Top 10 languages for mobile games and apps localization

Top 10 Languages for Mobile App/Game Localization with Maximum Revenue

Promoting a mobile app or game only in one language is not enough. Actually, an app publisher should create multiple localizations in order to cover the top grossing and emerging geographical markets. We recommend considering no fewer than 10 languages for mobile app localization.

App Store Superpowers are the countries holding leadership in terms of downloads and revenue. The latest stats show that the United States is not the front-runner anymore. In 2014, Japan and South Korea surpassed the United States by revenue on Google Play. At the same time, Japan is hot on the United States’ tail on the App Store, where it is #2 by revenue.

According to App Annie’s infographic presented at GMIC Silicon Valley event in December 2014, the following three countries form the App Store Superpowers: Japan, South Korea and the United States.

iOS + Google Play worldwide app revenue & download growth by region, Q3 2014
iOS + Google Play worldwide app revenue & download growth by region, Q3 2014. Infographic by App Annie.

When building the list of the top 10 languages for mobile app localization, we should keep in mind other English speaking countries like the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, where mobile apps and games gain high revenue as well. Collectively, the English speaking world is still dominating on the mobile app market.

Another significant player on both iOS and Android is China, which became the top 2nd gaming market by revenue worldwide in 2014. Bear in mind that games drive up to 75% of total revenue on the App Store and nearly all revenue growth on Google Play. App Annie Index Market Q3 2014 report puts China to #3 by revenue on the Apple’s App Store. The only reason why this country has not reached similar revenue rank on Google Play is that it got numerous Android app stores, and only 13% of Android market share in China belongs to Google Play.

Android app stores in China
Android app stores in China

As a matter of a fact, simplified Chinese, which is common for Internet and mobile users in China, goes to the #4 in our list of top ten languages for mobile app localization, following English, Japanese and Korean.

Let’s not forget about the Old World. Traditionally, the lion’s share of revenue generated by mobile apps and games in Continental Europe belongs to its most developed countries: Germany, France and Italy. It is worth noting that the estimated revenue from mobile games in Western Europe, according to AppLift and Newzoo, reached $3.2 billion at the end of the year 2014. Which makes Western Europe the third region in the world by revenue from mobile games, after North America and Asia Pacific.

Global mobile games revenues by region
Global mobile games revenues by region. Source: AppLift & Newzoo

Following English, Japanese, Korean and Chinese, the next positions #5 to #9 in our top 10 languages for mobile app localization go to major Western European languages. Let’s take a look at the chart provided by Statista listing the leading gaming markets worldwide in 2014:

Leading gaming countries worldwide by revenue in 2014, Statistic
Leading gaming countries worldwide by revenue in 2014, Statistic

Germany is the leading European market by revenue from mobile apps and games. In App Annie Index: Market Q3 2014 Germany was reported the #4 country by revenue on Google Play. in our list of the top 10 languages for mobile app localization, German language wins #5, and #6 goes to French. Italian (#9) follows Portuguese and Spanish which take #7 and #8 respectively. The reason why Portuguese ranks better than Italian and Spanish is that Brazil’s market share of Google Play downloads increased more than any other country worldwide in Q3 2014. In total, estimated year over year revenue growth in Latin America’s mobile gaming segment exceeds 60%, which is bigger than elsewhere.

In the end, we recommend looking at another huge emerging market, the Southeast Asia. As stated by Newzoo in 2014 Global Games Market Report, the following six countries represent 97% of game revenue in Southeast Asia: Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Phillippines and Vietnam. So, Malay becomes our #10 language for mobile app localization, which is the most widely spoken in this region.

Let’s summarize, here’s our top 10 mobile app localization languages for 2015:

1. English
2. Japanese
3. Korean
4. Chinese
5. German
6. French
7. Brazilian Portuguese
8. Spanish
9. Italian
10. Malay

UPD: check out the top 10 countries by total, online and Facebook population with infographics: Global Population: Online and Social. Infographics.

  • Frederik Vollert

    The market size and potential is amazing. Localization and translation of applications is key for their success. Reaching a broader audience should be on everybody’s list for 2015. I have summarized a couple of key technology terms that help to get started in localization on http://localize-software.phraseapp.com/posts/i18n-10-terms-to-get-more-international-customers/ and would love an opinion on what it takes for a mobile app or game to become internationally recognized.

