The problem of localization can be illustrated by numbers – approximately 530 million people live in North America and most speak one common language, English. Compare this to the population of the European Union with about 500 million people but as many as 26 official languages, not to mention Asia with scores of languages and hundreds of dialects. It is evident that any online publisher who aims at international reach has to take a totally different and localized approach than when offering the same product to the North American market.
Localization starts with language. If you consider the nuances of regional linguistic usage, simply depending on Google Translate or similar solutions – as tempting as it may seem – gives unsatisfactory results. Michael Zillmer, CEO at browser-games publisher InnoGames says, “The biggest task for localization is of course the language. We put a lot of effort into good translation. It does not only have to be understandable but it has to feel right. In our eyes, this is the most important thing.”
User relationships are a matter of trust. Bad translation will at best produce orthographic mistakes; at worst it will be misleading or even offensive and rebuff your international users. “Other important aspects are cultural differences. For example, we excluded the church in Tribal Wars from our Arabic version. Depending on the game we might change some graphics as well,” adds Zillmer. Proper localization helps bridge these cultural divides. Native speakers understand regional culture and adjust the product to it. According to Linus J. Menden, Head of Finance for publisher Bigpoint, “we do almost all localization in-house with native speakers. For example, for countries like Brazil we are using localization for Brazil and not just Portuguese.”
This approach is complex and can be expensive but it’s worth the effort. Not only are native speakers able to provide translation that users trust, they also understand the country’s business environment and can establish contacts with regional partners. Indeed, as Menden says, “the biggest obstacles when entering a new market include not just having games that are successful in that particular culture but also finding partners that can offer a good network of platforms to promote the games.” “We make sure to have a local Community Manager who currently lives in the country or at least has lived there for a long time in the past,” mentions Zillmer. Thus, effective localization involves not only correct language but also a deeper understanding of local culture across sales, account management and customer support.
Finally when it comes to payments, specifically offer-based monetization, localization has a direct relationship with conversion and consequently revenue. “We see that local ad-offers are the most attractive for users as they feel most comfortable engaging with them. Other offers do not perform as well, mostly due to language problems and lack of trust,” notes Menden. From our experience, high quality, relevant ad-offers sourced from local partners generate between three and ten times higher revenue than rudimentary translation-based methods.
In essence, proper localization for a global audience requires a ‘glocal’ solution; one that demands concerted effort across the entire organization but at the same time delivers rich dividends.