The online gaming industry recently discovered the vast consumer base that exists in Southeast Asia. To reach as many people as they possibly can, these companies now turn to localization to make sure their products fit the Southeast Asian market perfectly.
According to Brian Leonal in an article on the Courant website, the online gaming industry is becoming more and more aware of the benefits that come with localization.
According to Leonal, the usual suspects in localization are text translation, dialogue dubbing, and, perhaps a little more surprising, character outfits. And the time and money invested in localizing games can certainly pay off, he says!
Here, Leonal refers to a study conducted by Niko Partners. This research firm stated that in 2013, the 85 million gamers in Southeast Asia spent an astounding 661 million US dollars on online gaming. And this number is expected to climb even more: Niko Partners predicts Southeast Asians will spend 1.2 billion dollars on the industry in 2017. David Ng, who is the chief executive gaming company Gumi Asia Pte Ltd, calls the growth of the online gaming industry ‘staggering.’ He says the growth is responsible for the rise of the localization industry – people now understand why localization is very much needed.
Ng himself became aware of the importance of localization when he wanted to launch a game that was originally designed for a western audience in Southeast Asia. When testing the game Puzzle Trooper in the region, Leonal says, the Hulk Hogan-like fighter that starred in the game only got a tepid response. This all changed when he was given some manga characteristics.
However, Leonal states that Southeast Asia is not one big, homogenous market. Ng agrees with him, saying that that Thai and Vietnamese players prefer their characters to dress in a Chinese style, while Philippine players prefer the Western dress style, for example. And preferences can even very within a single country, Ng says! In Indonesia, for example, where Muslims, Chinese and Christians live side by side, creating a game to appeal to the various cultures can be quite challenging.
However Leonal believes it is worthwhile to investigate ways to appeal to the Indonesian consumers, as the country is home to almost 20 million gamers who, in 2012, spent 88.1 USD on online games. Managing director of a localization firm called Synthesis APAC Harry Inaba even goes as far as saying that Indonesia will decide the future of game localization in the entire region!
According to Ng, there is more to localizing games for Southeast Asian consumers than language and culture. He believes it also entails adapting games to different handset types and optimising graphics. Moreover, the different Android systems and the many different devices used in the region are also a significant hurdle that must be taken by online gaming companies. Because of this, games have to be localised in a multitude of formats.
Another issue for developers are the low connection speeds in different parts of the region, Leonal says. This means high-quality graphics and detailed animations are a big no-no. In fact, Leonel reveals that developers are turning to pixel technology used in older phones to ensure their games need less bandwidth. Ng states that his company did not localize its games for all Android devices in Southeast Asia: instead, he chose the 20 to 30 most popular ones to localize his products for. Ng’s goal, Leonal says, is player loyalty, which he tries to obtain by making his games ‘sticky.’ In other words, he tries to make the games as easy to understand as he possibly can for every single market.