A 1,890% localization ROI in six months and other secrets of the mobile RPG-games market

When we started translating mobile games in 2009, it was hard to imagine that the mobile gaming sector would grow to USD 35–37 billion in 2016 and overtake the desktop and console gaming markets. For a while, small teams of mobile game developers could succeed independently and compete with large and experienced companies.

Such teams didn’t have an analytics department or even a marketing specialist. They would often ask us, as localizers: “Which country is the most suitable for my game? Will localization pay off? Can a game be published in this country without localization?”

Starting in 2015, we sought answers to all these questions. We found out how players rate localization quality in Russia and China and we conducted research on the profitability of the mobile gaming market in different countries.

In 2017, tltGames approached us with a question: “In which market would an RPG game about surviving a post-apocalyptic USSR be popular?” We realized we didn’t have a good answer.

According to our research, the markets in the US, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Mexico, and other countries are quite large. These would undoubtedly be profitable markets, but would they be interested in a post-apocalyptic USSR game? Will localization pay off?

To find the answer, we began a new study of localization ROI in the mobile RPG-games market.

For our analysis, we chose the mobile RPG-games market and used information from Priori Data that covered 55 markets. We sampled the top 250 games, ranked by profit size, from among 3,200 games.

In the diagram, we’ve identified two areas of games released in the most countries. The size of the bubbles corresponds to the size of the profits. It was interesting to us that gaming revenue was concentrated in these two areas, so we researched them in detail. Our sample consisted of 134 games that were released in the most countries (in 45–54 countries). We also attempted to discover whether there was a link between the number of countries in which a game was released and localization into the language of these countries. We want to mention separately that the country in which a game was released isn’t necessarily connected with localization: 28 was the maximum number of languages that a game was translated into in our sample.

As you can see, there’s a direct connection between the number of localized languages and how much a game earns (more languages equal bigger earnings). It’s true, of course, that the Russian market has its own peculiarities. :-)

More details on methods and results are available in our LocWorld report in English and in our LocKit report in Russian. Thanks to this data, we were able to create a formula for calculating localization ROI.

With the help of the results, we were able to calculate the average yearly ROI of localization in several countries.

We introduced the idea of “added localization value” in the formula. This is the difference between the average profit of a localized vs unlocalized game. We tried to allow for marketing costs (calculated as the cost of the average number of installations for a given type of game) and, of course, included the cost of localization.

Earlier in this article, we wrote about tltGames and the questions they had for us. We didn’t yet have the results of our localization ROI research at that time, but we did give them some advice: correct their English translation and add localization into Korean, Spanish, German, Italian, Brazilian Portuguese, and Indonesian. Below are the ROI calculations as of November 2017.

Below is a representation of profit trends (by how much profit increased) with the dates of added localization into different languages.

We call this a “bad good case” for two reasons:

  1. Now we would recommend different languages (English, both forms of written Chinese, Japanese, Korean, German, French) and a release in different countries (all English-speaking countries, especially the US, Great Britain, Canada, Australia; China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Germany, France). There’s a slight chance that game localization into Indonesian will pay off within a year. By the way, Sergey Klimov and Gremlins company got similar results for countries and languages.
  2. They have a premium-class game and they didn’t invest in marketing, i.e. they didn’t buy traffic or promote the game in countries of localization.

Feedback from Aleksey Shurokhov, the cofounder of tltGames:

“I personally recommend localization to those who haven’t done it yet. Beginning developers should start by translating the game into English and other European languages (German, French) as well as into Korean, depending on the game. You should pay attention to places that require localization and places that pay the most overall. Localization in these markets is a step toward increasing revenue without marketing. Any developer will be able to expand their audience. I’m completely satisfied with Allcorrect. We’re still working with them. As a result, downloads have almost doubled, and revenue has increased fivefold.”

We believe that our methodology allows us to calculate localization returns for not only mobile and desktop games but also for mobile entertainment apps. At the current moment, we’re working on widening our sample and increasing the coverage of the results. We need volunteer developers to improve the formula and models for predicting market ROI.

We would love to work with you. Please write us at dhamin@allcorrectgames.com.