“Globalization is now not just for Foreign Affairs magazine,” said Chrystia Freeland, editor of Thomson Reuters (NYSE: TRI) Digital, in this afternoon’s Going Global panel. She and fellow panelists Ben Jones, VP Mobile at Zynga, and Andrew Stalbow, SVP Fox Digital Entertainment, said that companies expanding their platforms into other countries don’t just have to worry about language and cultural barriers–it’s key to partner with local companies and react immediately to user concerns and needs. “Otherwise you’ll be copied by smart locals,” Stalbow said.
Companies should develop what moderator and paidContent Executive Editor Ernie Sander called “the inverse of a disaster plan”: Track the numbers and be ready if your product hits it big globally. “A lot of companies aren’t ready and when it happens they can’t take advantage of that momentum. They collapse,” said Jones — that hasn’t happened at Zynga because they tracked usage data closely and had plans in place.
Some other tips and lessons learned:
Game developers should make sure their games are actually fun. Ben Jones said Germany is a great game developing country because Germans “are hardcore board game players and understand the design. If you can’t make it fun in a board game, it’s not going to be fun on the phone.” He said that much developer talent now is directed toward social gaming.
“Think about local emphasis” for specific products, Stalbow said. For instance, the Glee social karaoke app took off in Japan after the nuclear crisis, when “hundreds of thousands of people around the world” joined together to sing “Lean on Me.” “You can see in the app where people have come together,” Stalbow said.
Everyone is thinking about strategy for China. “Partner up as fast as you can,” Stalbow recommended.” Fox Digital Entertainment partnered with a Chinese company for the launch of Angry Birds Rio and it’s now the #1 iPhone app in China. “Partner with people who have brands that resonate there or people who have delivered there before,” he said. And no matter what country you’re launching in, you need a reasonable price point. Console gaming companies like PlayStation had trouble rolling out in countries like China because their consoles were expensive and pirated quickly. “We can get [Zynga] games to the masses because we have a free price point,” he said.
Remember that English isn’t embraced everywhere and don’t forget about populations most comfortable using their native tongue. In Russia, Freeland was surprised to see has been surprised to see Russian social networking companies hold their ground against Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and Facebook.