매뉴얼 만들기

지루하고 반복적인 일의 방식을 바꾸고자 많은 사람들이 혁신을 도모한다. 그러나 혁신은 떨어지는 사과에서 얻는 영감이 아니다.  영감만으로는 아무것도 바꿀 수 없다. 끊임없이 이어지는 사소한 물음에 대한 답이 쌓인 뒤에 비로소 혁신이 가능해진다. 하나의 제품 디자인이 쓸 만한 물건으로 나오기까지 수 많은 시험과 변경이 이루어지는 것과 비슷하게, 유용한 매뉴얼을 만들려면 상당히 많은 문제들을 갖고 고민해야 한다. 디테일이 없는 계획은 환상에 불과하고,  덜 마무리된 제품은 팔 수 없는 견본에 지나지 않으며, 문서의 요건을 갖추지 않은 매뉴얼은 전단지에 불과하다.

보통 사람들의 바람과는 달리, 타자기에 종이를 끼우고 글쇠를 두드리는 것만으로는 매뉴얼이 만들어지지 않는다. 아래 그림은 우리가 매뉴얼 개발에 착수하면서 갖게 되는 수 많은 물음들 가운데 일부를 보여준다.  이것들 가운데 아무 문제나 집어올리면 수십 또는 수백 가지의 연관 질문들이 딸려 올라올 것이다. 이 블로그는 앞으로 그 질문들을 하나씩 다룰 것이다.

CreatingManuals

매뉴얼을 만드는 전문가들이 있다.  그들 가운데 테크니컬 라이터(technical writer)가 이 분야를 대표한다. 테크니컬 라이터는 technical communicator 또는 information developer라고도 불린다. 매뉴얼 개발을 비전문가에게 맡기는 것은 결코 현명한 결정이 될 수 없다. 매뉴얼 개발이 필요한 기업들은 테크니컬 라이터를 채용해야 한다. 그러나 한두 명의 테크니컬 라이터가 매뉴얼 개발에 동원되는 모든 지식과 기술을 갖추고 있기를 기대할 수 없다. 경험 있는 테크니컬 라이터를 구하는 것조차 어려울 것이다. 매뉴얼 전문가 집단으로부터 그들의 노하우를 배우는 것이 매뉴얼 개발에 필요한 유능한 인적 자산을 확보하는 지름길이다.

Five Ways to Prepare your Software for Localization

Today’s tech market encompasses far more than just North America and Europe. Emerging economies in South America, Asia, and Africa have changed the landscape of both software development and sales, and consumers now expect and demand products and services tailored to their linguistic and cultural needs. Failure to meet these needs harms the competitiveness of your product and, in many cases, allows other companies to clone your product and reap the customers you deserve.

Proper localization helps your product fulfill these needs. However, localization involves more than just hiring a good translation company – it involves thorough planning throughout the development cycle of your product, careful consideration of design elements, and a concerted effort from the entire development team. The following five tips will help you keep your localization efforts on track and ensure that the process is as painless as possible.

Start early

Start preparing to localize your product as soon as you identify its core features and target markets. Even if you haven’t clearly identified where you plan to release the product, it’s still a good idea to ensure that the development and design teams consider localization when creating the user interface. For example, text in other languages may be up to 50% longer or shorter when translated, so elements such as text boxes, dialog windows, and menus should be sized to accommodate both the longest and shortest strings in this spectrum.

Leaving the localization process until the last minute may also lengthen your development time and localization costs. Whether you’re using an agile or waterfall workflow, a good localization partner can work with your schedule to provide incremental support for text translation and localization. In fact, involving a localization company early in the development process often improves the end result because the company has time to get to know your team and understand your product. In addition, many localization companies charge a premium – sometimes even double the cost – for quick turnaround times and same day service. So, if you wait until your product is finished before beginning the localization process, then your project may come in past the deadline and over budget.

Develop your own style

After all the time invested into developing the focus and feel of your product, there’s no reason that the text in your software shouldn’t also convey these attributes. Issues such as inconsistent capitalization or syntax can be distracting to users and may even cause them to misunderstand the content. To achieve a uniform style throughout your software, you need to outline the rules governing things like capitalization and syntax choice in a style guide.

