Keys to Cracking the Russian Video Games Market

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    Russia is one of the fastest growing gaming markets in the world. The rapid growth of Internet across the world’s largest country has turned Russia into a $1.4 billion gaming market with tons of growth still to enjoy.

    So now is the time to establish your name in the country while it still has that sweet mix of rapid growth and opportunity. And today we’re looking at how you can adapt your games to make the most of Russia’s avid gamers.

    A quick view of the Russian gaming market

    Russia is currently the 11th biggest gaming market in the world but it’s enjoying steady growth. Russian is already the second most widely used language on Steam and developers are making big things happen on the game distribution platform – one of the best places to penetrate the Russian PC market.

    The most widely used languages on Steam – Source: Steam

    As far as the overall market goes, here’s a quick breakdown of the most popular game formats:

    Source: Newzoo

    As you can see, it’s MMO games that dominate Russia but notice how much of the market now goes to mobile gaming and casual social/web games.

    In that mobile space, Android is by far the most popular platform for game downloads – no surprises there:

    Source: Newzoo

    However, Apple iOS still generates more revenue from paid downloads and in-app purchases, which is the standard trend worldwide.

    One final thing we should mention is it’s still very difficult to crack the Russian market independently. This isn’t to say you can’t do it, but it’s worth knowing few overseas publishers have made it alone in Russia. The majority rely on Steam for PC titles and Android or iOS for mobile releases. Localizing your game in Russian is also one of the best ways to be successful on that market.

    Localization best practices for the Russian market

    Now would be a good time to run through some best practices about localising your games for Russian gamers.

    • Allow gamers to access the English version of your game (give them the choice)
    • Provide Russian subtitles for the English version of your game with the option to turn them on/off
    • Consider providing Russian translated voiceovers and allow gamers to turn them on/off
    • Ensure subtitles and voiceovers are accurate to the English text and dialogue
    • Get your spelling and grammar spot on with translations
    • Make sure your use of Russian scripts and spacing are accurate

    Aside from these general best practices, we also reached out to Slava, our expert Russian game translator to give you an idea of the challenges involved in translating for Russian gamers:

    Slava Pavlov – Proz profile
    English and German to Russian localization professional.
    20 years of gaming under his belt.
    1,100,000+ words translated for the video games industry and counting.

    Q: What are the main challenges with translating games for Russian players?

    A: As they say, “Speaking two languages does not make you a translator or interpreter any more than having two hands makes you a pianist.”

    It’s not just about languages, it’s about knowing what makes gamers tick.

    I’ve seen some video game translations by experienced language professionals that made me cringe because these talented and diligent people didn’t know it.

    Find video game localization professionals, trust them, cooperate with them, and the quality of the Russian localization will match your product’s standards.

    Q: What are some the unique features of the Russian language?

    A: Cases. Gender differences for finite verb forms. Complicated verb conjugations and noun declensions are perhaps the most common examples.

    There are also tons of exceptions that don’t follow the general rules.

    Say, you’ve got a notification for the player “You haven’t been in the game for 20 (21, 22) hours. Come back, we miss you!”

    In English it’s gender neutral – you just use a variable for the number and you’re good. In Russian you’ll have a range of 9 sentences, because 20 hours is “20 часов”, 21 hours is “21 час“, and 22 hours is “22 часа“, and then you multiply each of these options by three for an informal masculine, an informal feminine and a universal formal verb form of “be”.

    English is much more suitable for working with variables and word concatenations. In Russian you have to work your way around a phrase to make the translation sound natural. Not paying attention to gender issues hurts, too.”

    Q: What are the most common translation mistakes between English and Russian?

    A: Like I said, English is much more suitable for working with variables and word concatenations.

    In Russian you have to work your way around a phrase to make the translation sound natural. Not paying attention to gender issues hurts, too.

    When I see a translation of “You gathered {%} of {noun} needed”, I can instantly tell if it’d been done by an experienced gaming translator or by a newbie. It’s just the thing you learn to deal with along the way – “practice makes perfect” and all that.

    I hope a day will come when developers realize that a phrase of three 3-letter words in English may need as much as 30+ characters in another language, Russian included.”

    Q: Does Russian script take up more physical screen space than English?

    A: It usually does. Luckily, Russian-speaking players are used to abbreviations and acronyms so we resort to that if necessary. But I hope a day will come when developers realize that a phrase of three 3-letter words in English may need as much as 30+ characters in another language, Russian included.

    Q: What can developers do to make a game easier to translate into Russian?

    A: As always “context is king”. Talk to us translators when we ask you for help, explain what variables and abbreviations stand for and whether ambiguous words like “Display” are nouns or verbs.

    Q: What should Russian translators be provided with to help them get the best results?

    A: Try to put yourself in the translator’s shoes – how detailed is your localization kit, what info will a translator be able to pick up from it (don’t forget, s/he is not familiar with the game)?

    Mostly it comes down to time, cooperation and respect. If you find a video game localization professional, s/he won’t bother you with a lot of questions. But the questions they do ask are important and the answers you provide will drastically improve the experience of your game.

    We’re there for you, most of us are passionate about games and want to help good games to succeed in the Russian-speaking market. Let’s work together towards the success of your products!

    Hopefully, this gives you an idea of how important accurate translation is before releasing your game. If you have any questions that we didn’t include on this list, be sure to get in touch with us and we’ll respond asap.

    Should Russian be a priority for you?

    We’ve already said Russia is the 11th biggest gaming market in the world and one of the fastest growing, too. But do you really need to localize your games to make the most of the market there or will English be enough to get the job done?

    To put those figures in better context, consider this:

    If your game will be on Steam, Russian definitely appears as the most promising language you could pick after English:

    Source – What Languages to Localize Your Steam Game Into

    For a more comprehensive answer, let’s take a look at a case study from Defender’s Quest.

    The title, which was released on Steam in 2014, saw steady increases in revenue after localizing for major markets – including Russia.

    What’s interesting is they found a price drop caused additional spikes in Russia, which was based on Steam’s recommended price adjustments for each market:

    Source: Fortressofdoors.com

    On this promotion day Russia became the second most profitable region – after all English-speaking regions combined. That’s pretty incredible (so pay attention to Steam’s pricing suggestions – less can be more!).

    As for whether it was worth localizing for the Russian market, here’s what the development team had to say:

    Russia is huge, and given that games make most of their money during (promoted) sales, it makes sense to maximize your appeal to Russians. As with German, the market is so large here that the exact measurable % increase isn’t a huge deal — even a small % gain will mean lots more sales.” – Source

    In fact, the only thing they ended up doing differently for Defender’s Quest II was make sure they had their localizations ready for launch – a key lesson to take notes from.

    So there you have it. Russia provides one of the most lucrative gaming markets for publishers to get involved in.

    It may come with some unique requirements – but that’s precisely what localization is all about – and the developers who make the effort are establishing themselves in one of the most lucrative markets.

    Don’t hang around too long because the Russian gaming market is going to get incredibly competitive over the next decade – so contact us to get in there early and establish your brand now!

    Follow Level Up Translation on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to get all our tips and insights to help you with your game localization!

    Damien Yoccoz

    Disclaimer: This blog was originally posted on the company website of Level Up Translation.

    Sebastian Weber
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    Sebastian Weber

    Managing Editor at Webedia Gaming GmbH
    Sebastian Weber
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