Mobilising Games to Go Global: Internationalisation and Localisation

The days of the Cold War are long past and have been replaced by the hotter topic of global warming. ‘Colonisation’ and ‘Super-power’ may actually have become dirty words in these days when global harmony and fair play are the mantras for our planet’s survival.

However, in the last few years, there has been a new power entity slowly but steadily rising on the horizon: Enter the APP Store Super Power!

In 2014, Japan and South Korea made huge strides and surpassed the USA by revenue on Google Play. Reports put China at #3 by revenue on the Apple App store. South East Asia is a HUGE emerging market- Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam account for almost all the game revenue in this area of the planet.

What is the takeaway from all this?
1. Language is no barrier.
2. The appeal of gaming and mobile gaming is a worldwide phenomenon.
3. Big bucks are involved and this means cutthroat competition and planning in minute detail to drive successful apps and games.
4. Game and app internationalization and localisation drive mobility in apps and games.
5. Not least of all, the quest of humans for easy entertainment is now quite literally in the palms of the hands- holding the mobile phone. Never has the opposable thumb been put to such vigorous use.

The game must go on!

A stationary stone gathers moss

The driving force behind any business is profit. The gaming world is no different. This is a highly competitive world and the gaming market is killer. To survive, evolve, and bring home the bacon, apps and games need not just to be entertaining to the boy-next-door: they need to capture new platforms and markets. And they need to be fast and furious about it or fall by the wayside.

How can they do this?

Internationalistion and localisation
This two-step process is what enables a game to adapt to different regional and linguistic cultures. It must include:
Reviewing the language and regional settings which will determine which localisation is used as well as the date, time, and number formats.
Adapting the user interface
The code must handle multi-language text
Locale (not the language) settings must drive data formatting as multiple countries might use the same language, as also the same individual travelling across different countries.
User interface must be ‘mirrored’ while using right to left languages; the only exception here would probably be phone numbers.
It is also necessary to test the internationalized app or game to detect auto-layout problems and strings that are not part of the internationalization-localisation process.

Enjoyment MUST be stress-free
Gaming is for enjoyment; the gamer cannot be subjected to a confusing, frustrating experience. There is no place, either, for being culturally and politically improper or downright offensive. Game localisation must also ensure that the translated, internationalized, localized version be faithful to the original.

Many gamers take their gaming very seriously. Game localisation, including those on mobile platforms (iOS localisation or Android), should enable players to immerse themselves completely. The whole enjoyment in gaming is to transport the player to a world of fantasy more appealing than reality, where lives can be replenished in battles with strange creatures in exotic lands unknown! Nothing should interrupt this ‘willing suspension of disbelief.’

Localisation must be from the word GO
Game localisation cannot be an afterthought and game developers would benefit from shedding the ‘let’s see’ attitude. Successful developers have understood that video game localisation is an integral part of the development cycle along with coding, designing, or writing. In the very early stages when games were designed and played on limited and limiting platforms, this ‘afterthought status’ might have been acceptable. But with the proliferation of mobile technology, and the increasing demand for games across linguistic, cultural and geographical borders, video game localisation has come into its own.

Localisation- NOT translation
It must be amply clear by now that game internationalisation and localisation is not just about language. It encompasses cultural symbols, costumes, ethos, environment… everything that goes up to make civilisations, in fact!

There are many pitfalls to be avoided:

Concerns of piracy and the importance of timely capturing of markets may drive translations on incomplete games. Context must be clear while translating text whatever the stage of game development. The complete picture should be kept in mind.

Localisation must be a consideration early in game development as cultural concepts must be clear from Day 1. For example: scantily clad female characters may be an issue in some countries. If this is not considered early in the design cycle, it could turn into a costly, untreatable headache when the game has to move to more socially conservative markets.

Games must evolve with current events. Consider the example of how a spate of pedophilia cases in Belgium discouraged the use of the word ‘pedometer’ in a game on weight-loss because of the negative connotation such a prefix had.

Separate text files make the game moddable and the translated versions can be pasted on the localized version.

A text-freeze or cut-off date for text changes is a very good idea to control translation costs and keep game development on schedule.

Be aware of cultural issues, taboos and sensitivities from the very beginning.

Accents are important for voice overs. A cowboy with a Texan twang is ludicrous in a video game meant for the Chinese market.

Who does the localisation?
Game developers pour millions into game development. So, it makes no sense to cut corners when it comes to video game localisation to make inroads into new markets.

Cheap translations aimed at cost control may result in a complete flop show and make the developer an international laughing stock.

Whether it is artwork, translation, marketing, packaging, or bridging the cultural gap, it is very skilled work which is the domain of trained and talented professionals.

