choice.
You also need to consider which mobile platform you’ll be developing for. Are you only developing for Android? iOS? Or are you developing for both?
Why does this matter? The most active Android market in the world is in China, with 803 million active Android smartphones in total. In India, 95.9% of phones are Android. So if you are developing for iOS only, these markets may not be that lucrative for your game.
Top 7 countries and languages to localize your mobile game into
In 2018, the top 7 mobile games markets (ranked on their revenue estimates) were China, the United States, Japan, South Korea, the UK, India, and Russia.
For this reason, we have included these languages and countries, but also Brazil - and you’ll soon see why.
China is the number one mobile market in the world for gaming! In 2018 alone, this market generated a revenue of 16 billion dollars. If you are developing for Android, localizing to China is a no-brainer.
However, there are other things you need to take into account when localizing to China, like game genres, distribution channels, and cultural aspects. But if your game fits the bill, you can reap huge benefits from accessing its huge audience of gamers.
In total, there are 619.5 million mobile players in China - 76% of all men and 66% of all women play mobile games! So whether your game has been developed mainly for men, women, or children, you will undoubtedly find a market there.
In China, the most popular game genres include:
Japan and Korea
China isn’t the only country you should consider localizing to in Asia. After all, 54% of global mobile players overall are located in the Asia Pacific. Yup, that’s more than half of all mobile players, located in that one area!
But sheer number of players isn’t all you should keep in mind when making your choice. Japanese players will typically pay more once they become players of your mobile game, when compared with players from other markets.
How much more, exactly? Nearly three times much as the global average!
As you can see from the chart above, South Korea’s ARPU is pretty impressive, too, at a whopping $86.68. Although it’s not as impressive as Japan’s, it’s still considerably higher than the global average.
South Korea also has another advantage for mobile developers - the cost of acquiring new players is quite cheap! For iOS, you can expect to pay $1.66 per player, while you can expect to pay an incredible $0.86 for Android players.
And if you take into account that 69% of Korea’s 2.187-billion-dollar market comes from mobile projects, it’s clear to see why it’s a good idea to try to grab a piece of that pie.
In Japan, some of the most popular genres include:
Social sims/visual novels
In Korea, however, the most popular gaming genre on mobile is puzzle games.
After China, India is the second-largest mobile market in the world. However, the overwhelming majority of their population uses Android phones, as we mentioned above.
This means you should consider localizing for India only if you plan on developing for Android. Otherwise, you’ll be wasting your time!
If you do plan on localizing for India, these are the most popular game genres:
Although the Brazilian market didn’t make it into the top 10 for global game markets, it is still a ripe market for mobile games.
Currently, there are 60.3 million mobile players from Brazil alone. Just as in India and China, the majority of these players use Android devices, but in this case you shouldn’t discount iOS players.
Why? The sheer number of potential players isn’t everything. You need paying players in order to make a profit from your game, and in Brazil iOS users typically spend more than Android users.
Remember, too, that Brazilian players are more likely to play your game if you localize for Brazilian Portuguese instead of European Portuguese. Although they are technically the same language, they have many differences, and the wrong version may put off your potential Brazilian fan base.
These are the most popular gaming genres in Brazil:
No big surprise here. If you aren’t developing your game in English first, you should absolutely consider localizing to English.
In 2018, the UK and US combined - which only make up a fraction of English speakers worldwide - generated a revenue of over $10 billion mobile games.
But that’s not the only reason why you should localize to English, no matter your original localization language of choice. Consider the fact that every country you choose not to localize for will also have a varying population of English speakers. By making an English version of your mobile game, you will automatically open up your mobile game to a global audience of people who speak English as a second language!
In the US, the most popular gaming genre currently is action games.
Answer your localization questions as early as possible
As with PC and console games, you should start thinking about localization as early as possible in your development.
By including your localization team early on in the development process, your chances of creating a high-quality translation will be significantly higher, no matter which language you are developing for. Ultimately, better translations = happier players!