What Languages to Localize Your Steam Game Into?
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
This blog was originally posted on Level Up Translation's blog on November 7th 2016.
As the developer or publisher of a title that took a considerable amount of time and money to develop, the localization of your game is clearly a point you should not neglect.
Localization strategies differ from one platform to another though.
Here are a few tips to help you decide what languages to localize your Steam game into.
All or nothing
Your game is going to hit Steam and you don't even know where to start with its localization? Don't worry, we've got you covered!
Here are the 7 languages (including English) you should absolutely consider localizing your game into:
1 - Russian
10.88% of Steam users are Russian. They make up the second largest gaming population on Steam after the US.
Russian players also own a whopping 8,66% of the total games owned on Steam, and PC is by far their favourite gaming platform.
Don't think twice, localize your game in Russian!
2 - German
4.93% of Steam users are German and they account for 6.23% of the games owned on the platform (31.87 per user on average, against 20.09 for Russian players).
Germany is also the first European country in terms of game revenue, so localizing your game in German is not only a safe bet, it's a must.
3 - Brazilian Portuguese
The share of Steam users from Brazil keeps on increasing.
4.72% of Steam users are Brazilian and they account for 3.55% of the total games owned on the platform.
Brazil is the most important market in South America and English proficiency is relatively low. Still hesitating to localize your game in Brazilian Portuguese? Think again!
4 - French
3.61% of Steam users are from France and they account for 3.49% of the games owned.
Localizing your title in French also gives you access to Quebec as well as French-speaking countries in North and West Africa. However, if you are specifically targeting French-speaking gamers located in Canada, we do recommend that you localize your game into Quebecois as well.
5 - Chinese
Chinese gamers mostly play on PC (57% of the Chinese gaming population) and with 4.86% of Steam users coming from China, your game definitely has to be localized for that market.
Chinese users own relatively few games (2.46% of total games owned on Steam) but this is probably due to the relatively low number of games available in Chinese on the platform at the moment.
Who said niche? If your game has the potential to find an audience in China, you know what to do next.
6. Spanish, but...
Although “only” 1.43% of Steam users are from Spain, as much as about 6% of Steam users come from Spanish-speaking countries.
Spanish is a pretty special case though. Should you decide to tackle the Latin American market (the second fastest growing region in terms of game revenues), we highly recommend that you go for specific locale versions.
Localizing your game in the above 6 languages will have more than 35% of Steam users covered. Providing your game was developed in English (an additional 30%), this makes your game available to 65% of Steam users!
Raise your hand if you would like to miss 65% of the Steam market! Anyone? No? Good...
Other languages worth considering for Steam
Looking at the numbers, the Italian gaming market is far from its days of glory. However, one could hardly recommend to ignore the "I" in the traditional FIGS (French, Italian, German, Spanish).
Not only has Italy a relatively low English proficiency, but choosing not to localize your title in Italian might expose you to negative criticism for not living up to the expactations of Italian gamers. Many consider the lack of italian localization an eliminatory criteria for playing a game, and just like many French and Spanish players, Italian gamers tend to swiftly uninstall a game if it is not available in their native tongue.
Given the share of Steam users speaking these two languages (respectively 9th and 11th population of Steam users), localizing your game in Polish and Ukrainian is a pretty smart move.
They are also cheaper than French, German, Italian or Spanish, so if you have the budget, go for it!
2.04% of Steam users speak Turkish. For comparison, Swedish players represent 1.54% of Steam's audience. On the other hand, translating from English to Turkish takes nearly 50% longer than translating into FIGS. Turkish is therefore relatively expensive when it comes to localization, and we only recommend it if your budget can handle it.