Effective pieces of advice for mobile games localization

Donald Fomby
September 8, 2019

Did you know that in 2018, games accounted for 74% of all consumer spends in the app store and over 55% of the world’s inhabitants are now connected to the internet? It’s no surprise that this avenue is being taken by many.  

Games are a significant market, and for that reason, language is also essential.  

One of the main reasons for games achieving such a global presence is with the help of localization.  

If your mobile game is ready for localization, here are the best pieces of advice to help with the process. 

What is localization? 

Firstly, what is localization? It’s not to be confused with translation.  

Translation is merely transforming one language into another – which is a necessary but localization is a little more advanced than this.  

Localization adapts a product or service to fit a particular language, culture, and population’s aesthetic. It’s incredibly important to consider with a mobile game.  

Why should you localize your mobile game?  

Before we dive into the pieces of advice, we should look at why localization is so vital for your game.  

For starters, there will be 5.7 billion smartphone users by 2020 – which makes the market immensely competitive.  

When you localize your game, you expand your customer base, lose immersion, and accelerate your entry into new and emerging markets. It’s every developer’s dream.  

Everybody mobile game creator wants to go viral – this is made even more possible with localization on your side. Think of it as an investment.  

Start early  

You should definitely start your work on localization early. How soon? We suggest in the design stage.  

If you plan to localize your mobile game, it should be in the very first stages. If you don’t, it could lead to expensive rework.  

At a minimum, you should ensure that when you’re choosing your game name or company name, that it doesn’t translate to something odd in one of your targeted languages.  

Text strings, styles, and lengths all different depending on the language you choose. You need to consider this when you are designing your game’s interface.   

There are specific languages that will typically demand more space than others. Andrew Ostrovsky, a localization professional at PickWriters, a translation services reviews website, suggested that developers and designers bear in mind that Romance languages like Italian, French, Portuguese, and Romanian typically consume more space in interfaces, compared to English.

Below, you’ll find a table that will give you some brief insight into how different that special demands of various languages can be.

Language Translation Ratio
Korean 조회 0.8
English views 1
Chinese 次檢視 1.2
Portuguese visualizações 2.6
French consultations 2.6
German -mal angesehen 2.8
Italian visualizzazioni 3

If, for example, you’re going to plan of localizing into non-Latin languages like Korean, Chinese, Hindi, and others, you may also want to consider changing the size of the font, in order to improve readability. Here are a few common recommendations:

  1. Consider making the font slightly smaller. About 15-20% should do.

2. Increase the line height by 16-19% too.

3. Take smartphones into account, when establishing the line length. Opt for 17 – 40 symbols or characters for desktop and approximately 15-21 for mobile versions.

Decide what type of localization that you want  

There are different degrees of localization to choose from. These can be: 

Primary localization – This can include app store descriptions and keywords. It’s the most basic form and is mainly for marketing purposes. Many games choose this option if their game doesn’t have linguistics in it. 

Partial Localization – This will include everything that essential localization has, as well as in-game text and subtitles.  

Full localization – This is a localization process of everything, including audio files.  

Obviously, localizing the app store description is an obvious choice. This is the primary way people find your game and will be the sole decision to buy or download your mobile app.  

Know the best languages  

If you’re not sure which languages you should translate to, it’s time to start some investigation.  

To begin, most of the planet doesn’t even speak English – which comes as a surprise to many. Why is this relevant? 52% of people will only buy something if the product information is presented in their native language.  

In France and Japan, that figure reaches 60%. 

In short, the text description should be a target country’s native language. It adds an air of professionalism and personalization to the game.  

You should look into your target audience – which might include various countries.  

Alternatively, you might find that a large number of people are downloading your game already, from different countries. If this is the case, you should consider localizing to improve your reputation and increase downloads/sales.  

If you’re totally unsure which languages you should select, we have a few recommendations: 

  • English 
  • Spanish 
  • Russian 
  • Portuguese 
  • French  
  • Chinese  
  • Korean  
  • German  
  • Japanese  

After this, popular choices are also Polish, Italian, Turkish, and Ukrainian.  

These are solely recommended because of how popular they are, especially when mobile games are involved.  

You could produce a trial, which will allow you to see which languages are the best for you and your game.  

Consider your budget 

Creating a mobile game is a risky option – it’s always unsure whether or not an app will succeed. Usually, it’s based on timing and luck – regardless of the game.  

For this reason, you want to spend a minimal amount of money, especially in the beginning.  

Localization will cost you money, and how far you want to go does depend on your budget.  

