What to know Before Attempting International Expansion: Knowing the Relationship between Localization and Innovation

海外展開 ローカライズ
*What is innovation?

In Japan this word is generally used to describe the invention of some new technology, but of course it also has broader meanings, like creating new socially significant values from new ideas, and a wide range of spontaneous changes in people, organizations, or companies. 

Source: Wikipedia

Localization is essential when expanding internationally.

Active Gaming Media focuses mainly on game localization, but one of our departments also does localization and international expansion for products other than games (Because of non-disclosure agreements, we can’t give any specifics, but we assist in the international expansion of products, brands, and services especially).

Many companies try to expand internationally, but don’t see the returns they want and face a constant uphill battle.

“What prevents international expansion from going well?”

For those with this question, in this article I’ll be discussing things to know before attempting to expand internationally (and this time we’ll be talking about things besides games).

What is True Innovation? 

The other day, I had the chance to speak at a symposium about the status of the linear motor car.


2020 Linear Chuo Shinkansen Early Stage All-Line Implementation Symposium

From left to right:
Takayuki Morikawa (Professor at Nagoya University’s Institutes of Innovation for Future Society)
Miki Murai (Actress)
Ibai Ameztoy (President of AGM)

Being invited to this symposium, I felt, quite frankly, that this was the first time I’d seen something that I could say was truly innovative, and mean it. Recently, the word “innovation” has had very frequent use in Japan, but this linear motor car is the real deal.

Nowadays in Japan you hear talk of innovation, but the things being discussed aren’t truly innovative at all. It would be accurate to say that products really bringing some sort of innovative change are few and far between. Yet here you have the linear motor car, which will both change lives instantly and be quite practical. They say you’ll be able to go from Tokyo to Osaka in 67 minutes, and anyone could agree that’s genuine innovation. 

I can also see this greatly contributing to Japan’s national power, as Japan will likely be accepting orders from overseas for linear motor cars once they’ve been implemented here.

International Expansion will not Succeed without True Innovation 

Many of Active Gaming Media’s customers who want to venture onto the global playing field do, of course have confidence in and aspirations for their products, but I feel there aren’t many that are truly innovative.

 Japan is a world leader in scientific research. Considering the low population, there aren’t any other countries turning out as many Nobel Prizes. In spite of this, Japanese businesses are slowly losing their innovation.

Recently they say Japanese appliances are in a slump. Yet those appliance manufacturers like Panasonic, Sony, etc., were once innovative companies that took on the world and won. Take Sony’s Walkman, for example. In its time it was comparable to the modern-day iPod or iPhone.

There are many Japanese companies these days who feel they have a worthwhile product, and want to expand onto the global field—but if it’s not a product with a market overseas, I personally think there’s no point in going through the process of expansion.

Here’s an easy example of a failed expansion. There are many messaging apps all over the world. On a global scale, WhatsApp, WeChat in China, KakaoTalk in Korea, and LINE in Japan.

One after another they failed attempting to expand into other countries. And new apps like comm, thought they were new products, had no real innovation involved, and in the end they did not succeed. 

Everyone wants to throw their own product or service in the ring, but if it’s not very different from what already exists, it will fail to get popular. There’s no point in localizing such things.

In cases like these, we at Active Gaming Media do tell our customers frankly that you also need the courage to NOT expand internationally. But for many reasons—they’ve already carved out a budget, they want to expand their portfolio, etc.—many companies still attempt it and request our services.

Let me give you an example of a success story.

The rather unique social media application: Instagram. While old school social media focused on words, Instagram put the focus on pictures instead. TikTok is another example, innovative because it uses short videos.

There are many examples where a company created an innovative product, and succeeded in a new market.

So How do You Tell if Your Product is Truly Innovative? 

We can talk about innovation ‘till the cows come home, but how do you really know what’s innovative or not? How can you tell if there’s a market for your product overseas? 

In order to avoid selling a product even though there’s no demand internationally, you need to do some research before even thinking about localizing. There’s only one way to do this.

Market research.

There are two ways to go about market research, the first being to simply search for the information you want online.

The second is to ask the users. Then, really listen to the voices of those users. Analyze not only their words, but their behavior as well. 

Active Gaming Media does not only localization, but market research and social media monitoring. If you’re considering expanding internationally, contact us to get the information you need.

For inquiries regarding video game localization or promotion  :  [email protected]

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