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The Localization Age for Digital Products

In addition to translation, Localization must fit the culture and economy of a region. When we talk about globally distributed digital products we can certainly do more to maximize the ROI of them with some focused efforts.

Thiago Appella, Blogger

December 27, 2010

5 Min Read

Many companies deal with Localization as a merely translation process to attend multiple territories across the globe. The language is a entrance barrier that must be overturned to any product considering global coverage, therefore, translation is only a partial effort to gear up the potential of your product outside the region it was born/developed, the analysis goes beyond when you deeply look through different economies and cultures.

With the advent of the Freemium business model coming to the gaming space you must be watchful on maximizing your user base in order to convert at least 2% of them into paying users and turn your business into a sustainable one. It is a pile of names to quote if we decide to talk more about how the industry reached the Freemium, as always in technological space Gordon Moore, Carver Mead and Alan Kay will be starring from the beginning to the end. Despite a brief talk about this, I encourage you to read Free: The future of radical price by Chris Anderson – one of the best books I’ve read this year so far. 

Back to the main subject of this article there is the launch of StarCraft II in emerging territories – Latin America is a region that we can take as an example on how the game turned into a best seller. We cannot deny the brand awareness SC, and Blizzard too, have around the world but without the initiatives below this awareness would stay in the hardcore community, worthless to say but necessary, a niche and consequently small user base:

  • Voice-over with great actors in local language – which means Brazilian Portuguese and Latin American Spanish;

  • Lip Sync with the new local voices in the game, cinematics and other videos;

  • Every single text in the game was translated – Even those showing on TV and some small pieces of paper in the game;

  • Community site fully localized and supported by Community Managers.

Perhaps, at this point, you are asking yourself: Hey, wait, StarCraft II is not a Freemium product, what is this whole story about Freemium and SC? And that is the trick part; in addition to the items above, I would say SCII certainly is a fully localized product because it adds:

  • A different Business Model to the region – The game is half the price of any other PC game you will find but it will give only a certain time of access to Battle.net. And if you want to play more, you need to pay extra time or upgrade the game to unlimited access.

Some of you would not agree that a Business Model could be considered a Localization initiative and that’s just a point of view if you are looking into company’s department or something like this. Try to see the big picture.

With a game fully localized (which means with a different Business Model too) to the region, Blizzard has now an opportunity to maximize its revenue because there isn't a language barrier and the low entrance price. As the game is pretty well developed, the conversion into paying users (or to Unlimited Access) will be high enough and certainly will bring more fan boys to the boat.

For instance: When I started writing this article was also the launch week of Toy Story 3 in theaters and I got amazed about the Localization of the movie at least into Brazilian Portuguese. All names written in paper boxes was in PT-BR, the name of the school and of course the voices was in local language (I don’t remember if there was a lipsync with the new voices, but I don’t doubt if it has). It was the first movie I’ve watched with so many details carried about.

In the other hand, I was playing some social games with my Mom to get some feedback about them – And now everybody will agree with me that Social Games use a classic Freemium Business Model, right? So, I started playing a game called DDTank and it showed a message in the beggining with so many grammatical and vocabulary errors that I instantly closed the app. Well, my mom kept trying it and she will never get back to DDTank thanks to the bad translations that made the game impossible to continue.

What all these products have in common? They are digital and are globally target. So, if you are working with a digital product to be distributed into different regions (cultures, languages and economies) why don’t you put some efforts on fully localizing it to get the most of its potential? As I said they are digital, take advantage of the internet, tons of free space on users' hard drives etc etc. You will certainly have more than the necessary ROI to justify the efforts in Localization.

The “battle” between FIFA Soccer and Pro Evolution Soccer is another good example about localization issues, as Electronic Arts is not investing in the Latin America region, PES started getting its place as the number 1 soccer game – with more licensed clubs, text translations and local narrators. There are some other cultural things related to this battle, but I’m sure that could be solved with a different business model as Blizzard did with StarCraft II - In the end, Localization is the word.

You in US or in Europe, would you play a Basketball or Football game without the club you support and with the narrator in another language than yours? Some products are more sensitive to Localization than others, a sport game is an obvious one.

I really believe that a Producer must also have an eye to the business of his/her product and not only deliver a great product in terms of quality, time and budget. Therefore I understand this position varies from company to company and maybe a Producer won't have access to discuss business subjects with the Product Owner or even with the Development Director.

And as it is about Localization, I must say it in Brazilian Portuguese:

Muito obrigado,

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