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


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

  1. 1. Social & Mobile Apps and Globalization – Confessions of a g11nVeteranBy Danica Brinton, CEO of LocLabs. Connect with Danica & LocLabs on Facebookat have been in the international-production, international-product-management and globalization businessfor over 12 years. Over the past four, I have been focused on online games, social and mobile games andapplications. I realize that my continued focus on and fascination with this particular area has a lot to dowith the instant gratification that results from globalizing in the social/mobile space. Sure I have seengreat results from globalizing software, handhelds, CPU’s, search and web services, but the dramaticincrease in the overall user base and revenue coming from localization of social games, mobile gamesand applications provides the best – and the most immediate – business case to invest in internationalexpansion. I find that I must put in place the following prerequisites in order to secure both a quickreturn 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 investigation3. Locale-specific product positioning4. Internationalization with the standard and scalable framework to support rapid continuous SBML/simship localization5. International payments strategy that encompasses a comprehensive set of locally popular payment methods and local currencies6. Cross-functional organization to support global operations7. International production organization that understands the specifics, intricacies and unique challenges posed by the social/mobile app development and rapid market movements8. Scalable localization processes, tools and infrastructure adapted to the content, platform, speed of development, release processes, market requirements, and budget constraints9. High-quality of translationSocial and Mobile Apps LocalizationFast-moving social and mobile apps prominently require continuous localization, tightly integrated intothe build system, in SBML (single-binary multilingual) simship method. At Zynga, for example, weintroduced daily releases in SBML/simship for up to 18 languages.
  2. 2. Other than aggressive and frequent simship releases, the new social and mobile apps also require thatthey be localized at launch into as many languages as planned. Staggered releases will not be nearly assuccessful 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 languageare compelling enough to draw the user into the game. The viral nature of these games allows a playerto pull in dozens of their Facebook friends. This can only happen if a user enjoys the game and itsmechanics so much that they want to brag about it to their friends . The game mechanics are heavilyverbal and any barrier to immersion, particularly any issues in the target-language must be removed. Asa 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, gametranslation is more akin to literary translation and international copy writing than software stringtranslation.Trends in Mobile and Games GlobalizationA large % of social game players have friends in other countries and play social games with speakers ofdifferent languages. After all, more than 75% of Facebook is outside of the US. The multilingual nature ofthe 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 comingfrom localized locales – localization can increase the locale-specific traffic by 80%-300%. I’ve seen thatlocalized mobile apps can expect to expand their user base and downloads by 40%-50% when thedeveloper adopts the right strategies and is willing to implement an aggressive continuous localization. Asmobile games get more viral features and capabilities AND as the smart-phone adoption growsinternationally, 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 theseapps has its own set of challenges that appropriate locale strategies and continuous localization canaddress.The market tier strategy is different for FB vs. iPhone vs. Android apps. However, the common thread isthat 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 onFacebook alongside more traditional FIGS. Meanwhile, the poster child of tier-1 markets — Japan — fallsinto 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 thenew app makers unaccustomed to i18n or l10n. At LocLabs, for instance, we built large teams andextensive 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 MarketsOften quoted is the fact about rapid growth of the India and China mobile markets. While I found thatIndia and China are incredible new mobile markets, India does not still necessitate language localizationand Mainland China is still not ROI positive for smart-phone app localization. Taiwan and Hong Kong are
  3. 3. profitable but small. Smart-phone manufacturers, however, are eagerly competing for the Asian marketand 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 andMobile App Globalization that I am holding on December 1st with Adam Asnes of Lingoport.About LocLabsDanica Brinton runs her own company, LocLabs, specializing in international product management,international strategy, localizability/i18n, localization, localization testing, content management, andinternational feature development. Danica has held leadership positions in international productmanagement, strategy and globalization at Zynga, Yahoo!, Second Life,, and Apple,Inc. Connect with Danica and LocLabs at or send her an email at danica (at)