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.

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

Pocket Gamer Helsinki: What Asian Game Market is Right for You?

Latis-Global-Helsinki-Pocket-Gamer

Last week Latis was pleased to accept a speaker invitation at Pocket Gamer Connects Helsinki to talk about using Korea as your gateway into North East Asia. This week we are happy to be able to share the presentation with you and provide a summary of our key points.

 

Four Take Away Lessons

Point #1: Korea is wrongfully overlooked because of China and Japan

China is like the great whale of the mobile market. It’s a behemoth, high profile market and country in genera, and offers a lot of potential. Problematically, we are not always capable of seeing the total picture of that potential due to extreme market fragmentation. Chasing down China without a well refined strategy is a good way to get swallowed up.

When we think about Japan, at least where the game industry is concerned, the thing that generally comes to mind are the titans of the industry – Nintendo, Capcom, Square Enix, Gungho, etc. Japan is home to some of the most well-known IPs in the world. To compete in Japan and do well is to earn credibility for your talent in the world’s biggest gaming market.

Compounding this is the general perception that the Western world has of Japan due to its cultural exports. There are a lot of silly game shows, manga, and films that are well-known in the west and there is a general appeal to going to Japan because of them.

But what about Korea?

Even though it is the third biggest mobile market, it’s being over looked in favor of China and Japan. It has a strong and thriving mobile game market and, if you are serious about being an international game company, you can’t afford to ignore it. Along with Japan, Korea is a major driver of Google Play revenue and many of its characteristics make it the best of the three major North East Asian markets to enter first.

Point #2: Korea is easier to do business in than China and Japan

The first factor that makes Korea a great entry point is simply ease of business. This includes things like, how many loops do you have to jump through to do business? How easy is it to find an honest partner? How tight are business regulations? Can you expect transparency? The answer to these questions are going to greatly impact your ability to be successful business in any country you go to, but are often forgotten by developer-focused, or younger companies.

Where North East Asia is Concerned, Korea wins the contest hands down.

The world bank does an assessment of ease of business and has created an index to examine these factors. It includes: procedures, time, cost, and minimum capital to open a new business, protection of investors, enforcing contracts, resolving insolvency, strictness of regulations, transparency, entrepreneurship, entrepreneurial activity, good practices and government regulations, and transparency of business regulations.

South Korea ranks 7th on that index, with Japan coming in at 27th, and China lagging way behind at 96th. This ultimately means that South Korea has a more open business environment with less risk. For those that already have a lot of experience and a network in one of the three big markets, it might not mean much. But particularly for first timers or mid-level companies with not a lot of capital to risk, these are

Point # 3: Korea’s market factors mean less investment, less risk

Some of these market factors include:

  • Korea has one of the best mobile networks in the world with ~91% 4G coverage. Japan hovers around 68% and China lags far behind on network infrastructure with 4G only available in major cities.
  • Korea is one of the first smartphone markets to reach near saturation with around 73% of people owning a smartphone. Korea is a great test case for how consumers will act in a near-saturated market.
  • Korean and Japan both far out perform China in buying power. Where Korea and Japan have similar rates for unlimited data plans, Chinese mobile users are looking at $100 USD for 5GB of data.
  • Though CPI data shows Japan is by far the best country for profit margins, those numbers do not include extra marketing budgets such as television spots and subway ads. Those upfront costs are considerably more expensive in Japan than they are in Korea.

Point #4: Korea’s soft power influence is supplanting Japan

For over a decade now, Korea has been taking over the importance of Japan’s cultural exports. Korean dramas became big in China first, then moved to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan. They got huge in South East Asia, and now the Korean wave is firmly planted throughout Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and even Myanmar. Music, fashion, television, movies, and games coming from Korea tend to do well in South East Asia, so performing well in Korea may open doors for you there as well.

There is also the soft power and recognition that is slowly building in the West with people like Psy. He represents a slow changing shift in the way that Korea is perceived by the West, and the relationship will only continue to grow. Over time this means both cultures will be more open to new types of content.

