Why learning to speak a little French in Paris could help you crack the Russian mobile market

Nevosoft's Julia Lebedeva on learning local rules

Why learning to speak a little French in Paris could help you crack the Russian mobile market

"When you come to Paris, it's very important that you at least try to speak a little French," opened Julia Lebedeva, business development director at Nevosoft, during her talk at Game Connection Europe in Paris.

"People always say to me 'oh, the French are so friendly to you', and that's because when I go there, I try to speak just a little bit of French. It doesn't even matter if you actually can or not – I just use a few set phrases I know to make it appear like I can."

Why would Lebedeva introduce a talk about cracking the Russian mobile market by talking about Paris?

"Because, when you go abroad – whether for business or vacation – you have to know the rules of the country to feel safe and happy," she added.

"And that's the same for the mobile market in Russia. You need to know the local rules."

Big and small

Daily revenue rates of the top games on the Russian App Store may be only a tenth of the equivalent title in the US Lebedeva revealed, but when you consider the size of the US market, 10 percent is nothing to be sniffed at.

The app market in Russia is currently worth $330 million, Lebedeva said, rising from 12.3 million smartphones in 2012 to 17.4 million in 2013.

Tablets are a little further behind – despite Russians apparently preferring to play games on them over smartphones – but, as Lebedeva stated, "the number of devices will only grow." As things stand, there are 6 million tablets across the country.

"I think that's enough to understand that the Russian market is profitable," added Lebedeva. "Does everyone make money there? No. But the Russian market is not as different to the US market as, say, the Chinese market, so it's a little easier to make a move on Russia."

Player problems

Indeed, Russia is #5 when it comes to annual app downloads according to App Annie and #6 in terms of generating revenue – that's higher than both Germany and Japan.

So, how do you crack the Russian market, and what are the pitfalls?

"It may sound strange to say, but players are the biggest problem in the Russian market – they're the thing that makes it difficult for people to enter," continued Lebedeva.

"The most important thing to understand is, not many people in Russia speak English – all media, like movies etc, are all dubbed. There are three phrases in English the average Russian person can speak – 'London is the capital of Great Britain', 'my father is an engineer' and 'I have a cat'. That's it."

Not only does this mean that it's important to translate your app into Russian – which can be a problem, given Russian sentences are typically 1.5 times longer than English ones, which can lead to all kinds of GUI problems – but it also means you need native tech support.

"Russians love complaining," added Lebedeva.

"It doesn't matter if we can actually solve the problem or not – we just like to complain, we like to bitch. So Russian players need 24/7 support."

Money matters

Another local trait, Lebedeva claimed, is an unwillingness to trust people who charge for things.

"Russians don't trust people who want their money," she concluded. "It doesn't matter what you charge – they just think 'if you want my money, you're bad'. That's it. That's why user reviews matter more in Russia than in other countries.

"And they're smart. They know not to read the first few reviews because they're by the developer, right? So they scroll right down to the bottom to see what real people say."

Nevertheless, the opportunity of the Russian market speaks for itself. Figures suggest there will be 65 million Russian gamers by 2016, while the potential Russian-speaking market worldwide is already 250 million strong.


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