It’s nearly that time again! GDC 2017 is right around the corner. We’re eagerly looking forward to meet up with old friends and to make new ones at this year’s event. Hosted at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, Game Developers Conference will run the whole week from 27 February through 3 March, with the Expo portion spanning Wednesday through Friday (1 – 3 March).

GDC is also running concurrently with a subsidiary show, VRDC, for the Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) communities.

e2f has been involved with the game industry for years. We’ve been watching many of the changes happening in the market. As we head into GDC, here’s a few of our observations:

Gaming Industry Growth

The gaming industry is a behemoth. In 2007, the global gaming market was valued at $44.9 billion. A decade later, Newzoo forecasts the market will grow to $106.5 billion in 2017, with mobile alone accounting for $42.5 billion — practically the size of the whole 2007 market!

Within the gaming market itself, you have segmentation by platform: Consoles, PC/Mac, Mobile/Tablet, Handhelds (which are just a sliver of what they once were as mobile overtakes  their role), Web/Browser/Social-based games, and, most recently, VR. The main growth has been in Mobile, and that is where e2f has seen the bulk of our own business. Only a few years ago, in 2015, mobile exceeded consoles in terms of revenues. It has since blitzed past consoles with stunning year-over-year growth rates like 51% in North America, 47% in Europe, and 86% in China. No other segment of gaming compares in terms of size and growth.

Plus, the way the modern gaming industry is fueled and financed is utterly different than the traditional models. While we still see large AAA studios making blockbuster-movie-sized commitments to major brands and franchises, the current explosive growth often stems from a host of smaller innovative teams.

Thus, while large studios can afford in-house localization teams, GDC’s attendee surveys of recent years show that only a quarter of games today go through the traditional designer/publisher model. The rest are bootstrapping and going through non-traditional funding models, such as crowdsourcing via Kickstarter or Patreon, pre-release funding on Steam Early Access, or utilizing new capitalization services like Aprenita.

Globalization as the Key to Growth

With mobile being the platform of choice for both developed and developing markets, it has made ROI in localization far easier. It’s not a matter of “if” you translate a game, but to “how many languages?”

For studios, having a seasoned partner in globalization makes the difference between being a rookie phenom in a monolingual release, and becoming a global all-star.

While a few small game design shops rely localization efforts provided by fans, even then you need someone with professional experience familiar with localization and translation to run herd on the voluntary contributions. While you might save on translation per se, you may still want to invest in a localization project manager to maintain quality and consistency. Even then, there may be some languages that are more vital to have high-quality translation for than others. For these major language markets, you may wish to get professional translations, and leave crowdsourcing only for markets where there is no firm ROI for translation.

Medium-sized developers look for a more comprehensive solution. Not only the game UI/UX needs to be localized, but also the website, ad campaigns, social media, online community, and other collateral for the markets they are operating in. Rather than bring all that linguistic expertise in-house, again, a partnership with a professional Language Service Provider (LSP) will be their best path forward.

Even among large companies with established localization teams, keeping and retaining talent can be a challenge. Internationalization engineering tends to be a niche field (and somewhat of a black art), and not every team has in-house expertise to refactor their code for globalized releases. There are also production lulls and crunch times, major releases and minor updates. Or the expansion into a new linguistic or geographical market. Because of the cyclic and periodical nature of the requirement for localization team members, even the biggest development shops can look to an LSP such as e2f to provide staffing services.

Hope to meet you at GDC!

We’ll be at the show and would love to hear your war stories and fantastic visions for the future. Like last year, we hope wander the Exhibition Hall to create a daily blog of what’s cool and new. (You don’t have to be a client to get featured. We just love gaming!)

While you’re in San Francisco, if you’d like to arrange a meeting with us to discuss your needs, or just to show off your awesome new games, email us at [email protected], and let us know the best day and time to meet you and your team. Or even better, you can book a block of time with us through Calendly for the event.

Update: Read our GDC2017 Blog!