 

 

Kakao Talk Odds & Ends: How Wooga targeted Korea

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jelly-splash-icon*Update 1*

The title of this post has been changed and some of the information edited. We felt it was misleading from the point we were trying to make. Ultimately, as one of the commentors has pointed out, Wooga probably did not earn much in Korea. They did some good things for people to learn from and  we hope you find it valuable!

*Update 2* Here is a Pocket Gamer presentation that Wooga gave about their experience entering Korea.

Overview

Developer Wooga
Release Date November 2013
Google Play Downloads 500,000 – 1,000,000
Top Grossing Google Play Rank #54 (Nov. 2013)

In November 2013, Wooga launched Jelly Splash for Kakao Talk. They were among a handful of foreign games on the platform at the time. While they didn’t dominate like Clash of Clans or Candy Crush, they made a small impression on the Korean charts and their model is one that developers can look to for valuable lessons.

The Jelly Splash Stats

 

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Top grossing ranks for Jelly Splash on Google Play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Within two weeks Jelly Splash hit their peak at #54 in the overall top grossing ranks for Google Play Korea. They remained in the top 100 for a little over a month, with a steady fall off at the beginning of 2014 until now.

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Top downloads for Google Play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They hit the #4 spot in top downloads in under a week of release, but like many games, saw a sharp decline almost immediately. Less than a month after claiming that #4 spot, they were down to #516!

What is important to note here, however, is that although their download numbers jumped off a cliff, their revenue stream remained relatively steady over the course of three months before slowly slipping into irrelevance. This means that whatever they did in that first month earned them a base of loyal, paying users.

 

What they did right

Rapid, viral growth

Just like their statistics show, the first month for Jelly Splash was extremely important. Following that first month, they were getting almost no downloads, but they managed to convert enough of their user base that they had a steadily tapering revenue over the course of a few months. The rapid, viral growth of Jelly Splash can be attributed to a number of marketing strategies that Wooga used to launch the game in Korea.

jelly-splash-offline-marketing-korea
A subway advertisement for Jelly Splash in Korea.

First, they knew that offline marketing was important. I can still remember seeing sings for Jelly Splash in Gangnam Station while waiting for the subway. Offline marketing is an integral part of virality in Korea, particularly where subways are concerned as this is where a lot of casual players spend their precious gaming minutes.

On release they made a special emoticon event to pair with the game, helping push their virality even further.

They also tapped into the right marketing and user acquisition networks within Korea, Tapjoy and IGA Works being two of their most significant partners.

These factors combined allowed them to build up a tidal wave of support and ride it out for as long as they could.

*Note* We love different perspectives so I wanted to include the thoughts of one of our commentors. He pointed out that Wooga likely spent a lot to get their initial support – around $100,000, and probably saw a terrible ROI for it. He notes that the top 60 only pulls in ~$5,000 per day and given that they only held top 60 for a few days their investment wasn’t really worth it. He’s right about this aspect of it, so we’d like to thank him for his contribution to the discussion.

 

Optimized and localized

If I had a dime for every time I heard someone say “I don’t need to localize, my game doesn’t have much text,” I’d be a very rich man indeed. A lot of developers still think they can get away with mediocre and sub-par localizations because they think their game is easy enough to figure out.

Wooga made sure that everything from their Google Play store page, to in-game text was in Korean, and made sense for their users. Differences from the iOS version included unique sound recordings, emoticon packs, and new achievements.

Understanding the platforms

Entering the Korean market means that one must have a good understanding of the dynamics of Google Play, Android, and Kakao. Whether or not you choose to go with Kakao (and you can be successful without it), you still need to understand how it operates and how it impacts the game market in Korea.

Wooga ultimately decided to use the Kakao platform, and understood that there is a certain experience that Kakao gamers are used to. For them, that meant optimizing for its UI design and making the game not only fun, but familiar.