Luckily, many of the rules outlined in a style guide can be applied to multiple languages. Some languages may render certain rules moot, for example, languages such as Korean, Japanese, and Chinese do not require capitalization guidelines. When you initially consult a localization provider, confirm that they have the resources necessary to create style guides for all of your target languages.

In addition to text, designers must also consider the icons and images to ensure cultural sensitivity and relevance. For example, some user may not be comfortable with excessive flesh or be familiar with the mailboxes used in North America. This comes with a slight caveat. Accepted icons such as the hamburger icon and save icon have achieved cross-cultural relevance, so these and other similar icons may be used.

Format and isolate text

You should ensure that all text strings use Unicode character encoding. Unicode allows the easiest transfer into languages that don’t use Roman characters, and it handles most of the world’s writing systems. Implementing Unicode after writing the code is a difficult and time consuming task, so it’s a good idea to establish this in your programming best practices before you write the first line of code. In the rare instance that the product cannot support Unicode, then you may need to find a work around using DBCS enabling, bi-directional (BiDi) enabling, code page switching, or text tagging.

In addition to using Unicode encoding, you should also isolate all target text strings from the source code of the project. Programmers should place all target strings in resource files, message files, or a private database. However, these resource files should not include any strings that will not be localized. Any strings that do not require localization should remain as string constants in the source code. Isolating the localization strings in this way ensures that all text is localized according to your company’s style guidelines and allows your software to transition between languages more easily.

Minimize formatting issues

When creating your software, you should consider the range of formatting issues that may arise due to differences in the conventions used for information such as addresses, currency, dates, and telephone numbers. To improve usability, the input fields in which users enter this kind of information need to accommodate various input lengths and characters. For example, postal codes in Canada are a mixture of six letters and numbers, whereas those in the United States use only five numbers. Thus, an input field in a product intended for both countries must either accommodate the relevant lengths and character types in its validity check or separate input fields must be provided. Implementing such changes after releasing the software requires extra investment in development and bug testing and may require resources, such as the original programmer, that are no longer available.

Developers must also consider formatting when writing routines. Some countries, such as Japan, use district and block divisions in addresses rather than street numbers. In software released in such countries, any routine that parses addresses for storage in a database or printing on shipping labels must be able to process such addresses. Failure to do so may result in extra costs from shipping goods to incorrect addresses or customers who are unhappy due to receiving late shipments.

Reuse help content

Help content, whether in the form of tooltips, API documentation, or an old fashion manual, is integral to make your product easy to use and ensure early adopters are satisfied with their experience. However, help content can also quickly consume your localization budget if improperly managed. Most localization vendors charge by the word, so localizing complex sentences and redundant information costs far more than the information may be worth. Keep help content simple and short to get the most return on your localization investment.

In addition, most localization companies charge only for the first time a string is translated. So, whenever possible, developers should strive to recycle strings in order to increase information availability without increasing localization costs. For example, the sentence that introduces a feature in the manual can be used as the tooltip that appears when a user hovers over the icon for that feature, and the section from the manual can be reused in the web help. In essence, this allows you to provide help content in three places for the price of one without adversely affecting the information conveyed by the help content.

Implementing these five simple guidelines during the development of your software vastly decreases the timeframe and cost of localizing your software. Starting early and incorporating these guidelines also ensures that you deliver the best possible product to every target market. For more information about preparing your software for localization, consult the Microsoft Developer Network or your localization provider.

매뉴얼의 가치에 대하여

매뉴얼을 읽는 사람이 별로 없다는 믿음이 널리 퍼져 있다. 우리 사회에서는 이것이 사실에 가깝다. 매뉴얼이 우리 사회에서 중시되지 않는 데에는 여러 요인이 있다. 무엇보다도 서비스 비용이 상대적으로 적게 든다. 밥솥이 제대로 작동하지 않을 때, 주부들은 다음의 방법들을 차례로 시도한다.

  • 남편에게 고쳐달라고 한다.
  • 콜 센터에 전화하여 증상을 설명한다. 운이 좋다면 문제가 해결된다. 그렇지 않다면 하루나 이틀 뒤에 수리 기사가 방문할 것이라는 답변을 듣는다.
  • 서비스 센터가 근처에 있다면 문제의 제품을 갖고 찾아간다.
  • 제조사에 문제의 제품을 보낸다. 일 주일 뒤에 수리된 제품을 돌려받는다.