Time is of the absolute essence to capture the mood of markets.

Discretion and trust are absolutely necessary to combat the evil threat of piracy which looms large on intellectual property.

If I Were to Start My Real Estate Investing Over Again Today

If I were to start my real estate investing over again today, knowing what I know now, what I would do differently is: (in no particular order of importance)

  1. Accept how difficult it was going to be. I’d never owned a business before. We knew this venture would be tough because it was just us – no one else to be responsible for anything. No longer could we go home at night or on the weekends and just veg-out. This was like having a baby – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week of complete responsibility. And, like having a baby, unless you’ve experienced it, you don’t understand what it means. Mental understanding is nothing like real-life-experience understanding. I expected it to be difficult – I had no idea how far from accurate my expectations were.
  2. Know how rewarding it would become. We had goals and a business plan. We had a big “why” when we started out that we used regularly to keep ourselves from getting off track or giving up with what we were trying to accomplish. However, as big as we stretched our goals, as detailed as our business plan was, as important as our reasons to succeed truly were, I had no idea the size of the reward we would be reaping if we refused to be deterred. I cannot stress enough how large the obstacles are that get thrown in front of you over and over, and ever changing. The temptation to say, “this is too hard – I’ll try something else instead,” is HUGE. Every time you give up on your dream and start toward a new one, you are starting over. The challenges may be different, but they will still be there. To win big, you have to grow big. To grow big takes overcoming big challenges. We did, but they would have been far less daunting if I’d had any idea the enormity of the rewards waiting further down the line.
  3. Know that true wealth was going to take longer than all the gurus said it would. “Just buy my product / follow my system and you will see big results.” I have yet to personally meet anyone who is wealthy following the process laid out by a program they purchased. Everyone I know of true wealth followed the experience of a coach/mentor as they blazed their own trail. It looks easy on TV; it sounds easy at a seminar; it is hard work and it takes longer than you think it will. Know that starting out so you’re not disappointed or distracted.
  4. Know how hard working with my spouse would be. Who’s the boss? Yeah, right. And that’s only one problem. Who’s right? Who knows more? Who’s point of view is best? Who has the final decision? It’s one thing if you have a business partner who lives in a different house – way different. In very little time, the business is the only thing you talk about. After all, what else is there? Exactly…
  5. Pay less for private money. Starting out, we offered too much out of fear we wouldn’t get it. Turns out, people are happy to place their money safely in an investment that is collateralized by real estate. Years later, we took profits to pay off the original “expensive” money when we gained the knowledge and expertise necessary to offer less return. Most of those lenders were so happy with the regularity of their returns that they chose to stay with us even when offered lower interest rates. Take care of your private money lenders and they will stay with you forever. (And, they encourage their friends, family, and co-workers to invest, as well.)
  6. Sell more properties instead of holding everything (even though it did make us learn how to be lean and clean without waste). In the beginning, we had a long term picture that involved holding properties to get there. Naturally, the larger our portfolio, the sooner we could get to that end goal. Because of our tenacity, we refused to sell anything for about five years. During that time, we created quite a hefty portfolio. Looking back, holding everything was probably not necessary and having chunks of cash now and then would have allowed us to breathe better and make some different investing decisions.

If I were to start my real estate investing over again today, knowing what I know now, what I would do the same:

