Could localization aid success in Chinese console gaming market?
There was a major development in the world of technology in China this year: after a ban since 2000, the government finally lifted its ban on gaming consoles back in January.
It means that under new policies as part of the Shanghai Free Trade Zone and under the agreement of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, video game manufacturers will be able to produce games and consoles for sale in the Far Eastern nation, bringing it in line with western countries.
Microsoft was the first to capitalize on the reprieve, launching its Xbox One to Chinese consumers, followed by Sony with its PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita, both of which will go on sale next month.
Meanwhile, Nintendo is said to be preparing to launch a Chinese-specific console and Alibaba may be designing its own machine, according to VentureBeat.
This is understandable, as China has a population of 1.3 billion people and a growing middle class with more money and a desire to emulate their western counterparts. Furthermore, online games such as role-playing titles are already very popular, so it doesn't take too much of a leap of faith to suggest that they might be willing to swap to console play.
So, could China be the ideal market for developers hoping to sell their games and consoles abroad? Well, one factor entrepreneurs might need to take into account are the still strict foreign game content rules, with the government continuing to present a difficult regulatory landscape.
In April this year, regulations on the approval process for titles and also the topic areas that remain off-limits were released, with the Ministry of Culture saying: "We want to open the window a crack to get some fresh air, but we still need a screen to block the flies and mosquitoes".
Therefore, content is something that will need to be taken into account to avoid wasting a lot of money.
Furthermore, founder of analysts Niko Partners Lisa Hanson told EuroGamer she thinks consoles will only become popular in China if there is "strong marketing and promotions … about the merits of console gaming".
So another key factor when developing games and machines on which to play them for China is communicating with consumers there and really selling new titles – and that means ensuring localization is up to scratch.
After all, Chinese audiences will be totally different to those elsewhere. Not only will they probably not have heard of lots of different types of games, but they will have different cultural expectations when playing them too – developers wouldn't want to make a faux pas that leads to customers turning their backs, or even the government failing to approve titles in the first place.
Clearly, the Chinese gaming market will be a tough one to crack, but that certainly doesn't mean it isn't worth trying to make a dent in it. After all, if the console market really takes off, there is an extremely large captive audience.
One way of getting rid of at least some of the hurdles could be to use a localization service specializing in Asian languages, such as EQHO. We have a dedicated team of language specialists who can provide translation, voiceovers and much more for everything from websites and documents to multimedia projects.
If your company is keen to speak to potential new audiences in China, then getting in touch with us first could be the key to helping you succeed.