How Chinese Game Devs Can Localize Their Gaming Apps for Global Success
This article is part of our coverage of the 2011 China Mobile Developers Conference.
Just before lunch, a panel of local and international mobile gaming experts chatted onstage here at 2011CMDC, both to discuss localisation of game apps, and to offer practical advice to the many Chinese app developers in the audience.
The host was Richard Robinson (of Youlu.com, and whom we saw earlier in the week at Disrupt Beijing), and the panel was made up of TapJoy’s Larry Berkin, GeaxGame’s Fox Jiang, EA’s Mike Pagano, and J-Seed Ventures’ Ryo Umezawa.
They discussed a couple of main issues, before then taking some audience questions. First up, Richard asked…
Topic: What’s your deal in China and Asia?
Mike, from EA - Currently, EA has four gaming titles localized for China, with a further “two more games on tap for this fiscal year.” Mike emphasized how its China team is truly run by local staff: “The talent here is amazing.” Plus, he says, its Ghost Harvest title – a kooky mix of farming and Plants Versus Zombies – was particularly aimed at China when being developed.
Fox, from GeaxGame - His company develops for sixteen countries, and is currently “focusing on Android.” An example is its Poker King Online Texas Hold’em.
Larry, from TapJoy - “We have an engine to put into apps to promote other apps,” says Larry by way of introduction. Right now, 10,000 to 15,000 games are enabled in this way, giving his network a “daily reach of 50 million people.” Pointing in Mike’s direction, he says that EA’s Ghost harvest utilises TapJoy, and that it was a critical part of that game’s growth.
Ryo, for J-Seed Ventures - Looking at the larger picture, Ryo points out how Asia – and especially Japan – is such a massive draw for game developers. DeNA, apparently, has a “30-times higher output than Zynga, fifteen-times more than Facebook.”
Topic: What are the challenges in making a global game?
Mike - Speaking for EA, he says, “We have to create a title that dabbles in eastern influences” to make it appealing in Asia, and that his company needs to focus more on the freemium model for this region. Giving a hat-tip to local social media, he says:
Games on Renren, Tencent, etc., are light years ahead of what we see on Facebook.
His advice in addressing these challenges to Chinese game devs is to get your game checked to make sure everything is fine for a western audience, especially in terms of language to ensure that nothing is accidentally offensive. He suggests hiring a foreigner for this. In terms of picking an attractive game to localize, he advises looking at trends in overseas app markets, to see what’s hot right now.
Fox - For GeaxGame, its approach was to pick a very straight-forward game – i.e. poker – to take to other countries. So, despite no overseas staff at his company, they’ve had huge success with it.
Larry - Emphasising the huge importance of promotion, the TapJoy man recommends local developers to purchase ad campaigns that require payment only when they work.
Ryo - Taking a different advertising angle, Ryo suggests effectively buying ranking through ad spaces. Though not cheap, he says that a title can get tens of millions of downloads in Japan “by spending 10 million yen” (US%126,000). In a second line of attack, Ryo suggests Chinese devs not overlook the importance of getting good reviews on app/gaming review sites.
Audience question: How best to make your app/game compatible with various platforms?
Mike - At EA, he says, they use a few different technologies for porting games, “some are home-grown [solutions] and some are licensed deals.” But for Chinese developers, he admits they need a “develop once, publish everywhere” approach, and that that’s best started within the initial app, such as with, he says, “a modular solution” to building that allows for the plug-and-play of some elements. So, in essence, think about porting before you even make the original game, to save yourself stress.
Audience question: I have a [Chinese] game dev company with 50 staff, four game titles, and a local team. What move to make next to take a game global?
Ryo - “Pick a simple game,” he says, which is echoed later by Larry. Plus, Ryo adds, never forget to fail to translate all text, even down to the last menu item, if you want users to recommend the game to their friends.
Larry - Getting in a quick plug for his own company, he suggests TapJoy for its pay-per-performance promotion engine, as it represents a great investment with no wastage.
Mike - Lastly, he recommends to the female audience member to “bring in a focus group” so as to help “culturalize” the game that she hopes to launch in other markets. Giving an example, he cites EA’s own Need for Speed mobile game, which they decided to make more social in China. And so, going in the opposite direction, he recommends game developers in China to take out elements which won’t make sense overseas:
Tone down crazy UIs; or what looks like clutter to a US audience.
After all that advice and debate, the panel members mingled with the audience here in Beijing to swap business cards and to field more queries. Hit the comments section if you have any further game localisation ideas.