  1. Pay for good coaching. From the beginning. And your coaches change over time. There are lots of investors who know more than you do, especially when you’re first starting out. You want to constantly be following someone who is successfully doing way more than you are and who is actively doing it. The economics and legalities of what we do change at lightning speed and it’s important to be mentored by someone who is actively engaged in the business you want to be learning. Far better to walk through a mine field in the footsteps of someone who’s already crossed it successfully.
  2. Get involved in a mastermind group to share ideas of what works and what doesn’t. If two heads are better than one, how about six or seven? Not only can they help guide you and point out things you would never think of on your own, they also hold you accountable. When you meet monthly and say, “this is what I’m going to accomplish in the next thirty days,” within thirty days you’ll get it done. After all, you don’t want to go back and tell them you weren’t successful!
  3. Enter into this business with my spouse. As difficult a this was (can you say “counseling”), it turned out to be the best partner I could ask for. For a number of reasons including the fact that no one else cares nearly so much whether or not each deal makes a profit. No one will ever look out for your business more than the person who gets 100% of the profit or loss that you get. No one will ever care as much about how every decision affects you and your family for the long term as your spouse. Yes, it’s tough, but two eyes and two brains watching out for and learning about everything that needs to be done turns out to be a big advantage. Get outside help to guide you on how to make decisions together, divide the responsibilities, and keep your marriage as well as your business in tact. One thing a lot of our students say is, “you’re so lucky your spouse is in this with you to help you and understand all that’s involved.” I have to agree.
  4. Focus on the long term rather than short term results. Disappointments in the short term happen often and the results can trip up your enthusiasm and stamina. Always have those long term reasons and goals in front of you to keep you putting one foot in front of the other, especially when overcoming the big obstacles. We use lots of projection calculators to see where we’ll be in 5, 10, 20, 30 years. Today may be lean but, boy, retirement looks amazing!!
  5. Refuse to be stopped – no matter what the media says, the banks do, the legislators change, tenants throw your way, private money lenders require, attorneys ask for, on and on and on and on and on and on. Tackle bite sized pieces – one day at a time – one project at a time – one document at a time. Keep overcoming. That’s what this business requires.
  6. Hold as many properties as we could. It made life in the short term tough, but the long term rewards are worth it.
  7. Continue to do business plans as often as possible. These keep you on track. Business plans make you aware of where you’ve been and where you are. They’re the only way to plot progress or distractions and for years they’ve kept us on the One True North toward our goals.
  8. Build a team and staff. Real estate investing is not a solo business. Our first hire was a bookkeeper. Bookkeeping is essential but not something we wanted to spend our time on; it’s not something that generates income. Find out your pain points and hire others to do what you don’t want to do or can’t do. Your job is to generate income. One of the best ways to do that is sitting in front of sellers negotiating deals. Work that can be hired out and handled by others, hire out and let others handle.
  9. Surround ourselves with like-minded people. We all need peer groups. A group of other investors doing what you’re doing will help you make decisions, point out alternative solutions, keep you motivated, offer support when you struggle, and hold you accountable to your own goals and timeline.
  10. Keep both a real estate and business coach. For years we had real estate coaches. Once we had real estate investing somewhat mastered, our next struggle became owning and operating a business – another new frontier. So we found someone who was successful at doing exactly what we wanted to do. Our holding company was operating in the red at that time. We were confident it would turn around as the economy recovered and property values began to rise. Our business coach looked over our companies, made some tweaks to our operations, and within a matter of months that same company was six figures in the black. I can’t stress strongly enough that you don’t know what you don’t know. You can’t ask the right questions when you don’t know what they are. Find someone in every area of your business who has been there/done that and will point out what you don’t know today.
  11. Always stretch beyond what we believe possible. This business requires a lot of stretching. There are so many moving parts and a lot of them are frightening – dealing with mortgage companies, private lenders, hard money lenders, attorneys, title companies, insurance companies, local/state legislation and the IRS, just to name a few. You must be willing to function outside your comfort zone and go where you’ve never gone before. Those who constantly retreat back into the safety of what they already know are never truly successful.
  12. Have a clear vision of where we are headed and stick to it. That vision allowed us to sacrifice for the business even when it was painful. We always had our big picture plan emblazoned in front of us.
  13. Create goals. It’s so true that if you don’t know where you’re going, you don’t know how to get there or even if you arrive. But, it’s actually much more than that. The first time we wrote down goals, we wrote our one, three, five, ten, and fifteen year goals. Who knows what in the world will happen in fifteen years? I wrote “retired”. What was fascinating was that we accomplished our one, three, and five year goals all in the first six months! A couple of things about that: (1) we’d never written or tracked goals before so we had no idea how much we could accomplish in a specific time period (2) we were moving way too fast! The next year, we hit our one year goals in 8 months. The third year, we hit our one year goals in 10 months. We can now predict, with a fair amount of accuracy, just what we can accomplish in 12 months. Every year, our goals are much larger for the year ahead than they were the year before. And, every year our businesses have grown exponentially. Coincidence? I believe the amazing growth is because we pay attention to the details. The fun part is when you review those goals to see if/when you hit them, and the next fun part is being able to stretch them. Without goals, you have no frame of reference and no scorecard. Without a scorecard, you have no idea how you’re playing the game so you can’t correct and improve. And, by the way, you can’t celebrate unknown victories!
  14. ALWAYS have contracts with contractors including pay schedules and deadlines. There are not enough pages to write out the importance of this.
  15. Never depend on banks. Ever. We started our business in January 2005 and didn’t want to depend on banks. In 2008, we were glad we hadn’t. We have a neighbor who had all of his commercial loans with one lender. Unfortunately, his private residence was tied to them. Without warning, this lender decided to no longer offer commercial loans so they stopped renewing the ones on their books. Our neighbor was caught in this trap and unable to find alternate commercial financing quickly enough. He lost not only his commercial properties, but his personal residence, also. Banks can change/create the rules without your approval. And they do.
  16. Build good solid honest relationships. This takes time.
  17. Keep your word no matter what – even if you don’t eat.