#GDC 2013: Why you shouldn't translate your game into Chinese when launching in China, according to Yodo1

And various other tips

#GDC 2013: Why you shouldn't translate your game into Chinese when launching in China, according to Yodo1
"None of the systems western developers rely on – whether you're talking about advertsing, payment, discovery or distribution – are available in China," opened Yodo1 founder and CEO Henry Fong during his talk at GDC 2013.

"They're all blocked. So where do you start?"

Localisation, of course, is Yodo1's specialisation, and while the Chinese market remains intimidating for many western devs, the sheer size of it means it's difficult for studios to ignore.

So what should US and European developers do?

Money matters

China naturally has its own alternatives to all the systems and networks western developers employ, said Fong. The key battle is knowing which ones to plug into.

When it comes to ad networks, said Fong, this is especially difficult, given that "no one network dominates."

"The other thing in China is, how do I protect IP," said Fong.

"I get a lot of people telling me China is their largest download market, but I've never had one say it's their largest revenue market.

"Monetisation in China is about designing mechanics for the broadest audience possible – offer walls, localised banner ads, etc. My advice is, though, don't worry about it. If you can get people to play your games, then we can help you monetise it."

The cultural question

The most interesting advice, however, came in the form of Fong's views on localisation.

Developers, he said, should resist simply translating their game into Chinese word for word. What studios need to aim for is "deep culturalisation".

"First rule of localisation – do not translate into Chinese," said Fong.

"Go back and get someone to write it again natively in Chinese. If you just translate, it just won't play well. At Yodo1, we basically play the game all the way through, read the narrative, understand it, and then write it again from scratch."

Indeed, right the way through Fong's advice centred around the idea that launching in China is not something western developers should rush into. It's perfectly possible to tame the market and get it to work for you, but it takes a lot of research.

Or, of course, you can always get a firm like Yodo1 to do it for you.

With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.