Monday, August 02, 2010

Need proof that localization pays off?

I am often asked how a company can justify localizing a product for a certain market. My standard answer is "Just do it!" as I believe that the best way to sell a product in a market is by providing it in the language of the local consumers. However, I understand when companies want to build a business case before they take the risk.

Today, the Brazilian newspaper "O Globo" had a story about how video-games are gaining ground in the country because they are localized into Portuguese (click here for a pretty readable Google Translation of the story). The starting point of the story is the fact that people noticed that video-games were now advertised in Portuguese on network television in prime time. The journalist also states that Xbox 360 offers games in Brazilian Portuguese, while Sony's Playstation only offers games in European Portuguese.

Julio Vieitez, director of LUG, a game distributor in Brazil, states that "When comparing the revenues of a good game in Portuguese and in English, the former is 15 times higher than the latter. Localizing is important because people want to play with their friends." Let me repeat that: The revenue of the localized version is 15 times higher than the English version! How about that for ROI?

In the interviews that I have done over the years in the localization market, there are a few things that I have learned:
  • Once a company starts localizing into a foreign language, it seldom goes back.
  • Some localization is better than no localization.
  • People prefer products in their own language, even if they know English (my Facebook interface is in Portuguese, by the way).
  • Support and after-sales in local language are key for product success.
I co-authored a study when I was at Common Sense Advisory called "Can't Read, Won't Buy" that is available for free from the Lionbridge website. Oh! They are my competitors, now :) In any case, it is a good read on the topic.


  1. Wow - very interesting! Thank you for posting this. We just linkeded to your article from our blog.

  2. Good to see tangible evidence of high ROI in our g11n industry!
    Talia Baruch, Globalization Strategist

  3. It seems like an axiom but for some people the potential of a global economy still has not hit home. We have seen this not only in the games industry but in other types of software as well.

    Thanks for posting!

  4. Anonymous6:09 AM

    As they say: you can buy in any language, but you can only sell in the language of the customer.

  5. Personally I strongly disagree on the point "Some localization is better than no localization." as I already got turned off by very bad translations, which sometimes even made the product almost unsuable. If not a least a decent set of quality is provided "some localization" can be worse then "no localization" in my opinions. As for the rest of the article, I agree 100%.