The big take-away

Not every game is Candy Crush or Clash of Clans. While both of those games have enjoyed massive success in Korea, they are the exception rather than the rule. Both have managed to sustain their revenue stream at a relatively high peak, but the truth is, a lot of games fizzle out rather quickly in Korea.

Wooga still managed to reach #2 in the top games list, a decent win for a foreign game on the Kakao platform, and managed a small revenue stream the course of a few months. There are likely things they could have done differently to boost their revenue and sustain it over a longer period of time. If anything, they are an example of understanding that your Lifetime Customer Value (LTV) varies in each market, and needs to be one of your top considerations when creating a global strategy.

Tell us your thoughts

What strategies do you think made Wooga so successful in Korea? Do you think they made any critical mistakes? Have you tried launching a game in Korea? Tell us about it! Leave a comment below and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

 

A Day in the Life: Postmortem on a Launch Failure

Running-Quest-Banner

Sterling Selover’s story is one that a lot of developers are familiar with. He had a great game idea with a twist on a favored genre, some friends willing to help make it into an international success, and even great press.

But like so many hopeful game developers, a few bad decisions led to the game flopping in the charts. The game in question is Running Quest, an RPG runner hybrid inspired by games like Temple Run, Everquest, and Elder Scrolls.

In spite of his efforts to combine those games into a mobile chart-topper, it peaked at #611 in the top grossing charts for the iPhone in the US. I met Sterling in January at the London Pocket Gamer Connects event, just prior to the release of the game. At the time, I told him I thought the game could do really well in Korea (and I still stand by that), but he was already overwhelmed with the international releases he had scheduled.

I’ve kept in touch with him since and he agreed to share some of the lesson he learned in working on the project on the blog. They are brief and to the point, but they highlight the problems and decisions a lot of young developers have to face when releasing their games, so I hope you’ll be able to learn from his experience too.

Q: Why did you choose Japan as your entry point into Asia as opposed to Korea?
A: I chose Japan and China because I personally knew people in those regions that were willing to help translate the app for a reasonable share of the revenue in those countries.

Our Advice: While it’s great to have people you know in new markets, translation is rarely done on revenue share basis and ought to be a relatively inexpensive cost in your marketing budget. It’s better to partner with someone who is able to deliver, not just localization services, but access to a network of ad agencies or publishers who can assist with translation and user acquisition obstacles.

Q: If you could single out the biggest problem or mistake that was made, what would it be?
A: Spending money on advertising as opposed to user acquisition.

Our Advice: No doubt user acquisition is the problem to solve in the mobile sphere. It’s both an issue of quantity and quality, so not only do you need to acquire users, you need to make sure you keep them. Resources will also need to be allocated to community building and maintenance, so factor those into your budget when you decide to tackle new markets.

Q: I saw that there were multiple languages available for the game, what was your methodology for localizing it and what made you choose those languages?  
A: I will likely not be localizing in the future.  I have not generated a return for the investment in localization.  I chose the most popular languages of English, French, German, Italian, Spanish as that is pretty standard these days.  I also included Japanese and Chinese because I knew people that were willing to help.

Our Advice: For an initial release, immediately expanding into multiple markets without prior experience may be a bit more ambitious than feasible. Entering a new market is a time investment, so make sure you’ve got a good understanding of what is required of you for each place, or look for publishing/marketing partners who can handle the bulk of the work for you.

Q: What would you do differently the next time you make a game?
A: Strategic partnerships and have a rock solid plan for development and marketing.

Our Advice: As mentioned above, this is a great tip. Strategic partnerships and development plans are a must.

Q: What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from making and marketing Running Quest?
A: Don’t release the product until its ready and don’t commit to anything until you’re ready.

 Our Advice: Not really much to add here. Solid advice.