    • Paulo

      Well this article must be totally redone.
      Portuguese is not Brazilian and what is here is only Android and iOS markets.
      Get the real data!

      • todokoti

        Hi Paulo, appreciate your feedback!
        Unfortunately, I don’t speak Brazilian/Portuguese yet. However, I have learnt some Spanish and I know that there are some differences in pronounciation, word semantics and sometimes spelling.
        I just made an assumption that the difference between Brazilian Portuguese and European (Traditional) Portuguese is similar to Spanish and English spoken in Americas and their European ancestors respectively. In other words, in Americas they are more casual, adding some local distinctions, and here in Europe they are more formal/academic. That’s just my point of view.
        In terms of mobile app localization, I can agree that in case with Brazilian and Traditional Portuguese it’s better to choose the one with a bigger number of speakers. Yet, I believe that users from portugal will be able to understand Brazilian without additional translation.
        Is it OK if I change Portuguese for Brazilian Portuguese in the top 10 list?

        Do you have any additional remarks for the article?

        • Paulo

          That’s not true at all.
          I have done the translation for Portuguese Universal(Not “traditional” or “Brazilian) to the most successful Apps in the world and guess what? You article is still wrong.
          Read Oxford or Cambridge Dictionaries.

          • I’m a bit confused ) Is this article wrong as well? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brazilian_Portuguese

          • Paulo

            No.
            Wikipedia is not source for anyone.

          • Trapdaar

            Wikipedia is a better source that you alone. Wikipedia entries are vetted by editors and people have to cite sources for their edits, unlike your opinion, for which you offer no proof.
            In short, take a hike.

          • Thanks Fake @Tapdaar “Nome de Utilizador” (not “Usuário” like you…Brazilians…write). I AM MUCH BETTER THEN WIKIPEDIA. Any doubt: I can sent you a graphic with Data Comparison. Thanks for beeing so stupid.

          • Paulo Caldeira

            You are right fellow fake “Nome de utilizador” and not “Usuário” like you Brazilians like to say! I AM BETTER THEN WIKIPEDIA…WANNA A INFOGRAPHIC?

          • Paulo Caldeira

            In short to you 9 months later! GET DRUNK!

          • Paulo Caldeira

            One year later I say to you: Wikiwhat?
            Long live to ignorants like you!

  • Ana Rita Santos

    Proofreading is important too. Never forget that. “Portugese” doesn’t exist. A whole article about languages and you couldn’t get it right.

    • todokoti

      Thanks for pointing out this misspelling! Corrected!

    • Paulo

      Thanks Ana

    • Trapdaar

      Lol, a singke misspealing and yuo get your pants inna knot.

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  • Emily Jaworski

    Very nice post about an important topic in app localization! Definitely going to RT this. Thanks!

    • Thanks for the good feedback Emily!

      • Emily Jaworski

        If you ever do a follow-up about tools for mobile app localization or need some insight, be sure to get in touch. We are launching a new product, Applanga (applanga.com) to help mobile app developers automate this process. We’re always looking for feedback and growth opportunities.

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  • cnlocdir

    Thanks for the excellent article! Interesting to compare this list against which languages apps actually are localized into – for iOS apps the top list is 1. English, 2. Chinese, 3. Japanese, 4.German, 5. French, 6. Spanish, 7. Russian, 8. Italian, 9. Portuguese and 10. Korean. The stats are from http://localizedirect.com/statistics/ which are updated daily. I think Korean will be a good bet for 2015 but would be more inclined to go into Russian over Malay.

  • Cosette Malinowski

    Interesting article! To those planning to localize mobile apps, I recommend the localization management platform https://poeditor.com/ to easier organize the string translation process. It has a great collaborative interface and it’s perfect for crowdsourcing translations.

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  • Very valuable data, and as a French app translator myself, I’m glad to see French makes it to the top ten 🙂

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  • Bruno Kilian

    What a cool article! We just started our company – http://www.2brazil.rocks – to help Apps to come do Brazil on translations and user reviews replying in Portuguese. We will use some information about this article on our site (refering it, of course). Thank you!

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