Localizing Your Game for Southeast Asia

Why it’s good for business

The global gaming market has been growing by double digits for the past few years. New technologies like digitization, 5G and cloud computing are enabling the rapid growth. As a result, players are able to use high-resolution games anywhere and anytime. However, gaming markets are competitive, and players are difficult to retain. Consequently, many game developers are responding to this challenge by entering new markets.

One of the world’s fastest growing regions is Southeast Asia. With an impressive growth rate of 13.9% and $4.3 billion in USD revenue during 2019, it is worthwhile for companies to consider expanding into Southeast Asia.

By executing this type of strategy, gaming companies have the opportunity to enter lucrative markets consisting of Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

What are the key characteristics for gaming success in new markets?

There are two important requirements for selecting a new market:

  1. A rapidly growing young population
  2. A rise in urbanization

Southeast Asia’s gamers are young, engaged and ready to spend. While the world’s population is aging, in Southeast Asia, the younger population is growing. The Southeast Asian population now makes up 8.58% of the world’s population and the median age is only about 30 years old.

As for urbanization, people in Southeast Asia are relocating to cities. In cities, network connections needed to play mobile games are more prevalent and faster than in rural areas. The United Nations projects that by 2030, the share of the world’s population living in urban areas is expected to reach 60%. In Southeast Asia, the urban population is at 50% and has had a 2.2% year-over-year growth rate.

People are also more likely to earn higher wages in dynamic, urban settings, leading to greater buying power–including the ability to purchase games.

How is the mobile revolution changing games?

More than 70% of the Southeast Asian population is subscribed to mobile services. Over 70% of Southeast Asia’s gaming revenue comes from mobile games, with the PC taking up a 22% stake and the console accounting for 8%.

Smartphones have enabled people living in rural areas to also access to the newest games since they are no longer dependent on access to consoles and PC devices. Furthermore, because of the growth of e-commerce, the latest gaming gadgets can now be delivered to their front door.

How does digitalization change the games outlook?

The games industry has made a rapid shift from physical media to digital distribution. Digitalization enables gaming anywhere, anytime, on any device

During 2019, 4G became the dominant technology in Asia Pacific. At present, 5G commercial launches have begun across Asia Pacific. Cross-country bandwidth in the Southeast Asia region has seen a 45-fold increase since 2005. Globally, 5G is expected to achieve significantly faster browsing and download speeds than the current technology.

Digitalization and high-speed data transmission have also enabled the exponential growth of esports in recent years. Southeast Asia is very serious about e-sports. In December 2019, the Philippines hosted an e-sports contest that included competitive video gaming as a medal event for the first time. The games were supervised by the International Olympic Committee.

Why do local languages matter for gamers and game developers?

Although Southeast Asia is generally considered to have good English literacy, English is an official language only in Singapore. According to EF’s English Proficiency Index 2019, Thailand has a very low English proficiency score, while Indonesia and Vietnam have low English proficiency scores.

Furthermore, only 33% of Millennials in Indonesia consider themselves ‘confident’ in their English skills and 76% of them prefer localized product information, according to CSA Research report, Millennials around the Globe. By providing localized gaming experiences, your company can execute a strategy to expand market share and capture international revenue.

How does localization provide a competitive advantage?

Although global gaming companies are recognizing how lucrative the Southeast Asian gaming markets are, many are introducing their games in English only. By limiting products to English, companies may be missing out on a great opportunity to grow. With thousands of mobile game apps available for download, developers and publishers must find ways to make their games stand out. For growth-seeking gaming companies, localization is a way to beat competitors and reach new users.

In its March 2018 report, Forecasting Global Language Priorities, CSA Research predicted that by 2022, Indonesia will join the ranks of Tier One languages, which includes languages needed to reach 90% of total online Gross Domestic Product (eGDP.)

The fast-growing Asian languages offer strong expansion opportunities for global companies.

How can game developers get started in Southeast Asia?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when determining which languages to target for localization. However, there are a number of things to consider:

  • Study your user base and understand its geographic distribution.
  • Analyze your competitors.
  • Figure out the amount of time your users spend with your product.

If the amount of time your customer spends with the product is substantially shorter in one country than in another, it could mean that you need to offer local language experiences in this country. The more time gamers spend with your products, the greater their engagement level is. Greater engagement leads to the likelihood of returning for more interaction, in-game purchases and the buying of products according to CSA Research’s report, Gaming: Essential Data for Language Investment, April 2019.

CSA Research recommends localizing user interface and community forums before tackling marketing and branding content. Additionally, the research firm suggests aiming for breadth (number of languages you translate) over depth (how much content you translate in each language.)

There is a lot to consider when localizing your games. We’re here to help.

Want to learn more about our solutions for game developers and publishers in Southeast Asia—or anywhere else in the world? Reach out to us today.

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