이 과정에서 소비자가 부담해야 하는 비용은 그다지 많지 않다. 서구에서 수리 기사를 부르는 것은 신중을 요하는 일이다. 결함이 없는 것으로 판명된 경우에도 수리 기사에게 상당한 금액의 출장비를 지불해야 하기 때문이다. 좁은 지역에 많은 사람들이 사는 한국에서 서비스에 필요한 인건비와 교통비는 쉽게 무시될 만큼 저렴하다. 이런 여건은 매뉴얼과 무관한 것 같지만 다음과 같은 상황을 고착시킨다.

  • 사용자들이 고장인지 아닌지 제대로 판단하지 못하고 서비스를 요청한다.
  • 사용자들이 제품을 오래 사용할 수 있도록 관리에 주의를 기울이지 않는다.
  • 매뉴얼이 제 기능을 하지 못하므로 기업들이 매뉴얼 개발에 투자하지 않는다.
  • 매뉴얼이 유용한 정보를 제공하지 않으므로, 사용자들이 제품을 올바르게 사용하고 관리하는 방법을 알지 못한다. 심지어 고장인지 아닌지조차 제대로 판단하지 못한다.

서비스 비용이, 특히 인건비가 낮게 유지되는 동안에는 매뉴얼 개발에 투자하는 것은 어리석은 결정처럼 보일 수 있다. 그러나 서비스 비용이 점차 제품 가격의 상승을 압박할 만큼 증가하고 있다. 대안을 모색할 시점이 왔다.

외국 시장으로의 진출을 시도하는 기업들은 형편없는 매뉴얼이 걸림돌이 되는 상황에 당황한다. 바이어들은 놀랍게도 매뉴얼을 꼼꼼히 읽고 이것저것을 보태거나 고치기를 요구한다. 많은 사람들이 매뉴얼 개발을 하찮은 일로 여기지만 예상과 달리 매뉴얼은 쉽게 개선되지 않는다. 제품 개발과 마찬가지로 경험 많은 전문가의 손길이 매뉴얼 개발에도 필요하다.
패트리샤 로빈슨(Patricia Robinson)은 그의 저서 매뉴얼 만들기(Writing and Designing Manuals)에서 이렇게 말한다.

최근의 조사에 따르면 아무도 매뉴얼을 읽지 않는다는 성급한 가정이 잘못된 것으로 나타났다. 사용자들은 더 좋은 매뉴얼이 필요하다고 말한다. 문서 디자인 전문가인 카렌 슈라이버(Karen Schriver)는 제품 사용 실태를 연구하면서 인터뷰를 한 사람들 중에서 4%만이 매뉴얼을 사용하지 않는다고 응답했고 나머지 96%는 사용한다고 대답했다고 밝혔다.

높은 서비스 비용의 부담이 서구에서 DIY (Do It Yourself) 문화를 발달시켰다. 서구 사람들은 한국 사람들에 비해 매뉴얼에 크게 의존한다. 조립 가구를 취급하는 이케아가 한국 시장에서 어려움을 겪을지도 모른다는 예상은 이 문화적 차이에 근거한다.

좋은 매뉴얼은 사용자에게 봉사한다. 사용자에게 올바른 사용 방법과 관리 방법을 알려준다. 결과적으로 기업은 콜 센터 운영비를 줄일 수 있다. 또한 좋은 매뉴얼은 사용자들에게 좋은 브랜드 이미지를 심어줄 수 있다. 이제 제조사들은 자신들이 파는 진짜 상품이 회사 브랜드임을 깨달았다. 매뉴얼은 제품의 일부이다. 매뉴얼이 부실하다면 제품에 대한 소비자들의 신뢰도가 떨어질 것이다.

매뉴얼은 제조사도 봉사한다. 보증이나 결함을 두고 벌어지는 소비자와의 분쟁이나 소송에서 매뉴얼이 중요한 역할을 할 수 있다. 또한 매뉴얼은 제조사에 중요한 자산이 될 수 있다. 새로 입사한 직원들이 제품을 이해하는 데에 매뉴얼이 훌륭한 교재가 된다. 또한 매뉴얼은 역사적 기록물로서 제품의 변천을 보여줄 수 있다. 매뉴얼 개발에 투자하라. 분명 투자한 것보다 더 많은 것을 얻게 된다.

