Localization Support Changes From '06 to '22 : Part 2
How did Localization support change from 2006 to 2022?
Part 2: Core APAC Text Support
If you’ve read Part 1 of this article, you’ll know that the number of localized languages in a typical game has increased by around 110% from 2006 up to 2022. That’s from around 6 languages up to 13, on the average popular release. We also noted the jumps in support in 2015 and 2019, highlighting that increased localization support can be industry wide with little notice.
But what languages caused those jumps in support? Where were these new gamers that previously were being ignored? We’re not going to pay too much attention to the “core” localized languages of the industry, which is namely FIGS. They’ve always been a standard, at least in a modern context, so there’s not a huge amount to take away from that. But what languages feel core but are actually a more recent inclusion?
Simplified and Traditional Chinese
In the games localization industry both SC and TC feel like standard languages to include. On the vast majority of current releases, you’ll see one, or both, with text support.
It might surprise some that Traditional Chinese has historically had wider support than Simplified. While still supported on a minority of games, TC generally had some support from 2006 to 2014. During that period around 15 – 20% of games supported the language. Simplified Chinese did have partial support during that same period but trended closer to being included in around 13% of titles. Both are notably low compared to more recent years.
Both languages were major players in the 2015 localization increase. From 2015 – 2019 Traditional Chinese support increased, with over 50% of the popular games studied including text support. In that same period Simplified Chinese support increased to over 70% of titles. It’s clear that these languages have changed from being barely supported to industry standards.
Since 2019 Simplified Chinese has maintained its popularly and is now included in over 85% of popular titles. Traditional Chinese support has slightly decreased but is still supported on the average popular title, with support in around 67% of titles.
It’s interesting to compare Korean to Simplified and Traditional Chinese. Pre-2015 Korean was barely supported in most of the popular games studied. On average, between 2006 and 2015 only around 11 – 12% of games supported Korean.
Korean also didn’t see the same jump in 2015, instead seeing a similar increase in 2018. From 2015 – 2017 Korean support did increase to around 40% of titles but is still in the minority of games. In 2018 we saw the biggest jump in Korean support, which continues today. From 2018 – 2022 that support doubled to an average of around 80% of popular titles now including Korean. This shows how languages can grow somewhat gradually, before suddenly booming into becoming one of the industry’s standard localized languages. And as we know, Korea has had a strong games industry for many years and is still growing steadily.
Japanese is a language that has typically had more consistent support due to its historically strong games industry and player-base. Up to 2014 in general Japanese was supported by a minority of games released on PC but with steady support, with around 40% of games having some level of Japanese localization.
What’s slightly more interesting is the increase in support from 2014 onwards. It’s steadily increased since then with support in around 75% of titles. With localization support growing generally, this trend feels quite natural. However, it does highlight the growth of support from often Western titles for the Japanese market, which wasn’t the case in the 2000s.
Overall, what we can certainly say is that the industry now appreciates the importance of APAC and APAC gamers. From a starting point of relatively niche support, we now see support across the global industry for countries across APAC.
When releasing a game in 2023, or in the future, all of these languages should be considered. At this point it’s not enough to focus solely on Europe and North America. We now work in a truly global games industry and games themselves should reflect that.