Apple has been emailing developers encouraging us to localize our apps, suggesting we 'get started' with a list of 13 languages. Coincidentally we just translated our iOS game Hit Tennis 3 to 14 languages by working with our favorite app translation specialist Tethras. Overall we've had over double downloads for a few weeks as we shot up the charts in a bunch of countries. We picked languages as a combination of markets where we already do well with IAP sales, and untapped markets we want to grow into. Hit Tennis 3 had a very successul launch internationally in English. Release 3.9 came out March 9th in Japanese, Chinese (simplified), Korean, Russian, Portuguese (Brazilian), French, Italian, Spanish, German, Dutch, Swedish, Turkish, Arabic. We didn't yet do any promotion of the translated versions. Here are the best results, these graphs show downloads per day (iPhone and iPad), over the last 60 days.
Previously we didn't have players in South Korea, now we're a top tennis game there. We hit #1 top free iPhone, #2 top free iPad, and went on to earn a Korean app store 'Whats Hot' editorial placement.
Japan has been a top performing country for Hit Tennis 2, now Hit Tennis 3 can take its place.
We're not yet making much money in China's app store, but we're pleased to start to build some audience there. Hit Tennis 2 actually did a lot better when it was translated to simplified Chinese.
This took us by surprise, Russians love Hit Tennis and they buy IAPs too! Chasing BRIC was the right move.
Very happy to break into Brazil. Another BRIC win.
Western Europe, especially Italy, France, and the UK, have always been good markets for us. Even though the english word 'Tennis' is almost the same across european languages, translating still had a great impact for us.
We saw increases in more countries including Spain, Canada, Chile, Mexico, Portugal, Venezuela. We specifically translated for Sweden and Turkey where we had very modest download increases, and also Netherlands where we saw no improvement. A few other places with no improvement included Belgium, Switzerland, and Arabic speaking countries. Note however that while Hit Tennis 3.9 is in Arabic, the app name and app store description are not because the app store doesn't support them yet. Note that we can't conclude 'translation doesn't work for Belgium' or 'translation works best for Korea'. These are just the results we had at this time with this game. I think we can conclude however that translation can be awesome for downloads.
Revenues from Hit Tennis 3 are split between IAP sales and ad publishing with Chartboost. We've seen IAP revenues grow in Russia, Korea, Japan, Europe, and small increases in many countries. USA and UK are still the biggest IAP earners for us, but with this translation release Brazil and Russia jumped way up into our IAP sales top 10. Chartboost income has seen a good upswing too. Overall income growth has been modest, and nothing like the gains in downloads in the individual country graphs above. That said, translating is ROI positive for us already.
We've done this before with Hit Tennis 2, it's a specific market strategy:
- The name of the game is a familiar thing 'Tennis' so it gets instant recognition.
- We translate the name of the game - instead of building up one brand in all languages we just want easy recognition of what the game is about in all languages.
- 'Tennis' is actually pretty much the same in several european languages, so translating the app name isn't going to make all the difference for recognition in Europe. But its really good for China, Japan, Korea, Russia, etc.
- Translating the name is huge for getting good search ranking in non english app stores, but it does risk reducing ranking for the english word.
- The app store copy, screen shots, and the whole game are translated too, making the customer feel right at home and hence increasing all key metrics.
- We're not doing localization - ie we are not being culturally sensitive to each country. (Though we did plan Hit Tennis 3 with locations and characters from around the world.) We are just translating as best we can using our app translation company Tethras. Translation can be really good value for money.
- We're not using local publishers. This is an iOS game, and we think we know how to market using recognition, search, cross promotion, and mobile ads. Android is a different beast though, when we port we may look for local publishers.