Korean Startups

The startup culture is slowly starting to spread from its locus in the Silicon Valley. It’s even reached the CJK countries (China Japan Korea), which were locations infamous for their general disregard of startups as a legitimate source of business.

Below is a collection of excerpts that summarize this nascent trend in Korea:

WSJ: Next Wave of Startups in Korea

That’s no longer a problem. So far this year, venture-capital investment in Korea’s tech industry has reached $198 million, more than four times that of 2012, according to the Asian Venture Capital Journal. That is a much more dramatic rate of growth than in the larger neighboring countries of Japan and China even though in value terms, it still lags Japan’s $370 million and China’s $3.3 billion.

4x growth, much of it government sponsored as seen by this next quote:

Through one program, called TIPS, or Tech Incubator Program for Startups, South Korea’s Small and Medium Business Administration magnifies startup investments made by venture capitalists whose firms have won designation as qualified investors. For example, if an investor makes a $10,000 investment, the government can pitch in with a five-fold grant of $50,000 — up to a maximum of $500,000.

These sorts of private/public investment combinations have led to a lot of competition for government grants.

Venture Beat: Meet Korea’s Unicorns

Some learnings from the Korean Unicorn Club:

  • Korea is good at software: Many have said that Korea is only good at hardware (think Samsung and LG). However, the data we have gathered shows that that is simply not the case. Koreans have proven they can make good software with great monetization.
  • Gaming is clearly a Korean specialty: Four out of the 10 unicorns are gaming companies (Com2us, NC Soft, Nexon and Smile Gate)

Though this article muddles the line between a startup and the idea of an “established” company, it does neatly summarize the hot spots in the new Korean economy. Games are a big part of this: some of the more recent stars in this field are Fincon and 4:33, companies we will discuss in more detail in later post.

The interesting thing is that these game companies, of which there are rumored to be over 2000 with Korea, have been able to deliver strong performance without a clear strategy for the Western market. Instead, global strategy for Korean game companies focus mostly on South East Asia, China and Japan, as these markets have proven to be fertile fields for growth. Companies that do do well in the West, such as Com2us, have large regional branches located stateside that help smooth the cultural differences between Korea and the West.

Korean companies that don’t have the funds to create their own branch and still wish to reach out to the Western market are often left in a state of befuddlement. At Latis Global, we have expanded our services to include Western-facing global strategy, to not only help these companies reach the west but also to create a standardized, proven process for Western expansion. It’s still a work in progress, but we expect to create and share case studies in the near future. Stay tuned!

-Daniel So

dan.seo@latisglobal.com

Language Comparison: English vs Korean

Localization, or L10n, (or translation), may not be the most glamorous of topics, but it is an important one. After all, even the most gloriously minimalist UX will still require some sort of help text, and heaven help the RPG game that suffers from a poor translation job. With that in mind, we’ve decided to introduce a new Translation Tips series that draws from our 10+ years of experience as a localization firm. Today’s post covers a particularly ornery language pairing, Korean to English.

Some things to realize about the Korean language:

Characters are extremely dense compared to English. Each character in Korean can contain up to 3 consonants and 1 vowel. Often, 1 single character is sufficient to serve as a word, or at least carry over a meaning of a word.

Upshot: that you’ll find that KR games have menus and other UI that are packed with meaning, even though they don’t take much space! When translated to English, you’ll get a lot of text that “spills” out of their designated UI boxes.

In Korean, a single character can be taken from an adjective and smashed together with a character from another adjective, then fusing them into a single word. As an example, let’s take two adjectives — ‘beautiful’ and ‘frightening’ — and see how English and Korean combine them, respectively. In Korean there are many cases where the two words are split in half, and then combined together so that it would form a new word, ‘beautfright’. Meanwhile, in English a suffix is added to ‘frightening’ so that it modifies ‘beautiful’, and the two are used together like so “the view from above is frighteningly beautiful”.

