Part 10: Localization Markets
The global games localization market contains many avenues for developers to localize their games. While a handful of mega game companies like Sony, Nintendo, Activision, Blizzard and others have their own in-house localization teams at hand, there still exists a plethora of general localization service providers (LSPs) as well as a growing community of single language vendor (SLV) freelancers. In addition, a large number of volunteer localizers often pitch in to help independent avocational game creators who may monetize their games through subscriptions, donations or ads, thereby building a user base that can create a need for localization.
Most LSPs, whatever the size, offer some additional localization-related services, such as localization testing, game design and development support, audio support, user support for localized games, and other services.
Due to the immense and ever-growing global video game market, in 2018, game localization services projected a stunning industry-wide annual increases of 20-30%, which included very little work in mobile game localization, the industry's fastest growing market sub-sector.
It is worth noting that a primary source of revenue for LSPs is subcontracting for larger providers. Larger LSPs often outsource to familiar freelance SLVs and others. Despite this being a common practice, there are some localization providers like Andovar that do not subcontract out their services and instead perform all localization processes for every client directly.
Current developments in gaming and localization markets
In 2018, the global gaming market was at around US$138 billion, of which the localization services sub-sector accounted for about one percent. The gaming industry is predicted to grow by about 10% CAGR until 2021, to a volume of around US$180 billion, which would commensurately spur the localization sub-sector growth to around US$1.8 billion by the end of the same annual period.
In 2019, a few major market trends converged to reshape the global gaming industry. These transformative shifts offer exciting opportunities for any top-quality games localization company:
- Video gaming has grown into the world's most popular pastime.
- A few geographic regions are developing into burgeoning global game sales markets.
- Game companies are transitioning business models from single-sale to games-as-a-service.
- Game localization is increasingly integrated into game development at much earlier stages.
- Continuous game localization is a growing market force, providing for game content updates, DLC, software patches, and other additional content and transactions.
Deciding whether a game should be localized
Some games are only localized a few times, just once for a few markets, or are not localized at all for international distribution, though they can generate revenues in a variety of ways over many years. The decision to localize a game is usually based on a given market's estimated potential for spending on the game, or on the degree of expectation that consumers in a given market will continue spending on a game in micro transactions over time.
Most popular countries for video game localization
There are over 2.5 billion gamers worldwide always looking to try out the most recent version of the games they like. This translates into enormous demand for high-quality game translation service in order for game makers to deliver a state-of-the-art gaming experience that today's players expect.
Top languages for game translation
Today, Asia is the fastest growing gaming market on earth. The continent's mobile market sub-sector alone accounts for a large percentage of the growth rate. In addition, Western European countries also include some of the world's most thriving gaming markets. Based on revenue reports, here are some of the top languages for the translation of video games:
Japan is home to about 67.6 million gamers and is one of the world’s top three video game markets, along with China and the US. Last year, the Japanese game market generated around US$19.2 billion. The country is a major game exporter to the west. LAI Global Game Services (Tokyo, California and Beijing) is a major market force in Japan's gaming industry, with games accounting for about half its revenues. Role-playing games in particular are exceptionally popular with Japanese gamers and have an ever-growing western fanbase. Japanese players are well adapted to imported video games as well with some western titles doing exceedingly well in the country despite differences in culture and gaming attitudes.
China is the world's largest video game sales market on earth, generating 41 percent of global market revenues. About 90 percent of China's PC gaming market is dominated by the multinational conglomerate Tencent and a couple of other Chinese game makers. However, western games are still in very high demand in China and continue to sell well. It is important to note that game censorship in China is strict and so are Software as a Service (SaaS) regulations, which applies to many games now sold as-a-service. With this in mind, it is clear that only top-quality localization specialists should be consulted when bringing games to the Chinese market.
In 2018, South Korea registered US$5.6 billion in game sale revenues and remains among the global gaming industry's most profitable national marketplaces. South Korean gamers are usually adept at picking up both English and Chinese, so finding important terms in those languages in video games is not surprising or necessarily that difficult for them. The South Korean audience has been found to have very similar preferences in games as the Japanese.
Over 44.3 million gamers in Germany make their national language one of the most common for video game translation. In 2018, the German video game market generated nearly US$5 billion. German gamers want games that are highly engaging, immersive and fun. Localization providers for German games typically need to be game lovers themselves with the skills necessary to bring out all three aspects in a game.
French gamers spent nearly US$3 billion last year, among the country's 33 million current video game players. Keep in mind, when localizing for French gamers, that they don't necessarily like having to use English. They do want natural dialogues and appreciate French cultural references, and they welcome use of native slang.
It is clear that video game localization opens up international markets to game makers. However, the key to success in overseas game markets is in first determining which ones make sense for the sales of your particular game. Localizing for one of the above listed highly active national gaming markets is usually a relatively safe place to start. These are all proven sustained major spenders on recreational video gaming. Nevertheless, diligence in researching the suitability of your game for any international market before embarking on localization is a basic for success. Finally, to increase your likelihood of success, employ localization industry best practices in translating, culturalizing and internationalizing your game for one of these or any other foreign market in which you plan to release your game product.
So with that, our analysis of localization markets is done. Next time in Part 11 we will have arrived at our conclusion, drawing the curtain on our games localization guide. We will give you a robust summarization of all of the chapters so far as well as some parting advice, tips and tricks. Thank you for sticking with us on this journey and we do hope that you will stick around for our final installment. We look forward to seeing you there.