Product Localization – Marketing Your Product to US and Global Markets
Critter Quitter- A Case Study in Product Localization for the US Market
Last month I was approached by Impulsis Games, the dev division of Impulsis, a Ukrainian software company. Their specialty is building ecommerce websites with a focus on the Magento and TYPO3 platforms. However, they have started branching out into custom apps and had recently designed a game for the iPad. Being such a large market, Impulsis wanted to target US gamers specifically. They quickly realized that although their English is quite good, they were not proficient enough to successfully localize their product for a US market. They needed a native American English speaker with a marketing and branding background to develop a name for the game, a tagline, and all game descriptions and instructions that would be used in the game itself as well as press releases and the company website.
Yuri, the game director, walked me through the app and sent me all the supporting documents including screenshots. The game centered around defending your plates of burgers, pizzas and assorted treats from ravenous bug like creatures by crushing them. Not being a native American English speaker he was stuck on the obvious choice of calling the game “bug something”. The trouble was that nearly every combination of the word bug paired with some kind of crushing action was already taken. So most likely, no bug.
I brainstormed some names and ultimately came up with a list of 16 respectable options. However, it was readily apparent both to myself, and to the team when they took a vote, that only 3 were really in the running. Two of the names included the word “critter” and the other, the word “bug”. My favorite being “Critter Quitter”. It not only rhymes but uses alliteration (when two words start with the same sound). The human brain loves rhymes and alliteration. It’s like a little tickle to our neural pathways. And for a quirky video game that’s makes a lot sense.
When I initially presented the list to Yuri he had no idea what a critter was, although he did like the sound of it. I explained that a critter is any small animal. Usually the word is applied to mammals but its also used as a generic to describe any small animal that’s quick and scurries around. I also explained that it’s often used affectionately or at least neutrally but can also be used to describe pests and vermin. I mentioned a popular line of children’s books by Mercer Mayer called Little Critters where the lead character is a small mammal of unspecified origin. We don’t know what he is – he’s just a “critter”. I specifically mentioned the book series as an example of cultural ubiquity of the word. I also pointed out that a Google search for the word “critter” fetched 41,500,000 results. So we were safe knowing that Americans would understand the word.
The next question was appropriateness. Yuri had explained that although this game can be enjoyed by all ages, they were making a clear push for women and younger children. They wanted a family friendly game with mild cartoony violence. This was the second reason I was a big supporter of the word critter. It’s a friendly word and ubiquitous enough to include cuddly creatures as well a vermin. Perfect for a game where the antagonists are bug-like, but not actual bugs in any scientific sense. The creatures have bulbous humanoid eyes, funny features, and are very colorful. So they would be very much at home in any Tex Avery or Warner Bros cartoon.
The quitter part of the name refers to the action. This too fit well as we wanted something softer than “kill” or “destroy”. Instead of using a word that refers directly to an action, such as crush or squash, quitter refers to the goal of the game, which is making the critter’s quit. As in quit eating your food. A Critter Quitter can also refer to the person who gets rid of the bugs. The same way we refer to the person who exterminates and the exterminator.
So all around, the name Critter Quitter works well for the branding goals of the game and describing the goals of the game itself.
Next we needed to create a one sentence tagline that would work well when promoting the game in the iTunes App Store, in the press and on the web. Something that reads well for humans but also hits our keywords for search engines. Basically an elevator pitch.
I condensed it down to a simple “who, what, why, where” statement:
Critter Quitter iPad Game – Protect Your Food from Ravenous Bug Invaders
Up next was a simple branding story for the company. They knew who they were, but this being their first game, no one else did. This would be used with the press and as the developer credits in the game.
Straight out of Lviv, the “Silicon Valley of the Ukraine”, Implusis brings a fresh, independent spirit to the development of games and applications for mobile devices.
Since 2005, we’ve been merging form and function to create user-centric mobile games and apps that blur the line between business and pleasure. Impulsis – because life’s too short for bad apps.
Impulsis had provided a decent framework for the website copy, but since they were not native English speakers, the idioms and grammar were off the mark in many places. Too far off to be acceptable. I rewrote the text they had provided and we posted it on the website in preparation for the official product launch.