Upshot: For Korean games, this allows for a ton of depth to be added to something as simple as item names. You’ll often find 3 to 4 adjectives describing something like a sword in the case of an RPG. When translated to English, it’s very possible that a word that only took 5 characters in Korean can turn out like this: Radiant Shimmering Glory Valor Sword. 

Finally, Korean is a language that has an abundance of adjectives but a shortage of verbs. Korean’s verbs are, for the most part, very simple, and on their own do not connote much more beyond a simple action. To add depth, adjectives are used as adverbs to modify the verb. As an example, let’s take the word “strive” from English. In Korean, the best way to say “strive’ would be to take the verb “do” and combine it with “mightily”.

Upshot: Many times, a KR>EN translator will have trouble finding an English verb that encapsulates the meaning of the adjective + simple noun combination that shows up in Korean. Thus, they will translate it just as they see it, which can cause for some clunky sentences. AND once the text has been translated from KR to EN, there will often be length issues since Korean is much more condensed than English. So to make the translated EN text fit in its designated box, a translator may go back and remove the verb modifiers. This makes sense in terms of UI, but it can cause for some extremely boring phrasing!

What can one do to remedy these issues? We’ll go into this in more depth in later posts, but here are some quick, actionable steps for KR to EN translation projects:

  1. Get your developers and UX people ready, because there’s gonna be a lot of enlarging that needs to take place.
  2. Give you translation partner the license to be creative. There will be many times when an adjective or three will need to be deleted, and an editorial decision needs to be made as to which remains.
  3. Check for boring verbs!

That’s it for today. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at dan.seo@latisglobal.com.

Daniel So

Game Spotlight: Spirit Sweeper – The Minesweeper-based RPG for Mobile!

comingsoon_spiritsweeper

For most people, Minesweeper, recalls images of the mid-90s.  The game was arguably the hardest of the prepackaged Windows games that helped so many bored office workers pass slow afternoons behind cubical walls. It might not be anybody’s most favorite game, but it does have a certain nostalgia.

That nostalgia is what Seoul-based developer Wispsoft is banking on in their upcoming minesweeper-inspired mobile game, Spirit Sweeper. And they’re hoping that nostalgia will encourage people to support the game on Kickstarter.

SpiritSweeper_Wispsoft

Taking place in a fantasy world of golems, witches, and knights, players can unlock and choose from eight different characters to conquer their friends and battle internet strangers for sweeper supremacy. But rather than attempting to avoid mines, the objective of Spirit Sweeper is to go head-to-head against other players and be the first to discover 10 spirit stones. Like minesweeper, each number revealed indicates how many stones are near that tile.

SpiritSweeper2

Wispsoft has set a modest goal of reaching $5,000 in crowdfunding which will contribute to finishing the last leg of development as well as develop an additional story mode. Fans of the classic minesweeper will find themselves with a great new update to the game and lovers of casual titles like Candy-Crush and Bejeweled will find themselves right at home.

Check out the Kickstarter page and contribute!

 

Steam Updates Storefront: Is Discovery the Key for Mobile?

Steam-Logo

steam1

Steam’s slogan for its new update says it all: A Smarter Storefront. Personalized Just For You.

The update introduces a “smarter” homepage that recommends games based on past purchases, what you’ve been playing, and friends’ recommendations. While this type of personalized targeting has been widely popular with music and video platforms like Netflix and iTunes, the game industry has been slow to follow suit. Steam’s new update may be the push we need towards better discovery tools in a saturated content industry. 

In the past nine months alone, over 1,300 new titles have been added to Steam, which brought the total catalog to over 3,700 games. For indie devs with little to no money to spend on advertising, getting page traffic was difficult to say the least. By far the most interesting feature of the new update is the ability to follow “curators”. Curators can be any individual or organization with an opinion on games and wants to share them. Steam’s curator pages now offer a place to organize these recommendations and following a curator will also send their recommendations to your homepage. To become a curator, you need to create a group, or already be an officer or moderator in a group.

