When foreign game companies decide on localizing languages in games to be published in Asia, the list of languages considered is typically limited to Chinese, Japanese, and Korean due to the massive game revenue of the markets using those languages. This could cause issues as not all gamers in the region are proficient in either English or the aforementioned Asian languages. It is not surprising to see that the popular games, particularly mobile games, that are played by Southeast Asian gamers are those that have a local language option. As seen in the following table, all of the highest grossing mobile game titles in Southeast Asia have at the very least 3 Southeast Asian language option in the game.
Source: Sensor Tower, 2022
One of the interesting case study markets on game localization is Indonesia. Many game companies do not localize their games into Indonesian, even though the country is the fourth most populous in the world behind India, China, and the United States, with a population of 278.6 million. While its internet user penetration lags the Southeast Asia average, it still accounts for nearly half of the 440 million internet users in the region. The high number of internet users is also reflected in how there are over 130 million gamers in the country today, which makes it the third largest market Niko Partners tracks behind China and India.
Niko estimates that Indonesia’s game market size will be worth more than $1.5 billion in 2027 and is growing at a faster rate than neighboring countries Malaysia and Singapore. Its growth rate is also higher than mature markets such as Japan and Korea. While gamers in the country still have the lowest average revenue per user (ARPU) in Southeast Asia, the continuous economic growth would result in it growing faster than any other SEA country and will surpass $10 in 2025.
The Indonesian game market is dominated by mobile, which is also where most of the localization effort takes place. Practically all of the top 20 highest grossing mobile games in the country have Indonesian as a language option. While mobile is the dominant platform, Indonesia has the fastest growing PC games market in Southeast Asia, and its console market is emerging too, with both players and local developers showing increased interest.
This has increased the importance of language localization for Indonesian gamers and has made localization even more important for companies that want to enter the market. According to the survey we conducted for Niko’s market reports on 10 Asian markets, localization is a crucial aspect for gamers in the country. 79% of respondents from Indonesia stated that localization was important to them with 4 out of 10 gamers saying that local language and local characters were the most important aspects of localization for them.
We’re starting to see an uptick in Indonesian localization from game developers, publishers and platform holders. For example, in August 2023, Valve added support for the Indonesian language to its Steam Client Beta which allows them to reach 55 million Indonesian PC gamers. Niko’s research also found that Steam is the leading PC games platform for Indonesian gamers, with 37.5% of PC games bought by Indonesian respondents in 2023 are from Steam while other platforms account for less than 20% each.
In the console segment, PlayStation has been the leader in the country for decades and is investing to grow the market. Even though the console market is still considered niche in the country, we have seen positive growth over the last few years. Sony also announced that its upcoming Spider-Man 2 game for PS5 will have an Indonesian localization (alongside Thai and Vietnamese), making it the first PlayStation Studios game to be published with these Southeast Asian language options. Other major console games that have also include Indonesian language options include Genshin Impact and One Piece Odyssey.
Indonesian gamers can now play these games in their native language (Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment, miHoYo, Bandai Namco)
The Indonesian government is also supporting the country’s gaming community. A report by Indonesia’s Ministry of Communication and Informatics (Kominfo), Indonesian Game Association (AGI), and Niko Partners found that the highest revenue of Indonesian game studios came from PC games, generating almost IDR 9 billion ($627,000) for Indonesian game developers in 2021, compared to mobile games which generated around IDR 6 billion ($418,000) in the same year. Steam’s addition of Indonesian language option could help spur the growth of Indonesian PC gamers, especially as Indonesian-made PC games such as Coffee Talk, A Space for the Unbound, DreadOut, and Ghost Parade are also readily available in the Indonesian language.
Home-grown Indonesian PC game titles (Credit: Steam)
With nearly 150 million gamers by 2027, localization will continue to grow in importance for Indonesian gamers. Apart from language, further hyper localization efforts such as through the addition of local characters, events, items, music, and collaboration with local celebrities are also the key to reach gamers in the region. Understanding how to include local celebrations and festivities, such as the holy month of Ramadan and the following Eid al Fitr, the Indonesian Independence Day, or Balinese New Year, in-game through special events or items could also help improve a game’s standing among Indonesian gamers. Similarly, Indonesian gamers would be also delighted when games include characters based on the country’s mythologies or legends. A notable example is the Nyi Roro Kidul [Queen of the Southern Seas]-inspired Kadita from Mobile Legends being notably popular in the country, with the character is also involved in local celebrations held in the game. Game companies should conduct well-informed research to know the timing, lore, characters, designs, and other cultural aspects that would bode well for Indonesian gamers.
With games revenue growing 10.5% YoY in 2022, Indonesia is among the top three fastest growing video game markets in Asia. Tap into this growing market through our Indonesia Games Market Report (available for $3,500 USD). To stay updated on what’s happening in the gaming industry in Asia and MENA, check out our Value-Added News Analysis (VANA) where we deliver the most important news and insights directly to your inbox.
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