Like the rest of the world, we have joined the Pokémon Go craze, with many of us here at KantanMT searching for Pokémon characters during lunch or after a day in the office. Of course, it goes without saying that we have our own Whats App group, aptly named ‘Poke’ to share our progress throughout the game, each of us playing in different languages.
What is Pokémon Go?
The game uses augmented reality and location data to allow players to catch Pokémon in real world locations using cameras on their smartphones. Gamers find Pokémon in places that match their characters, e.g. water Pokémon can be picked up near, you guessed it…water!
Why is it so Popular?
Pokémon Go has taken the world by storm to become a global phenomenon, and many are left scratching their heads, not fully understanding how it became such an overnight craze.
It’s likely to be the right combination of cool technology, a great story and the burning anticipation of awaiting a very successful brand.
- Augmented Reality – this isn’t Niantic’s first rodeo. In 2012, the company released
Ingress an augmented-reality, massively multiplayer online location-based game. Armed with its previous knowledge in building a real world exploration game, Niantic was able to apply its expertise to Pokémon Go. Since Ingress players helped create an online database of landmarks and their locations, the Pokémon Go development team had location data at their disposal that could easily populate a worldwide map of PokéStops.
- Brand Strength – Pokémon is one of the most popular and successful franchises around. Nearly two decades after the first Pokémon games launched in 1996, Pokémon is listed as one of the top 150 global licensors with retail sales of $2.1 billion in 2015. A strong brand is certainly a contributing factor to the game’s recent success. Particularly, when compared against other popular app downloads.
- Release Date – The power of supply and demand plays a part in its popularity. Instead of the typical global simultaneous or ‘Sim-Ship’ release process that we often see with games, Pokémon Go’s release was staggered with its first release on 6th July in Australia, New Zealand and its home country the US. It didn’t reach Europe until 13th July, with Germany getting first access, and it took until 19th July before it was rolled out across the rest of Europe.
It seems that by limiting access the game became even more coveted and its delayed release in Asia caused quite an uproar, with many taking to social media to voice their frustration, particularly in Japan, the home of Pokémon.
In an article for the Business Insider, Niantic’s CEO John Hanke confirmed that the cause for the delay was down to an overload on the servers and this in turn had an impact on the games global release, saying “We thought the game would be popular, but it obviously struck a nerve”. Highlighting the games instant popularity Amazon CTO, Werner Vogels offered to help out.
— Werner Vogels (@Werner) July 8, 2016
So, does the Pokémon Go global phenomenon impact the language industry?
Localization Challenge or Opportunity?
Part of the beauty of Pokémon Go is bringing the game, the place and the player all together for a unified and seamless experience. As a player, you go in search of Pokémon, including region exclusive Pokémon, e.g. Mr Mime is only available in Europe, Farfetch’d in Asia, Tauros in North America and Kangaskhan only in Australia and New Zealand. Since it’s available in about 36 countries, it’s not surprising that localization into different languages is a big deal.
Pokémon have had both controversy and success with their localization strategy. They recently came under fire in Hong Kong when Pokémon and Nintendo decided to reduce localization for its games by dropping Cantonese (main language in Hong Kong), and instead only localizing into traditional and simplified Chinese.
But a big success for Pokémon was the localization of its website and content for UK English and FIGS (French, German, Italian and Spanish) markets. Localization started in 2011, with German since it is one of the more challenging languages for translation. The project was completed by Open Road using an Agile methodology that included 8 three-week “sprints”. By Localizing Pokémon’s website, the company doubled its web traffic in the three months after the multilingual launch.
An automated translation solution is the most likely candidate for the quick translation of location data for the PokéStops or Gyms, some of which are not translated in different languages. If the plan is to lure potential shoppers, then localizing this information may be very useful.
Real time activity feeds or player history can be another opportunity for localization. Since this information is unique to each player but highly repetitive it would be the perfect candidate for automated translation. With the right customisation, bilingual training data and glossaries, translations will have good results and the names can be translated correctly for each locale.
It may be considered a fad or passing craze and the hype surrounding Pokémon Go may die down in the near future. But it seems like it has certainly disrupted the gaming and user experience market by bringing a whole new dimension for business and retail opportunities around the world. Or on a more basic level it’s a great way to get fit and meet people!
KantanMT is an automated language solution that enables users to easily build Custom MT engines in over 760 language combinations, seamlessly integrating into localization workflows and web applications. Contact us now for a free online demo, firstname.lastname@example.org.