Q: Tell us a bit about your upcoming projects/game releases.
A: I’ve started working on a very cool top down, RPG, adventure game.  Think The Legend of Zelda : Link to the Past meets Dark Souls.  That’s about all I can say for now.  We will actually be releasing the game on PC/Mac before Mobile, but it will be released on mobile as well.  The game will also be a premium title with no In-App Purchases.

 

Tell Us Your Thoughts

Have you released an unsuccessful game? What lessons did you learn? What advice would you give to someone releasing a title in multiple markets at once?

We love to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment below. Don’t for get to follow us on LinkedIn, and Twitter, and subscribe to our RSS feed.

Kakao Talk Odds & Ends: Birzzle Fever

Birzzle Fever for Kakao Talk

birzzleBirzzle Fever is a fast-paced match game where players compete to be the best by trying to create high-scoring combo-chains. Players can try to beat solo missions, level up their birds for more rewards, and compete against their friends for the top spot in the leader boards.

 

Overview:

birzzlefevertitlescreen

  • Developer: Enfeel (South Korea)
  • Rank on Kakao Top Grossing: #267
  • Release Date: August 26, 2013
  • Last Update: May 12, 2014
  • Google Play Installs: 500,000 – 1,000,000
  • Supported Languages:  English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Swedish, Traditional Chinese

 

Pros/Cons Summary

Pros Cons
Familiar gameplay (match-3 genre) Cramped UI, Small Font
Decent engagement loops Frequent crashes
Cute artwork and characters Not enough relevant events
Competitive play Not enough fresh updates
Fast-paced, short sessions Poor localization strategy

Where they got it right

 

Birzzle-Fever-GameplayThe match-3 genre is an easy pitch in South Korean. This may also be seen as a bit of a downside in an over-saturated market, but the familiarity of the game play makes it accessible and the cute bird cartoons make it easy to engage with for all ages. The short, timed play sessions are perfect for the platform and create the same sense of urgency that Anipang, Kakao’s first big game, used to become so successful. The leader boardBirzzle-Fever-Gameplay2s are built into the Kakao platform, allowing you to invite friends to the game and then compete with them (a standard for the platform these days). This feature meshes well with the competitive nature of Korean culture.

The missions are structured so that players must complete a certain amount to level up. They are just challenging enough to encourage continual play while allowing players to purchase gems and skip over particularly difficult missions or ones they don’t want to complete. Overall, I’d say the engagement loops are reasonably strong, but they could be better.

Where it went wrong

 

Birzzle-Nest-FeatureGiven that the game was developed by a Korean developer, they got a lot of the fundamentals right. Unfortunately, they failed to take it to the next level with some basic problems. Granted I was playing the English version on Kakao, but I can tell that they didn’t think about localization from the start just by looking at it. The UI is cramped and was likely not designed to be elastic. Their solution to this was to shrink the font to make the words fit, making impossibly small on even a large phone screen. They also forget that English doesn’t word wrap the same way Korean does, so in  several spots sentences just break in the middle of a word.

The game crashed quite a bit while I was testing it as well, and this was a frequent complaint in the store comments that doesn’t appear to have been addressed.

Finally, and most importantly, the game suffers from a lack of relevant events and updates. To stay on top of the market in Korea, weekly updates and events are generally expected. With dozens of new releases every week, the only way to stay on top and keep your players interested is to come up with new content.

 

 

What could be changed?

The first thing I noticed that was lacking was the Birzzle Nest feature, where you can level up the six different kinds of birds, which each give you different bonuses in the game such as increased experience, bigger combos, more coins, etc. It almost looks like they designed it to have more birds, but never released them. This would be an easy way to update the game on a consistent basis to keep players engaged. Looking at the charts below, both the Google Play Store and App Store analytics show the same trend, suggesting that players got bored with the game quickly. It appears some kind of burst campaign gave them great initial downloads, but they failed to support that momentum and it dropped off quickly.

 

birzzle-statistics-google-play

The Google Play Store analytics hint that Birzzle Fever failed to keep up with the downloads from a strong initial burst campaign.

