In the early years of gaming, bringing your game to other countries was always discussed in books and on websites as a simple discussion on how you should localize your game. Be it change the fonts, the images, or add something that could entice another culture. But this simple change isn’t working for current gamers.
Getting the biggest audience possible is something many companies are working on as mass appeal works much better for profits than some games that only appeal to a specific gamer. That’s why the interest in bringing your game to a bigger and more global audience is something many developers look at for their game.
But making a game more global is harder to do than it looks. So, we asked and researched a few developers making their games more global and found a few examples we wanted to share and some tips to building a truly global game.
AFK Arena is built by the Chinese company Lilith Games using the Cocos engine. The game was a big hit in the west last year, even though it wasn’t released first in China. Many have praised it for its western-style and lead to many asking how Chinese artists came up with this unique style of game.
In an interview, the team shared that the reason behind this was that the group of artists working on the game was originally from their first game Little Ice Legend. The game was very western and cartoonish looking, so the team wanted to continue their art style.
But they didn’t want to have gamers hate their new art style, so they took the time to create multiple art styles for their characters and conduct online tests to see which gave them not only global appeal but were also aesthetically appealing to gamers. Taking time to build, test, repeat many times allowed the team to build something so unique that AFK Arena was able to be one of the top games in their genre and one of the top global games late this last year.
Lesson learned: Take the time to test your ideas and make a solid art style global players will enjoy.
A talk was given by Playrix’s Olga Egoshina at last year’s Game Daily Connect in Shenzhen, China (attended by Cocos) had a great example of using local companies in different countries to grab your player’s attention.
Coming to China is difficult, but with the help of their publisher iDreamsky, they were able to get not only the game into the many marketplaces in the country but also helped in the localization, customer service, operations, and marketing in the country.
Two great examples are both in the game and outside the game. Inside the game, iDreamsky created their own events that worked off the Chinese holidays of the Mid-Autumn Festival and Dragon Boat Festival that worked on exciting players. Also, adding a new location only available to Chinese gamers made them feel the developers were interested in making their experience different than what you get in other places.
Outside the game, great social marketing and localized marketing helped gain gamers by the use of fun online promotions, TV commercials, and even subway ads. Both Playrix and iDreamsky worked hard to grow the game in China, making it one of the biggest western games in the country.
Lesson learned: Find the best partners for your game in other countries to help it succeed in new places.
Lineage 2 Revolution
At last year’s DICE conference, Simon Sim of Netmarble, a company who has built some of their games with Cocos, shared some lessons they learned when they brought their games to the USA
Sim commented that it’s not just localization, but culturalization that helps their games work in both South Korea and the USA. Even with hundreds of hours of game testing in their offices, some of their research doesn’t follow the real world.
With Lineage 2 Revolution, Sim commented on how rewards and challenges in the game needed to be changed from the Korean version of the game and the western after seeing a drop off at some points in the game. They discovered through their research that one of the biggest reasons came by the enhancement mechanics
In the game, you had to either pay for a chance to upgrade your weapon or collect items to have an opportunity to upgrade. In both versions, there is a chance the upgrade fails. But the issue came in what happens to your item.
In Korea, a failed enhancement dropped the quality of the item to a lower level, pushing only the best gamers to keep spending or taking more time to get coveted higher quality items.
American gamers felt this was unacceptable and would quit if the item dropped in level. Their solution was to instead keep the item at the level it failed at. The change was just one of the many ways they researched their gamers to improve the gameplay to keep players in the game longer.
Lesson learned: Understand what fairness is for each location and take advantage of it.
Knowing where to localize is still a big question with the costs of building games on a tight budget. A small company named Narcade learned this in their work, moving from flash games to mobile.
The Istanbul company started working on a ton of very small and simple casual games that were doing well and were in need of localization. After years of working on the localization for their games, they found a list of their “must-translate-into” languages being English, German, French, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish.
Localizing their games made significant changes in their install rate, as seen in the example shared by translation company Alconost’s medium website. They shared Farm Bubbles’ user acquisition numbers before and after their translation of the game, marketing text, and advertising to Korean in June 2017 in South Korea
Changing their ad creatives for another game into Japanese showed a 70% CTR compared to the 30% they get with their English ad.
So getting and finding the right languages to localize will save you a lot of time and money. But finding the right company for your translations, however, is a bit too much to talk about in just this article. Just do the research and homework needed as there are many all over the world that each has its strengths.
Lesson learned: Good localization is something you never should compromise on.