Saturday, May 28, 2022

Online operators go local to grab Asian market share

Localization is fast becoming a key battleground for online operators looking to expand across fast-growing Asian markets.

While online gaming is still a long way from reaching maturity in Asia, consumers in the region’s grey markets are becoming more discerning and less likely to accept an English-only dot com website. Market leader bet365 now offers its website in 18 different languages, while SBOBET supports a range of Asian languages, including Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Indonesia, Burmese and Vietnamese.

Those operators looking to compete and differentiate by offering a more localized product, however, are finding that the localization process is a considerably greater challenge than simply translating their content into the local language and rolling out a dedicated landing page.

“The goal of localization is to adapt a product or service to a target country, making them appear to have been created specifically for that market,” Roy Pedersen, founder and CEO of All-In Translations, told AGB.

All-In Translations works with a range of gaming firms including operators, providers and affiliates to localize their products for Asian markets and beyond.

“Localization therefore is not just about language and meaning equivalence; it's rather about the whole culture of the country (or region) where a product or service will be advertised, sold and used,” Pedersen said.

Going local

The art of a good localization, according to Sebastian Scheplitz, CEO and localization specialist at Translation Royale, addresses the mentality of the target culture.

“If a country is more reserved or adventurous – your content needs to reflect that. If they use different symbols or styles – use them too, or your customers will realize that they are not properly targeted,” Scheplitz told AGB.

Pedersen said that cultural differences beyond language should also be considered, noting that choice of color is also an important factor in many Asian markets.

Then there is the question of when to use Anglicisms. Scheplitz notes that the poker term “4bet” might not translate well to those cultures where the number four holds negative connotations.

“Localization can play the part of a cultural mediator. Get it wrong and you will lose a whole culture as potential customers. Certain words are only used in certain cultures. Colors, animals and flowers can have different meanings,” Scheplitz said.

The nature of the language you are localizing into can also have major ramifications on the design and user interface of a website or product, particularly in terms of font size and the direction in which the language is read.

Growing demand

Demand for the services offered by the likes of All-In Translations and Translation Royale can serve as a gauge of the health of Asia’s online gaming markets.

Pedersen said the top five Asian languages by volume that All-In has worked on in 2017 were Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese. Scheplitz at Translation Royale provided the same list, adding that Tagalog, Malay and Indonesian were also growing as igaming languages.

From an operator’s perspective, localization is usually a reaction to an increase of players from a particular territory.

“Bitcasino recently added localized versions of its site in Chinese, Japanese, Russian and Brazilian Portuguese. We also have a number of other languages coming soon, including Thai, Korean, and Turkish,” Dominic Bourke, director of casino at, told AGB.

“We found that a growing number of players from the markets that speak these languages were using our site, despite the offering being in English, so it made sense to offer these players a better user experience in their primary language.”

Bourke said that offering the casino in new languages was only part of the process, with the operator ensuring the new sites are supported by other localized features, such as customer support.

Then there is the potential to personalize the whole experience on a territory by territory basis.

“Players in China have different preferences and traits to players in Russia, they prefer different bonus options, enjoy different games etc. So it makes little sense to offer an identical product to both if you have gone to the trouble of translating your content,” Bourke added.

Localization is also becoming an increasingly important concern in the game development process.

“We develop our games with localization front of mind, as we know our titles are played in multiple jurisdictions and in multiple languages,” Matthew Rochman, head of online games developer OneTouch Technology, told AGB.

OneTouch’s popular blackjack title is available in 12 different languages, including simplified and traditional Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese and Indonesian.

“For games to work across different territories, it is important to streamline the user interface and not make it too text heavy,” said Rochman.

He added that language is not the only important factor when it comes to localizing a title. OneTouch’s online Baccarat title, for instance, includes a digital version of the ‘squeeze’ in a bid to replicate the feel on Asia’s land-based casinos. “For a title to appeal across multiple jurisdictions, you need to be sensitive to players’ preferences,” Rochman added.

Invisible localization

Some developers are beginning to move away from written language on the user interface of new products with a greater emphasis on symbols that work across cultures.

Pedersen at All-In, however, is skeptical. “Marketing and CRM is extremely valuable to operators to engage players, so content will always be important. Emphasis on symbols is part of that but I don't see gaming becoming like traffic signs,” he said.

Scheplitz noted that legal and regulatory considerations are likely to prohibit the languageless game. For the time being, the focus will be on producing quality localizations.

“With properly localized brands and products, one doesn’t normally think about localization,” said Pedersen. “We notice it only when something goes awry – sentences are intelligible but awkward, a catchphrase sounds unmistakably offensive, jokes feel like there's something essential missing.

“A good localization,” he added, “is an invisible localization.”


Asia Gaming Brief is a news and intelligence service providing up to date market information for worldwide executives on relevant gaming issues in Asia.

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