They had also written up the directions for game play that included names and description for all the characters, what they do, and the names and function of the player’s weapons (AKA: Power-ups). As expected, I could easily understand the directions but it had a distinct “English as a second language” quality and many of the names of the characters were poor matches for the game’s new name, for branding purposes, and for an American audience’s expectations.
Below are the new game directions localized for a US market.
Lil’ Buggy (Formerly: Small Bug)
Your run of the mill critter. Tap once to kill it.
Funky Fly (Formerly: Big Fly)
Funky zips around food before pouncing. Tap once to kill it.
Stinky (Formerly: Stinky Bug)
Ugly green critter with a super strong shell. Throw it off the table to kill it.
Cockroach is quick and clever. Tap once to kill it.
Big Boss (Formerly: Strong Bug)
This critter is twice as tough as Stinky. Tap twice to kill it.
Kamikaze (Formerly: Kamikaze Bug)
Take cover! Kamikaze explodes when killed and kills critters that are standing too close. Good for you, bad for them. Use it wisely. Tap once to kill it.
Big Mamma releases her larvae when she dies. Very dangerous! Tap once to kill then get ready to squash all her offspring!
Tanker (Formerly: Armored Bug)
This critter has the strongest armor of all! Tap three times to kill it. Yes, THREE times!
Furious Fly (Formerly: Fast Fly)
Fast and unpredictable. Even Furious doesn’t know where it’s going next. Tap once to kill it.
Colorado Critter (Formerly: Colorado Bug)
Colorado is a tricky one. Must use Electric Bucket in the corner to kill it.
Frogs love to eat critters. Place them on the plate and they will help you to protect food. The more expensive the frog, the more critters it can eat.
Shield covers food from critters for 15 sec.
Electro-Shield (Formerly: Electric Shield)
Electrified Shield covers food and kills all critters that try to break through. Last for 15 sec.
Your finger becomes so strong that it crushes anything!
Extra bucket for killing Colorado Critters.
The ultimate weapon of mass destruction. Activate to vaporize all critters on the table.
Use your finger to spray the table with deadly disinfectant.
Swipe your finger across the screen to make critter confetti!
Slow-mo (Formerly: Slow)
All critters move very slow for 15 sec.
All critters on the table freeze for 8 sec. Shatter them before they defrost.
How to Play
Your mission is to protect your food from hungry critters. Squash them, collect their juice, and use the juice to buy power-ups for more effective defense.
Each critter kill earns you juice. You can use juice to buy power-ups. The juice multiplier at the top right of the screen shows how much bonus juice you will earn when you complete the level. Each level completed increases the multiplier.
Power-ups help you when things get crazy. Each power-up has a cost – so use them wisely. Combine power-ups to achieve stronger destructive affect. Power-ups are stored on the menu.
If you stop ALL critters from taking a bite of your food you will earn a perfect wave bonus for that level. A perfect wave doubles your score.
Have a Juice Crisis? Don’t lose heart. You can always earn some extra free juice or buy an unlimited amount from our store.
Finally, we wrapped up the project with a press release. The press release was fairly easy since we had already solved most of the branding and localization issues earlier
Impulsis Games then delivered my new copy to their localization teams in France, Germany, Russia, and Spain. This is the right way to do localization. You can’t rely on automated translations. Proper localization must be done by native speakers who are talented writers and branding professionals. If you have any doubt if this is correct, just run any text or website through Yahoo’s Babel Fish or Google Translate and see how horrific the translations really are. Sure, in a pinch it’s good enough to help you understand the gist of something, but it’s also completely inadequate for marketing and branding. If you rely on an automated translation service you will kill your business for international markets.
If you’d like some help localizing your product for the US market call me at 831-566-3046 or email me.
Download Critter Quitter on iTunes
Check Out The Official Critter Quitter Website
Visit Critter Quitter on Facebook
File Under: A Case Study in Product Localization for the US Market – How to Localize a Product for Global Market – Localization Services for International Markets – Translation Services – Translation Tips and Tricks