Series 1- Plan To Enter The Japanese Market? Importance Of Localization In Japan

A Three-Part Blog Series March- April

Part One

Localization in Japan is so important, maybe more than you think!


In next three blog posts, I am going to write about what exactly you need to think, plan and do when you decide to crack into the Japanese app market. Each post will focus on one of three topics: “Localization in Japan,” “User Acquisition,” and “Monetization.” I hope after reading the three posts, you can jumpstart to prepare your app for the Japanese market 🙂


You already have your app launched in the U.S. You are considering scaling or maybe you are having a difficult time in the U.S. market and want to see if your app has more potential in other markets. Either way, you might want to take a look at the Japanese market, one of the largest and highest ARPU market. I hope our last blog “How to Launch Your Mobile Game In Japan” motivated you to try out entering the Japanese market and this series can help you jump into it.


So where to start with “Localization?” When people talk about localization, they mostly mean translation and culturalization (changing the look and feel to Japanese preference). But how high quality does it need to be? Are there tradeoffs? In this post, I will point out some general standards that can help you to start.


  1. Natural Translation

    Start this first. The ultimate goal is the app texts should look like they were written by native Japanese people. Translating your app into Japanese does not mean just having correct grammar and words. Especially for gaming apps, it needs natural and authentic Japanese. So what is “Natural Translation?” It means the Japanese has to sound like what people are actually using. For example, Japanese has different end words based on sex and even countries! When you say “Yes it is” in Japanese, the formal saying would be “Sou-DESU”. However, a cute girl character (like you might have seen in lots of Japanese games) would say “Sou-DAYO/ Sou-DANE” and then a foreign sexy woman more likely to say “Sou-NE / Sou-DAWANE”…… Ok…. You might think “what is the difference? I don’t see it!”  Would such a small difference matter? Yes, it would. Many game players are seeking to be relaxed while playing games. During short breaks at work, their commute and don’t forget bathroom time, they play games to relieve their stress. The more natural the Japanese is, the more they feel comfortable with your app. That will eventually increase your engagement. The takeaway here–translating based on how actual Japanese people would say.


  1. Culturalization

The main point for culturalization is graphics. People have their own preferences. This is especially true for Japanese people who have their own unique preference on graphics. Japanese anime quality is one of the best in the world. Growing up with this, people expect all graphics not just to be high quality, but similar style. They do not prefer characters with the Western look so you need to think about to modify your characters into Asian style. Sometime you might need to add more characters that special targeting Japanese users. The takeaway here–keeping a Western style is likely not going to work. Change to Asian or even specific Japanese style if necessary.


  1. App Store Optimization

App Store Optimization, or ASO, is as important as the app itself. The App Store is your entrance. If people look at your storefront and think it is not for them, they would turn away.


Icon: Test what kind of icon get more conversions. We recommend starting with a character-centered icon for game apps.


Screenshots: Do lots of tests see what kind of screenshots combination has higher conversions. In general, start with focusing on each character for game apps.


Description: Know your users and do research on them. Know what Japanese people want to know, not what you want to tell. For utility app, tell users how their daily life could be better, efficient and more enjoyable with your app. For gaming apps, they might want to know what kind of new characters the game has or what kind of IAP you offer… It all depends, so analyzing UX data and know Japanese users needs. Do not expect they have the same kind of needs as other countries. Explain in simple and clear Japanese. Make sure to include the keywords that you want people to use to search your app. If it is new kind of app, do research to see what kind of words people are using to describe your app category.


Before starting to plan your UA campaigns, make sure your localization part is done well. Highly customized localization in Japan definitely brings higher conversion rate and better reviews, which would bring up your organic downloads. So remember, localization is the most important and first step you need to take for the Japanese market.



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By: Tsubomi Natsuki. First Published: March 24, 2017.

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