The video game market is thriving, with every year seeing games becoming more advanced in their ideas, design and use of digital technology. Since the onset of the pandemic, the global gaming industry has seen a significant boost and, this year, it is projected to reach over US$175 billion, with a user penetration of 36.5%. In such a massive industry, it's no surprise that most gaming companies operate worldwide, but which countries have the biggest markets for video games and what languages are most used?
The biggest markets for video games
According to Statista Digital Market Outlook data, China was by far the biggest market for video games in 2021, estimated at a revenue of US$49.3 billion. This figure is expected to grow significantly over the next four years, predicted to reach US$ 71.2 billion by 2025. The USA (US$30.4 billion) and Japan (US$18.2 billion) are the other two markets that make up the top three.
Asia is the continent that dominates the gaming market, with South Korea and India also avid gaming fans and making the top 10 list. Only three European countries made it to the top 10. The UK came in 5th, with an estimated revenue of US$6.1 billion last year, while France and Germany were both estimated at US$2.7 billion.
Languages in video games
Most video games are created for their native market. Then, if the gaming company seeks to enter other markets, the game will be localised. Therefore, the most popular languages used in video games reflect the highest billing markets, i.e., Simplified and Traditional Chinese, English and Japanese.
If gaming companies aim to extend their reach, the markets they wish to target will guide what language(s) are required. The language sets of EFIGS (English, French, Italian, German and Spanish) and CJK (Chinese, Japanese and Korean) cover the most popular markets. Below, we review some of the considerations to make when deciding which languages to use when localising video games for a new market.
If the game is not created natively in English, this language would be an excellent starting option for localisation. This strategy would give access to all English-speaking countries, including two of the biggest markets, the US and the UK. Furthermore, as such a widely spoken second language, many players from other countries will still play a game in English if it is highly rated.
Simplified Chinese is the most common language in games played in mainland China. Hong Kong and Taiwan are more likely to use Traditional Chinese. Although localising a game into Simplified Chinese would tap into the largest gaming market in the world, this market is a difficult one for non-Chinese companies to access. As well as the tight regulations imposed by the government, the culture is very different to the Western world, so it would take considerable modification for a video game to appeal to this audience.
Video game companies who are seeking to win over the Japanese gaming market face similar issues to that of China. Although Japanese culture has become very popular in the West, the reverse has not quite worked out yet, and gaming companies have found it notoriously difficult to make a breakthrough here. Consoles, such as Xbox and PlayStation 3, have struggled previously, and this, of course, impacts the success of games created for them.
South Korea loves its mobile games, with 53% playing at least once a month. Console and PC games are much less popular, at 19% and 37%, respectively. Like China and Japan, international brands haven't always succeeded here due to cultural differences, and local publishers dominate the market. South Korea also has strict regulations, which can pose challenges for developers to overcome.
Other European Languages
French, German and Spanish are worth considering for game localisation, making the game accessible for other markets speaking these languages too, e.g., Switzerland, Belgium and parts of Canada (French), Austria (German) and Latin America (Spanish).
Languages in India
Although a significant video gaming market, India also has its challenges due to the variety of languages spoken. There are 22 official languages, including English, as well as many other 'non-official' languages. Nonetheless, it is an interesting market to keep on the 'watch list'.
More than just words
Of course, video games are about a lot more than just languages. Gaming localisation requires careful consideration of every aspect of the game, from the core aspects of the game's story, such as its characters and setting, to the visual, musical, formatting and technical elements. It is an in-depth process that requires a native understanding of a market's culture, effective research and quality control processes to be successful.