 

App Annie Ranks Birzzle Fever

Birzzle Fever had a lot of downloads early on, but tanked quickly due to poor retention strategy.

Tell us your thoughts on Birzzle Fever

What do you think could have made Birzzle Fever a bigger success? You can download the game on the Google Play Store or in the App Store and give us your opinion on the game.

Remember to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook and Bloglovin for more great articles on Korea’s game industry.

A Day in the Life: The Man Behind the MMO

online-mmorpg-archeage

A Day in the Life is a new weekly series about working in Korea’s game industry. We’ll talk about current projects (as much as we can), upcoming events, and trends in the making.

Before I started working in Korea’s game industry, I lived a former life as journalist, counting all the pennies I earned while subsisting on cup rameon. Every now and then I still do the occasional spot of freelance writing. Last week I was presented with such an opportunity that I couldn’t resist.

Seoul Selection, the publishing house that operates KOREA magazine for the Ministry of Cultre, Sports, and Tourism, was in search of someone to interview Jake Song, CEO of XL Games, and the mind behind Lineage: The Bloodpledge. He is considered one of the most important designers in the Korean game industry and is largely responsible for launching the country’s online gaming culture.

So, last Friday my interpreter and I headed down to the XL Games office in Pangyo, just outside of Seoul. I can’t give the full details of the interview until it is published, but some of the topics included his take on the origins Korean game industry, politics, the international release of Archeage, and the upcoming release of Civilization Online.

Meeting Mr. Song was particularly interesting for me because I worked on the initial round of localization for Archeage (before Trion made their changes) and I have worked on the translations of design documents for Civilization Online. Even though I can’t share interview yet, I can share what it was like to be a part of Jake Song’s projects.

An MMO Worth 1,000,000 Words

Archeage was an incredible project to work on. We started it right off the heels of another large, multi-lingual translation for Webzen’s Continent of the Ninth.

The game had somewhere on the order of 1,000,000 + words to translate and review. We knew ahead of time that Trion would be making their own adjustments to the game (as is often the case when third party publishers are involved), so our job was just to make sure that the translations were consistent and easy to understand. The glossary for the Archeage alone had nearly 80, 000 unique words in it.

This meant that at times we had logistical nightmares to take care of. Projects of this kind of scale have a lot of moving parts, particularly when the deadlines are relatively short. Multiple translators meant more time invested into the QA process to ensure consistency. In the end, there were some 24-hour shifts pulled to get it done but the coolness factor of working on a game of this scale made it well worth it.

Civilization: The Time Warp

When I first started work on Civilization Online, I had coincidentally just started playing Civilization V. It was then that I learned that it had the reputation for being loathed by girlfriends and wives all over Korea and had a reputation for being a “time warp,” as in, you start playing Friday night and what seems like five minutes later it’s Monday morning.

Unfortunately it’s a game I can’t say too much about given that it hasn’t even had its first round of closed beta tests yet.

I did see the early art mock-ups for it and they look amazing. They went with a cartoony look that you can see in the video below.

It will launch later this year with four different playable civilizations: China, Rome, Egypt, and Aztec. Players will be able to choose from engineers, miners, soldiers, or farmers for their classes.

There is a chance I may be able to join the CBT coming up at the end of the month, so check back for more insights on the game.

Got a question about XL Games? Want to know something about working in the Korean game industry? Leave a comment below! If you like this article, follow us on Facebook and Twitter to receive more like it. You can also find us on LinkedIn for weekly updates.

Building Community Through Localization: How to be a Global Hit

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This week Latis co-hosted Game Next 2014, one of Korea’s biggest mobile gaming conferences. We shared some of our strategies for helping indies be successful global businesses by delivering quality localized products in markets around the world, and we’re sharing the slide presentation with you here.

