An indie strategy game translation business case. lets do the Math(s) January 16, 2021 cliffski (My wife is triggered when I say ‘math’ because its American. we say maths here in the land of Monty python) I have a bit of a rule that I try to follow, that when I am trying to make a business decision, I always calculate forwards not backwards. What I mean by that, is I try not to think ‘I’d like a Polish translation of Democracy 4. is it justified?’. That already sets you on the foot of WANTING it to be. The best way to do this is to set out the number that justifies a greenlight, then to work out the equations as best you can, then unemotionally go with the result. Democracy 4 is currently in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese. The classic strategy game translation pattern is EFIGS. I have added Brazilian Portuguese because it was done by someone who got in contact with me direct, so was affordable. Anyway. Lets look at Russian, Japanese and Polish. If I look at Democracy 3, which was translated into Russian and Polish but not Japanese, I get the following full-history revenue breakdown. Note that the game did not *ship* initially with those, the languages were added later. Russian revenue $91k grossJapanese revenue $45k grossPolish revenue $89k Democracy 3 sold super well, over 6 years with 4 expansion packs, so the total revenue is really good, and obviously Democracy 4 revenue right now is WAY lower, but I’m trying to plan ahead. Steam take 30%, and there are refunds, chargebacks, and sales tax, so we actually get about 60% which gives me: Russian net income $54,600Japanese net income $27,000Polish net income $53,400 The cost of a translation for the game is roughly $7-9k. It can go higher with more interesting languages like Japanese, so lets say the high end and assume $9k. We are likely to add a fair bit of extra policies etc. over time, and need to keep everything up to date so lets budget for a final $10k per language. I also have to implement it, play test it, and deal with any problems that might come up that have not been seen before in earlier languages. This generally isn’t taking me more than a few days each time, but lets push the complete implementation cost for each one to $12k. This currently assumes that Democracy 4 sells the same as Democracy 3. This may not be true due to the following negatives: People might be sick of politics due to real world eventsMuch more competition in the games market in generalPlayers of democracy 3 may have ‘had their fill’ of politics and decide not to upgrade However there are also positives: Young people seem much more engaged in the Bernie sanders / alt-right / Jeremy Corbyn / AOC era than they were during the relatively bland time when D3 came out.Steam is bigger, with a larger addressable audience nowD3 was a hit, and some people will be easy to persuade to get D4 if they enjoyed the previous game. I’m not super risk-taking, so lets be pessimistic and assume that the balance of these factors means that the long term income of Democracy 4 (which I should have mentioned is a MUCH better game btw) is likely to be about 66% of that of Democracy 3. That gives us these values: D4 projected Russian net income: $36,036D4 projected Japanese net income: $17,820D4 projected Polish net income: $35,244 There is a big assumption here, and that is that people playing Democracy 3 in country X…were playing it in the local language, and would NOT have bought an English-language version. The way to check this is to look at the percentage of sales in the first year of release that were Chinese for D3, and compare it with the percentage in the most recent year (where Chinese was translated). This is not perfect, and china specific but we get this: Percentage of D3 sales to China year 1: 0.16%Percentage of D3 sales to China last year: 4.33% Same for Polish: Percentage of D3 sales to Poland year 1: 0.53%Percentage of D3 sales to Poland last year: 2.7% So we can see that the effect of a native language version boosted Chinese sales and Polish sales, and the relative native-language-applicable revenue was 96% and 80% respectively, so lets split the difference and assign a value of 88% to the revenue: D4 projected income from native Russian: $31,711D4 projected income from native Japanese: $15,681D4 projected income from native Polish: $31,014 This all makes a super-convincing case to do Russian and Polish, and a slim, but arguable case for justifying Japanese. There are of course other factors, and huge margins for error. One factor is the multiplier-flywheel effect. If I could sell an extra 10,000 copies of Democracy 4 tomorrow and get no money at all for it…its kind of in my interests, because then it climbs up the ‘top sellers’ lists and gets more visibility. Also, I may already be selling copies of D4 to english-speaking players in Polad/Japan who cannot recomend it to their non-english speaking gaming friends yet. Thus, the word-of-mouth of the game is currently not at full capacity. PLUS! Democracy 4 is not just sold on steam, but direct from us (via humble widget), through GoG, Humble Store and the Epic store. Epics royalty rate is famously higher, and that then changes the figures slightly again in my favor… I shall mull this over, because no indie dev suddenly commissions $30k more contract work without being 100% sure and sleeping on it, but I thought people may be interested in seeing the thought process. I know that crowd-sourced translations are a thing, we even started it with D4, but progress is too slow, and also too unpredictable. It also runs the risk of multiple contributors having different translations for the same word in various places throughout the game. I think professional translations are a better system. YMMV.