 

After less than a week, the update has been having a big impact as one Gamezone article notes:

Developers have been very open about how the update has affected them, taking to both their blogs and Twitter accounts to reveal the changes they’ve seen on their Steam Store Pages. Andrew Spearin, the Creative Director at New World Interactive took to his blog to reveal the affects of Steam’s Discovery Update on Insurgency (a tactical FPS). Spearin cited how much trafficInsurgency‘s Steam Store Page received prior to the update and post update, here are the numbers:

  • Sunday: 5,800 (pre-update)
  • Monday: 21,500 (post update)
  • Tuesday: 83,284 (post update)

While he did admit that the game was recommended by prominent figures (and Curators) in the gaming world, the spike in people visiting the store page is obvious. If you’re wondering just how visible Insurgency has become on Steam due to the update, the figure is “370% over night.” Spearin is not the only one discussing the potential that Steam’s update has allowed for indie devs.

Curating on mobile

If 3,700 games to sift through seems like a lot, consider that the Google Play Store now has 1,500,000 live apps. Even if only 1% of that were high quality games worth playing, that would still be a whopping 15,000 titles to sort through. With more apps added every day, discovery on both Andriod and iOS is becoming difficult for studios on shoestring budgets. So could a curator model much like Steam introduced be the answer? Korea has been experimenting with that very idea for a while now.

Afreeca TV is a popular video streaming service, though it is not well known outside of Korea. Given that live streaming popular online games like League of Legends and Starcraft are by far the most popular streams on the platform, it made sense when Afreeca TV dipped their feet into the mobile gaming pool last year with the introduction of the Gamecenter.

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Broadcasting Jockeys, known by the unfortunate acronym BJs, create “clans” where they can live stream their favorite mobile games, and even play with their fans. Their audience can reward them by buying “chocolate”, a premium currency on the platform that can be exchanged for items in the store, and even real cash. Users, in turn, earn chocolate by downloading games, making in-app purchases, and participating in the platform in other ways.

So far the platform is quite small and experimental, with just 178,000 Gamecenter subscribers, but engagement levels are high with the average user playing 5.5 games on the platform.

Is this the next move for Google and Apple?

With such great results for video and music services, and impressive possibilities being explored by Steam, could this be the future for mobile gaming as well?  This would work particularly well in Korea where word of mouth from trend-setting power-bloggers is a powerful marketing channel. Do you think this would work on a scale as big as Google Play and Apple? Leave a comment below and tell us what you think!

Korea Guide: Apple vs. Google Play

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Google-Play-02

Previously we took a look at the T Store and how it houses the largest number of apps in Korea. We also briefly talked about how the three carriers of SKT, LG U + and KT Olleh used to be the gatekeepers when it came to deciding what games would be featured in their stores. The emergence of the Apple App Store and Google Play Store changed this, creating a new open market where developers could bypass the the gatekeepers.

 

Out of all the platforms and store discussed so far, The Apple App Store and Google Play Store are most likely the most familiar to western developers. This already offers an advantage as the submission process and guidelines for each store are largely the same as their western counterparts. Despite the familiarity of each app store, the mobile game environment in Korea is different than in west and understanding how each store operates in this environment is essential.

 

Apple vs. The Samsung Factor

 

To anyone with an even casual knowledge of mobile devices, it should come as no surprise that Samsung devices reign supreme in Korea. 92% of all mobile phone sales in Korea belonged to the Samsung brand with their market share accounting for 63%. LG comes in second place with 22% leaving Pantech Co. with 7%.

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This leaves Apple in last place with a 6% market share. This has contributed to a smaller Apple presence in Korea, where iPhone release dates are staggered, coming out months after their release in other countries (the first iPhone released in 2009, years after its initial release in the US)  and a lack of official Apple Retail Stores in Korea, with only smaller authorized stores selling Apple products.

 

Apple has had a long, tremulous relationship with both Korea and Google. While there was some speculation that due to stricter regulatory procedures with electromagnetic compatibility and emission levels, many cite Samsung’s presence for being the reason that Apple has trouble in Korea. South Korean regulators stalled the release of the iPhone in Korea long after its release in nearly every other country worldwide. The same regulators held a ban on games being sold on the Korean App Store, blocking them from being distributed until 2011 and requiring a developer’s full name and personal information in 2013.

 

It is entirely possible that Apple sees Korea as less of a priority than other countries due to its smaller user base and strong competition from a country that is a bastion for Android-first development.  When compared to nearby Japan where Apple has a 17% market share, putting it in second place behind  local brand Sony, this makes even more sense.