Here are some of the take-away lessons:

It’s not just about impressions, it’s about good impressions

The current environment for mobile marketing has been heavily focused on interstitial ads, banner ads, push notifications, and an array of other in-app ads all indexed by list of confusing acronyms –  CPC,CPI, CPV, CPA, etc. – that can be both intimidating and confusing for new developers. Not to mention that users find them annoying.

We know getting impressions is important, especially since only 2% of users ever make purchases, but don’t make this the only impression on your would-be-fans. Building a solid community where your fans can feel a sense of ownership and excitement is equally important for curating a following. There are a number of great ways to do this that include forums, contests, and community pages.  Figure out what will work best for you and don’t be afraid to experiment with new ideas.

Customer Support is not just about fielding complaints

We are used to a model of customer support that focuses on solving customer complaints, often pushing them through frustrating email ticketing systems. While it is important to have a system in place to field complaints, customer support strategy should involve more than that. A good customer support model includes:

1) Hearing customer feedback

2) Helping new gamers feel comfortable

3) Keeping current customers satisfied

These can be accomplished by providing easy problem resolution (FAQs and Forums where your customer base can help each other solve problems), social networking communities, and reward systems. Once you have curated a community around your game, give them a space to live.

Language translations alone can help you increase your rank

It’s been shown time and again that having your game in the language of your target market alone can help increase your rankings. Even if you are on a budget, don’t skip this very important step.

Share your ideas

Do you have experience building a community around your game? What successes or failures did you have? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments or send us a message via twitter @latisglobal.

We’d like to thank everyone that came out to Game Next 2014. The speakers shared some great ideas that we will be posting online in the weeks to come. If you have any questions or comments about this presentation, or the summit, please leave a comment.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for more great ideas on how to tackle the global mobile market.

Testing Market Interest: Tips for Entering New Markets on a Budget

mobile game testing

To Test, or Not to Test?

Why are indie developers shy to enter new markets? We’ve heard the same answers from indies all over the world: it will cost a lot of money, success is a gamble, and they just might not have enough knowledge about a particular market to feel comfortable making the investment. Patrick Yip over at the OneSky blog wrote a great piece about how to use crowdfunding and localization to help you test your games. He’s got some great advice that applies to Western markets, but what about Korea and North East Asia?

We often hear of developers eager to take on the opportunities in Korea and China, or conquer the Japanese market and compete with the hall-of-fame IPs of Sega, Nintendo, and Sony. But financial and mental roadblocks always seem to prevent them from taking action. Just like Patrick says, it doesn’t have to be expensive and risky. If you’re looking to enter Korea, it just requires a bit of tweaking to your strategy. In this post, we’ll give you some tips on testing market interest in Korea on shoestring budget.

Test in App Stores, Don’t Try to Crowdfund

While Kickstarter and Indie-GoGo have certainly cemented their value in western markets, in Korea and Japan in particular, crowdfunding indies have a tendency to be viewed as amateur beggars. One look at the Kickstarter projects page for Seoul and you can see that it is a ghost town. Rather than look to crowdfunding, there are three common strategies for testing interest in your games in Korea:

1) Find a partner company and get them to run focus group testing for you. Latis Global provides focus group testing at extremely affordable rates based on the scale our clients need.

2) Run a focus group test through a technical college that focuses on gaming and have students and professors provide feedback.

3) Soft launch in a small app store and see the kind of attention you gather. Some excellent options include:

LG logoAs a carrier store, LG U+ is much less popular than Google Play or Apple, while still providing you with a large enough user base to see what kind of early traction your game can generate.

KT logoAnother carrier store, KT offers the same opportunities as LG U+ while offering a bigger user base.

 

samsung app store logoLaunching in the Samsung store provides the extra bonus that your game will be automatically QA’d for all Samsung devices. This is due to a corporate policy that all games in the store must run on all Samsung devices.

As Patrick noted in his post, it is highly recommended that you localize your app store pages into your target languages if you want to get an accurate gauge of interest in your games.

