Which Languages Should I Localize My Game Into?

Sooner or later, many game developers begin to think about game localization. Often, publishing a game in different countries is simply a matter of placing a few checkmarks before putting it in the store. But will users want to download a game in a language that they don’t understand? While a player might be able to work out a shooter or Match 3 game without comprehensive knowledge of linguistics, even decent proficiency of a foreign language is sometimes not enough to immerse yourself in a role-playing or adventure game.

If a game was developed in a language other than English, then translating it into this global language is a matter of priority. Occasionally, developers do this themselves or they enlist the help of their English-speaking friends. While this approach allows them to cut expenses, the results are sometimes unpredictable as shown by the examples below. 

Localizers offer a different approach. Before creating a cost estimate, we usually conduct an analysis, which indicates the demand for the genre and platform in the target countries. For example, for mobile games the volume of language markets looks like this:

Source and estimate procedure: https://allcorrectgames.com/insights/mobile-game-market-index/

We are referring specifically to language markets, as translation into certain languages allows you to release your product in several countries at once.

Interestingly, English only holds second place—Simplified Chinese leads the mobile gaming market. The reason behind it is not just the rapidly growing population in China and its genuine interest in mobile devices, but also the willingness of players from the Celestial Empire to pay for content. Nevertheless, this promising market has its drawbacks. First, China doesn’t have Google Play or its analogues, so publishing a game forces developers to negotiate directly with several platforms. Second, the Chinese government has set high legislative hurdles for foreign developers.

Assessing the population’s financial capacity is equally important. Revenue from a game release in Taiwan and Hong Kong is likely to be higher than those from publishing in a huge country like Brazil.

Another point worth noting when choosing a language for localization is the prevalence of English. For example, users from Scandinavian countries are fully financially capable and willing to buy games, as well as make in-game purchases. However, most of them speak English quite well and won’t refrain from purchasing due to the absence of a Swedish or Norwegian localization.

So, when choosing a language for localization, you should heed the following:

  • Number of people that speak the target language
  • Income level of the target country’s population
  • Degree of English language proficiency
  • Legislative hurdles to entering the market
  • Popularity of the genre in the target country
  • Competitive landscape

“The works” for a localizer is considered to be the main European languages: EFIGS (English, French, Italian, German, and Spanish) and the main Asian languages (Chinese, Korean, and Japanese). If you aren’t ready to experiment and find out whether an investment in promotion and localization into Afrikaans will pay off in South Africa, then it would be best to use the standard scheme.