Deciding for which markets to localize for is not easy, and frankly it’s not a one-size-fits-all situation. If you are Microsoft or Google, you will need to address ALL markets and localize in ALL languages, even those you haven’t heard of before! But for almost everybody else, it is more complicated, and it is important to think strategically before initiating the localization effort…


Let’s take some examples.

  • You have a $1.99 social game with very little text and no in-app purchases. You have been pretty successful in the past few months and the game has started to pick up internationally, but 90% of the downloads are US based. Because of the small amount of text, your localization cost per language will be very low (mostly the metadata and a few buttons and in-game text).
    Why hesitate? Translate your game in as many languages as you can. Of course, you still need to do it professionally, but your risk is very low and your reward potentially much higher.
  • You have been running a successful MMO in the US and have noticed a small but increasing user base in France and Germany. The amount of text is very extensive, so the localization cost will clearly be high and on-going.
    It is time to think long and hard. You might be better off to start with one country, understand the full costs and effort involved, including game localization, localized game testing, user support and community forum management in the target language. Then, once you establish a profitable model in that first country, you’ll be ready to expand and take over the world!
  • You have an interesting app enabling users to send small amounts of money across borders. You already have translated it in Spanish and you’re seeing a lot of US-based Hispanic users sending money back home. You are thinking that this would be valuable to the Indian community and are planning to start translating into Hindi to address that market.
    Hindi, really? You might be right, but more likely than not, your Indian users would be very happy with the English version. At this point, maybe you should increase your marketing budget and target the US-based Indian community, rather than translate your app and website.
  • You have a $9.99 health app that is very targeted to health conscious yuppies, with a high penetration rate in some urban areas. There is quite a lot of text in the app, but it’s not overwhelming, so the budget per language will be moderate, and you believe you can afford to localize for five countries. So you decide to concentrate on countries with the largest number of mobile app users, such as China etc.
    Thinking deeper, maybe you should focus on countries with high revenue and an appropriate lifestyle. Northern Europe is a small market, but as a niche market it could be quite profitable in your case. So maybe you should include Swedish, Japanese, French and German in your first try, and see what happens in the different markets before expanding.

I’m sure you see my point by now. It’s not about the number of iOS or Android users in different markets. Your decision should be based on careful consideration of a large number of factors, among which your monetization model, regulation factors if any, localization budget per language defined by amount of text, specificity of your sector, clear definition of your target audience, etc.

This post belongs to our app localization series:

  1. The Art of App Localization
  2. Deciding which markets to localize for
  3. Localizing the app title