 

All these factors combined have led to a significantly different app store in Korea compared to the one most developers are familiar with. The number of downloads for games is significantly less than with Google Play and even lesser when compared to the previously mentioned T Store and mobile messaging platforms Kakao and Line. According to the App Annie statistics for September 23rd,  the top ten grossing games on the Apple App Store, seven of the games were for Kakao while two other title was published by publishers Com2Us and Machine Zone Inc. and the highest grossing title being Clash of Clans.

 

While you have exceptions like Kakao whose rule states that publishers must develop for both Android and iOS software, the game market features more non-Korean developed titles than Google Play with publishers like EA and Gameloft being featured in the top 50, where on Google Play, a majority of western developed titles don’t even break the top 100.

Google Play: Home of the Indies

 

The Google Play Store has experienced slow and steady growth since its initial release. It experienced a 6.3% growth of revenue in 2012 that has since continued to remain steady. Throughout its existence, while never reaching the large number of downloads that Kakao achieved, it has remained a dedicated store for apps and games and also allowing smaller developers the chance to have their games published. Google, like Apple has also had difficult time in Korea. Trying to establish its web services has been a losing battle against Naver and while its Google Play store enjoyed a period of success along with the Apple App Store, it has recently begun pushing for game distribution without platforms like Kakao and Line.

 

Google in Korea is divided into four groups: Google Cloud, Google Play, Google Indie and Google Developer Relations Department. Despite being different from one another, all four groups are available to game developers wanting to use their services. Of these four services, the most commonly used service by developers when publishing games is Google Play.

 

Like the Apple App Store, Google Play hosts a selection of games and apps, including games for Kakao. Looking at the App Annie statistics reveals another selection of the ten highest grossing games on Google Play are titles for Kakao, with the highest grossing being a Kakao game, bumping Clash of Clans to the number 2 spot.

 

Despite hosting games from Kakao and Line, Google Play has recently begun making attempts to surpass both of them by contacting individual publishers in Korea and offering them incentives to directly develop and launch through Google Play. This can allow both major and smaller developers the chance to create both localized and foreign versions of games simultaneously.

 

Google Play has a role of a gateway, taking 30% of the total cost of game to publish through its platform, even if the game is meant for another platform. With both Line and Kakao attempting to create their own networks and mobile SNS services attempting to build their own game platforms, this holds the potential to upset the distribution channel of mobile games. While the current environment has most games being downloaded through Google Play, Kakao and Line’s decision to move away from Google means a extreme drop in Google’s profits.

 

While the decision to pursue game companies and developers may seem ineffective in the current Korean market, the opportunities it can provide to developers is increasingly attractive for newcomers in the market. By making this decision, it can be appealing to developers outside of Korea where separate mobile gaming channels outside of Kakao are not yet established. In theory, Google working with publishers to create both local and Korean versions of games at the development stage would allow developers to have a much easier time entering the Korean market.

Buff Knight, a Korean Indie supported by Google.

Buff Knight, a Korean Indie supported by Google.

One example of this is Google Indie, which in early 2014 was able to help smaller developer and indie studios publish and launch their games through their services. According to a report by the Korea Herald, this was considered a shocking blow to major publishers, showing that Google was willing and invested to helping smaller studios find the same level of success as their larger counterparts. By doing this Google has sent a clear message to the Korean market that indie titles are important and that the key to finding success doesn’t always belong to the major publishers and platforms.

 

Publishing for Each Store: What You Already Know

 

Apple and Google opened the door for a more open game market in Korea, giving a level platform for anyone who wished to make a game. Along with having the same submission and publishing procedures as their western stores, this made it easier for developers wanting to break into the Korean market, using a system they were already familiar with. Once Kakao entered the scene, this once again changed the industry. shifting away success from stores to messaging platforms.

 

For western developers, both Apple and Google Play still offer benefits to those not familiar with Korean platforms and the process required to publish on them. While few games ever achieve the level of success Kakao titles do, they are moderate successes in their own right and allow smaller publishers to have their chance to have their games published against the major publishers within the industry.