That being said, there are free translation resources that you can use.  

Game common words translation and Common game localization are great options. These can help with your budget but also ensure that you are reaching your maximum potential.  

Check your language analytics  

The marketing and analytics team for your game should help with localization.  

Some of the analytics that you should look at are: 

  • Insights on a game’s localization ROI 
  • The planned cost of localization  
  • Availability and quality of translation service providers 
  • Competitors – including how popular they are in the country that you’re interested in.  

Localization should be integrated into every aspect of the development process. As we mentioned before, it should begin at the beginning – but any updates to the game should also be localized.  

Collaborate with the development team  

If you’re the person responsible for localizing, you should always be in contact with the development team.  

If you have hired an external or internal localizer, you should always make sure that you’re in contact with them.  

After all, every piece of the interface could be affected by their work.  

For instance, you should take into consideration that English is an incredibly unique language. Any other language that you decide to use will change how your game looks dramatically.  

Localizers and developers alike need to consider how language will affect the text and the interface itself.  

The game sound and art need to be localized, as well. Ideally, all images, logos, and symbols should also be localized. This reduces the risk of offending specific audiences.  

This is why localization is much more important than translation. Researching into culture is one of the most important things you can do when creating a mobile game.  

Always consider history, geopolitical circumstances, ethnicity, and religion.  

Go through the checklist with your developer or localizer, and make sure everything will run smoothly. It just prevents any issues from arriving in the future.  

That’s one of the best tips that we can give you.  

Testing is the key 

Once you have your localization complete, you should avoid quickly releasing it to the world.  

Always apply industry style practices to your mobile game, especially when it comes to localization.  

For example, you can use a third-party tester, just to check that everything runs smoothly – and the language works perfectly.   

If you’re on a budget or pressed for time, you can run a simple in-house check. These tests should include linguistic checking.  

Consider localizing other aspects of your mobile game 

It isn’t just your mobile app that needs localizing. If you want to market your game correctly, other elements also need to be localized.  

Social media, for example, should also target all your audiences. Many mobile games have their own Facebook pages and Instagram profiles.  

Blog posts – targeted at your specific audience, also need to be localized. You should localize every aspect of your mobile game, including marketing, reviews, and adverts.  

Have documentation ready  

There will be a time when you know who your target audience is, and there might not be text to actually translate.  

Do not worry; you can spend this time to create documents and prepare for the process.  

Take this time to organize how the translation/localization process will take place and how it will be automated.  

This should also be the time when you prepare documentation. Templates, checklists, style guides, and onboarding guides are great ones to start with.  

Also, plan your keywords – in both English and any other language you are using. Remember, certain words and phrases won’t have the same impact as others.  

Another piece of documentation that is really helpful – a draft of the testing plan. This will help everybody involved.  

Collect feedback  

You can start to gather feedback immediately, even if you haven’t localized yet.  

From this, you can decide what type of updates you need to make before you release your game out to other countries and cultures.  

Likewise, you can also look at feedback from gamers related to similar games to yours – how can you improve and localize yours in a new way.  

When you release your game, you should make it as easy as possible to leave feedback. This way you can improve your game, as you go along.  

Again, asking your users needs to be localized. Make sure the language use is impeccable, but it is also targeted towards your desired audience.  

In regards to localization, always make sure that your mobile game is localized  

Again, this is where the development team and the localization team needs to converse and plan with each other.  

This is just a nice touch and helps to ensure that your game is successful, and remains a favourite. 

Make a yearly plan  

On this same note, you need to continue with user engagement. This ensures that your game plan for the next year is up to scratch.  

If your game has characters, you need to ensure that they evolve and are culturally sensitive every step of the way.  

Also, in terms of localization – culture and language changes, all the time. New words and introduced, and specific changes happen in the world that may change your game.  

Open discussions about your game, and make sure that everything is running smoothly.  


If you want lower bounce rates, diversification, and to increase your market – localization is definitely the investment you need to make.  

Of course, the benefits of localization speaks for itself – but how can you do it?  

We hope these simple but profoundly essential pieces of advice help you with your localization journey. It’s an on-going process, which will stay with you throughout your game’s evolution and, of course, the development of language and culture.

About the Author

Donald Fomby

At a relatively young age, Donald Fomby has already amassed impressive experience as a freelance writer. Donald studied Computer Science at Texas A&M and is a loyal Aggies football fan to this day. In his spare time, Donald writes Sci-Fi short stories. He has a passion for technology, social media, and travel.

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