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Level Up Translation's blog


Welcome to our blog dedicated to game localization

best practices, interviews, video game market insights and other useful tips to make the localization of your games easier.

Game localisation services
  • Damien Yoccoz

Is It Worth Localizing An Indie Game?

This is the Number One Question for any indie game studio considering localization, so we thought we'd get some answers from developers who took the leap.

Jumb-O-Fun, Mega Dwarf and ZiMAD speak candidly about the uncertainties they had, their preparation, financial investments and the time they put in localizing their game.

They also go into detail about some tricks to save time and money on localization, their strategies and the tools they use in Unity.

At the end we talk about the impact of their localization efforts and each of them has a different take on that. From features in the app store, to reaching wider audiences and building larger player bases, all three studios have a valuable story to tell.

Our interviewees

Jumb-O-Fun have been around since 2009. We recently localized their latest iOS title, Wagers of War, for which they had prepared carefully. Glen Pothoven shared the details of their meticulous approach and how it paid off.

Mega Dwarf are a three-man game-making band, from Canada. They are probably best known for their indie hit, God of Word, a project whose localization mistakes and successes proved to be very instructive. Daniel Batoff shares the ups and downs of their localization project and the impact it had on their game.

ZiMAD is an international developer and another partner of Level Up Translation. Their ASO wizard, Valeriya Shytikova, agreed to share some tips for mobile game developers and tell us about their experience localizing Dig Out!.

Article outline

1 - To localize or not to localize? 2 - Making sure you're ready 3 - Deciding which markets are worth it 4 - How much will it cost? 5 - Choosing a localization partner 6 - The results BONUS - Golden advice from devs to devs

To localize or not to localize?

Localization is the art of translating the text, cultural differences and well pretty much everything about a video game from one language to another.

In this section we were looking for the root cause for the developers’ decision to localize.

1. How did you feel about localization before you considered it?

Jumb-O-Fun We've always felt it was important for maximizing revenue. On the other hand, we were never sure if it would be worth the cost, unless we had a very successful game.

Mega Dwarf Before we localized our game, we weren't really sure if it would be worth it. There's a reason why AAA studios employ entire teams of people for the specific task of localization and there's clear logic behind Kickstarters doing localization as a stretch goal. But unless you can actually look at sales numbers and see the regions your players are from, it can be hard to justify putting in all the effort to localize your game.


We were hopeful it would allow our games to take their natural place in their regional niche. Just like any other developer who loves their creation, we were optimistic and hoped we'd see more organic installs from the localization.

2. Why did you localize your game?

Jumb-O-Fun We didn’t initially plan on localizing Wagers of War for the launch. Then our marketing rep suggested localizing our game might have an impact on getting featured on the App Store. And he was right... we did end up getting featured!

Localizing Wagers of War helped it get featured on the App Store.

Mega Dwarf There were a variety of reasons why we decided to localize God of Word. First and foremost was we wanted our game to be as inclusive as possible.

"We wanted as many different players from different regions to be able to play and enjoy our game." D. Batoff, Mega Dwarf

God of Word was released on Steam, and most competitive word games weren’t available in anything except English, so we wanted to give the gaming community the option to enjoy word games on Steam.

It was also a business decision. Like any other job, game development is about making money, and the more people you can sell your game to, the higher the chance of you getting paid. Mega Dwarf is a 3-man team, and for us, game development is either the main source or only source of income. We also wanted to localize our game so it would appeal to more people in the Steam Greenlight process.

We found that games that were only available in English would receive a lot of “no” votes because non-English speaking voters would vote no, since they wouldn't buy a game not localized in their native language.

ZiMAD We see higher conversion rates for our localized games. If they can understand what a game is about, people can easily decide if they want to play it. After that, they can fully enjoy the game itself.

There are many regions where people don't speak English for a number of reasons. Some people never learned to speak English or learned another language instead and some people just don't speak it very well. Therefore, whatever message you are trying to deliver in your game, it won’t get through.

It's no fun trying to translate as you play. People will avoid it if they can, so localizing our games comes naturally.

3. Why do some indie developers hesitate to localize their game?

Jumb-O-Fun I think there are two major hurdles that we consider when looking at localizing our games.

One is the additional work required to develop a game to handle multiple languages.

The second is the direct cost of translation and the concern that it's too expensive or the extra revenue from localizing won't recoup the cost.

Mega Dwarf Localization was without a doubt our biggest expense. And for a lot of indie developers, the cost of localizing a game professionally isn't something they can afford.

There are obviously other options available, like getting fans to localize your game for you, or tapping into free game localization resources. But if you're looking for the utmost quality in your game, it's going to cost you hundreds or maybe even thousands of dollars, and that's a tough sell for a lot of indies.

Time is another big reason. We didn't have a particularly text-heavy game, even though we were a word game. But even with amazing localization assisting tools like TextMeshPro and I2 Localization, the process took us weeks of manpower to fully implement. In a business where you want to pump out your product as quickly as possible and have deadlines to meet, a couple extra weeks of development time is something a lot of people don't have to spare.

For us, it was also a question of features. One big feature that we wanted to implement in God of Word was a bestiary. Our plan was to give an informative little paragraph about each of the enemies, bosses and items in our game, which would teach the player about some of the lesser known facts in Greek Mythology.

Unfortunately, dozens of paragraphs of text would have been too expensive to localize for us. So because of this, there isn't a bestiary in God of Word.

ZiMAD The US mobile games market is tough at the moment. A small indie project will have to try really hard to “survive” there. The big studios competing with each other for the top charts are likely to wash them away. To be frank you're lucky to have a place in the US app market without a big investment.

On the other hand, some regional markets are in need of good quality content available in their language. There is a real demand for localized games and apps there.

"I think many indie developers underestimate the potential gains from localizing their game." V. Shytikova, ZiMAD

Making sure you're ready

As with any project, implementing a strategy from the start will spare you headaches further down the line. Keeping localization in mind from the early development stages is the number one thing you can do to set your localization project up for success.

Jumb-O-Fun, Mega Dwarf and Zimad all had a different approach towards localization, which impacted the development of their games in as many different ways.

4. How did you prepare your game for localization?

Jumb-O-Fun We've been developing our games on a simple C# code library we created for Unity some years ago. That library manages a variety of core game aspects such as; game text, game settings, music, sound effects, it also supports multiple languages across any Unity supported platform. So all our games can be localized at any time.

We also developed our own custom font to support the languages we knew we'd be localizing to.

This is actually not too difficult unless you're developing a font for the Asian languages. We also have all our text strings held in an Excel doc which is fairly easy to hand over to a translator.

We create our custom fonts with High Logic's Font Creator in combination with Photoshop.