Find Feedback in the Local Gaming Community

Last, but not least, find feedback in online forums and gaming portals. Their users are often excited about gaming and eager to participate. This is one area where sourcing from the crowd is possible.

Probably the most active app forums in the country, HungryApp and Inven offer a massive user base to tap into for feedback. Once your game has been posted to some of the smaller app stores, you can open a forum on these sites and see what kind of feedback you get. Note that both websites are run in Korean, so it will likely require you to hire a point person to handle it, though this can be done for relatively cheap.

In Summary:

While crowdsourcing is a great tool that can be used to tap into new markets, taking a measure of the Korean market requires a different strategy. If you have to test on a budget, consider soft launching in some small app stores with a localized product page and gauge interest through community forums. The audience you’ll reach are more likely to be game hobbyists that are genuinely interested in providing feedback and evangelize your games.

Tell Us!

Have you tried testing your apps in Korea or Asia? Were your strategies successful? Why or why not? Leave a comment or tweet @CurtisFile. As always, make sure to follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn to learn more about making your games a global success.

4 Considerations for Open Publishing Strategies

doublefine-publishing-platform

Double Fine made gaming headlines last week as it announced plans to deliver services as a publisher following a number of requests from indie developers. The studio famous for Psychonauts and Broken Age will be entering the arena to focus on helping indie developers with crowdsourcing, porting, and promotion.

“Our goal is to help indies build their own community and empower them with the knowledge and tools they need to succeed in their own,” said Double Fine chief operating officer Justin Baily in an interview with Game Informer.

The move highlights a growing need for middle ground between traditional publishing models and the self-publishing trend that has become popular in recent years. There are currently very few services available for developers looking for prototyping, funding, and development services in an à la carte business environment without a publishing agreement.

What Double Fine, and developers around the world, are now noticing is the need to fill in those gaps to become an international success while still remaining in control.

So how can you be a worldwide hit and stay indie? Here are four things to consider:

Invest in Localization and Marketing

Perhaps the most important part of entering a new market is that you invest your time and money in understanding how to reach people. Make sure that you deal with a qualified, experienced localization vendor that has a track record of success in the language and country of choice.

This also includes examining the technology of the region and running tests appropriately. In a market like Korea, for example, users have access to some of the most advanced smartphones in the world. The same cannot be said for the general population in South East Asia, who may be using older technology.

And lastly, learn what marketing strategies work best in your region of choice (for example, Korea and China both often have offline marketing ads in subways and televisions in addition to in-app advertising), and invest appropriately. There is a lot of white noise to compete with, and you still need to invest to stand out.

Choose Your Markets Carefully

Not every game is going to top the charts in every market it enters. Before deciding where you will publish, take the time to analyze your game and the markets you are interested in.

Ask yourself:  is your genre a good fit? Does your game involve a lot of cultural humor that will be hard to localize? If so, you may want to reconsider your options.

You may want to consider doing small, regional releases, and branching out from there (e.g. release in Korea, Japan, and China, and then tackle Europe after).

Be willing to Adapt

Publishers have a bad reputation for forcing developers to change their games, but that advice isn’t always ill-founded.

You have a great card game with an aggressive monetization strategy that is making money hand-over-fist in Japan? Great. But without fine-tuning your monetization strategy and approach, your game may be nothing more than a flightless bird in the US market where the audience is used to a less aggressive model.

Think of your game like a story. To be relevant to a new audience, you have to frame it in terms that they can understand and relate to, otherwise nobody will listen.

Develop Strong Partnerships

No man is an island, and while you can be a success without being confined to a publishing contract, you will still need support. Consider local advertising partnerships (both online and offline if necessary), customer support, testing, localization etc.

Be sure to take the time to research helpful vendors that have a track record of success in dealing with these issues and build a reliable support network.

Are you an indie considering going the open publisher route? Tell us why and share your questions. Follow us on Linkedin, Twitter, and Facebook to read more great articles about localization and the game market.