No Kakao? No Problem: The Pros and Cons of Korea’s Alternative Game Platforms

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Whenever someone asks me about the Korean market,  the question of Kakao is usually top of their list. But what many don’t know is that the Korean mobile market is more than just Kakao. There are a number of great platforms for releasing your games, each with their own pros and cons. We put together an overview of the top three alternative gaming platforms in Korea. Check it out and share with your friends!

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#GamerGate: What about Asia?

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tropesvwomen

Just when you think the flames of #GamerGate might be dying down, something fans them once again. Two days ago, The Escapists #GamerGate forums were brought down under a DDOS attack. If you don’t know what #GamerGate is, this Vox.com article puts it succinctly:

 

Like all hashtags, #GamerGate has come to mean about 500 different things to thousands of different people. But at its heart, it’s about two topics:

1) The treatment of women in gaming: The start of the story (which is actually the latest permutation of a long-evolving firestorm) came in late August after indie game developer Zoe Quinn and critic Anita Sarkeesian were both horribly, horribly harassed online. The same harassment was later lobbed at award-winning games journalist Jenn Frank and fellow writer Mattie Brice. Both Frank and Brice say they will no longer write about games. The FBI is looking into harassment of game developers.

2) Ethics in games journalism: Some argue that the focus on harassment distracts from the real issue, which is that indie game developers and the online gaming press have gotten too cozy. There’s also a substantial, vocal movement that believes the generally left-leaning online gaming press focuses too much on feminism and the role of women in the industry, to the detriment of coverage of games. (One of the sites mentioned in this debate is Vox’s sister site, Polygon.)

The #GamerGate issue has largely been focused in the US and Western markets and hasn’t really affected the Asian scene. In terms of journalist ethics, the enitre media industry runs differently in much of Asia and is held to different standards and understandings than in the west. And though the issue of women and video games in Asia is mentioned, the arguments are soft-spoken and often fly in the face of what most PC individuals would consider acceptable.

For example, the Vietnamese game company VTC recently hired women to wear “3kg” signs drawn on their chests in a marketing campaign. Games in Asia picked up the story:

Given gaming’s already negative reputation in Vietnam, this is just another move that suggests publishers have no shame when they are trying to market their games. Many other game sites in Vietnam also need this kind of content to pull in more traffic. Quan Nguyen, CEO of Game4v, said that content like this can easily pull in one million views in one night. On the other hand, a good review video would get only a thousand. Most of these sites survive on advertising, which means they need more traffic to make more money. In other words, breasts are keeping these sites alive.

There is also the fact that at nearly every major Asian game conference the issue of “booth babes”, girls that model in cosplay or scantly clad outfits for major brands, is brought to light. This is perhaps most prevalent at Chinese game shows.

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But issues of gender and gaming go beyond the models in Asia. Earlier this year the South Korean based International e-Sports Federation (IeSF) stirred up controversy over gender-equality when they announced that the Hearthstone competition would be male only. 

A Male Dominated Space?


At the heart of this argument is an oft cited statistic that women now make up 52% of “gamers.”  While that might be true, as pointed out in the video above, that number undoubtedly coincides with the bloom of mobile gaming. Mobile is arguably a more casual platform very unlike the console and PC titles that have defined the “gamer” moniker for so long. Hardcore games like League of Legends and Halo still cater to a predominantly male audience, and its likely that this pattern will continue.

And that’s ok.

If core games don’t appeal to the majority of a particular gender, that doesn’t mean the industry should change them so that they do (and given how well they are selling, its doubtful they will). But that doesn’t mean that gamers need to take a hard-line, hate mongering stance against their female critics.

 

That seems to be the status quo as far as Korea and the rest of North East Asia are concerned. Women are neither rejected from participating (think ToSsGirl, the famous professional Starcraft player), nor does the industry accommodate anything that resembles Western feminist ideals.

 

Tell us what you think

Although by Western standards the Asian game scene has a long way to go, it has so far functioned without much loud criticism. In fact most critics of gaming in Asia come from the concerned parents who are more worried about their children becoming addicted to games than they are about female representations of sexuality.

Is this an acceptable model as long as everyone is quiet and happy? Leave a comment and tell us what you think about #GamerGate and the Asian game industry.