Social & Mobile Apps and Globalization – Confessions of a g11n Veteran

Webinar recording: “Mobile Apps & Games Internationalization and Globalization” with Danica Brinton and Adam Asnes available for request: http://www.lingoport.com/webinars/mobile-apps-i18n-global-games-l10n-mobile-internationalization-localization/

Guest Article: Social & Mobile Apps and Globalization – Confessions of a g11n Veteran

By Danica Brinton, localization professional.

I have been in the international-production, international-product-management and globalization business for over 12 years. Over the past four, I have been focused on online games, social and mobile games and applications. I realize that my continued focus on and fascination with this particular area has a lot to do with the instant gratification that results from globalizing in the social/mobile space. Sure I have seen great results from globalizing software, handhelds, CPU’s, search and web services, but the dramatic increase in the overall user base and revenue coming from localization of social games, mobile games and applications provides the best – and the most immediate – business case to invest in international expansion. I find that I must put in place the following prerequisites in order to secure both a quick return on the investment and a continued long-term growth:

  1. Market-tier strategy based on extensive market research, statistical data analysis, competitive study and multi-factor estimates/projections.
  2. Language-selection strategy based on the market-tier strategy, analysis of the barrier to entry in a given market, legal and cultural investigation
  3. Locale-specific product positioning
  4. Internationalization with the standard and scalable framework to support rapid continuous SBML/simship localization
  5. International payments strategy that encompasses a comprehensive set of locally popular payment methods and local currencies
  6. Cross-functional organization to support global operations
  7. International production organization that understands the specifics, intricacies and unique challenges posed by the social/mobile app development and rapid market movements
  8. Scalable localization processes, tools and infrastructure adapted to the content, platform, speed of development, release processes, market requirements, and budget constraints
  9. High-quality of translation

Social and Mobile Apps Localization

Fast-moving social and mobile apps prominently require continuous localization, tightly integrated into the build system, in SBML (single-binary multilingual) simship method. At Zynga, for example, we introduced daily releases in SBML/simship for up to 18 languages.

Other than aggressive and frequent simship releases, the new social and mobile apps also require that they be localized at launch into as many languages as planned. Staggered releases will not be nearly as successful as out-of-the-gate simship.

No doubt about it, social games will be played by millions of people but only if the game and its language are compelling enough to draw the user into the game. The viral nature of these games allows a player to pull in dozens of their Facebook friends. This can only happen if a user enjoys the game and its mechanics so much that they want to brag about it to their friends . The game mechanics are heavily verbal and any barrier to immersion, particularly any issues in the target-language must be removed. As a rule, the English text in these games is 1. written rapidly, conforming to the speed of development; 2. full of American slang. Even though it is string based and highly technical in the approach, game translation is more akin to literary translation and international copy writing than software string translation.

Trends in Mobile and Games Globalization

A large % of social game players have friends in other countries and play social games with speakers of different languages. After all, more than 75% of Facebook is outside of the US. The multilingual nature of the game virals becomes another unique translation and internationalization/localizaton challenge.

Most prominent social games have over 70% of the overall user base and over 50% of revenue coming from localized locales – localization can increase the locale-specific traffic by 80%-300%. I’ve seen that localized mobile apps can expect to expand their user base and downloads by 40%-50% when the developer adopts the right strategies and is willing to implement an aggressive continuous localization. As mobile games get more viral features and capabilities AND as the smart-phone adoption grows internationally, that percentage will continue to grow rapidly.

Another new trend is cross-platform apps and games – releasing games that can be simultaneously/real-time played on multiple devices, i.e. switching from Facebook to iPhone to Android. Localization of these apps has its own set of challenges that appropriate locale strategies and continuous localization can address.

The market tier strategy is different for FB vs. iPhone vs. Android apps. However, the common thread is that new markets are emerging in top tier language sets in all three platforms. For example, Turkish, Norwegian, and Brazilian Portuguese are counted in the tier-1 language set for many social games on Facebook alongside more traditional FIGS. Meanwhile, the poster child of tier-1 markets — Japan — falls into tier-3 on the Facebook platform. And China is not accessible for Facebook users.

Some new languages can be very profitable but their globalization could become a huge challenge for the new app makers unaccustomed to i18n or l10n. At LocLabs, for instance, we built large teams and extensive expertise to support Arabic and Thai globalization for Apple as well as a number of our app-developer clients.

Mobile and Games Globalization in Emerging Markets

Often quoted is the fact about rapid growth of the India and China mobile markets. While I found that India and China are incredible new mobile markets, India does not still necessitate language localization and Mainland China is still not ROI positive for smart-phone app localization. Taiwan and Hong Kong are profitable but small. Smart-phone manufacturers, however, are eagerly competing for the Asian market and are incentivizing app makers to localize into Chinese and Korean, prominently.

Much of the above content will be discussed in more detail in the upcoming webinar on Games and Mobile App Globalization that I am holding on December 1st with Adam Asnes of Lingoport.

About LocLabs

Danica Brinton runs her own company, LocLabs, specializing in international product management, international strategy, localizability/i18n, localization, localization testing, content management, and international feature development. Danica has held leadership positions in international product management, strategy and globalization at Zynga, Yahoo!, Second Life, Ask.com, and Apple, Inc.

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