With 132 million monthly active users, Steam is unarguably one of the most popular platforms for players of PC games across the globe. This isn’t news for game developers, whom to this day have released over one hundred and ten thousand products onto the platform. However, despite the popularity of the platform, many game developers don’t consider that the majority of Steam users do not speak English. Over 64% of Steam users use the platform in a language other than English, yet only half of the games available on the platform support non-English languages. In other words, developers who publish their Steam games in English only have immediately reduced their potential sales by almost two-thirds.
Do you want to reach a broader global audience? Great! Continue reading this article to find out which non-English languages are the most used on Steam, in order of popularity.
Over 26% of Steam users are using the global client of Steam in Simplified Chinese. This might come as a bit of a surprise to some: due to regulatory requirements, the global version of Steam is not officially available in China. In fact, Steam has its own dedicated client in the country, accessible only by users who reside in the country. However, the Chinese version of Steam offers just a handful of games when compared to the global one, which explains why so many users are choosing to rely on the latter, most likely accessed through VPNs. If we add Traditional Chinese to the mix, the total number of Steam users speaking some form of Chinese rises to over 28%.
The Russian market is famous for being the first in the world when it comes to gaming with PC, and besides Russia, there are several countries in which Russian is the first or second most popular language: Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Kazakhstan, and Lithuania, to name a few. Russians are very passionate about online gaming, so if you’re developing an online PC game for Steam, you should seriously consider localization in Russian.
It’s probably no surprise that the 4th most popular language in the world, Spanish, occupies a top spot on this list. While there are more Spanish speakers outside of Spain than in its country of origin, the majority of Steam users seem to prefer Castilian Spanish (EU) (5.15%) over Latin American (0.27%). This may be explained by the size of the game market in Spain, which is in the top 10 global markets for video games.
Given how small the population of Portugal is compared to its former colony, it comes as no surprise that the South American variant of the language is more popular than the source. It is also known that English proficiency in Brazil is low, meaning that missing out on Brazilian Portuguese localization guarantees a low market penetration. 
While not the largest language group on this list, German speakers account for over 6% of the games owned on the platform, making them the third-largest group of consumers on Steam, just trailing English and Russian. German Steam users spend a lot of money on the platform, which makes their language a universally desirable one in game development.
Similar to Germany, users from France have significant purchasing power. Moreover, there are significant number of native French speakers in Canada and Belgium, two high-GDP countries. While Canadian French does differ from European French, they are mutually intelligible. French is also an official language in many African and Caribbean countries, which further extends the reach of French-localized games.
Historically, Japan has been a console-oriented market with little interest in western production and PC titles, but we have seen a rising number of Japanese users on Steam in recent years. There appears to be a trend of increased interest from Japanese players in Western indie games.
There are 26 total languages officially supported by Steam, and many more spoken by gamers around the world. While the ones we have listed in this article are the most popular on Steam, some languages might be more tailored to your audience. For example, Italian users love sports and racing games, and you don’t want to miss out on an Italian localization in that genre.
Localization is a fundamental tool if you wish to increase the sales of your game across the globe. While, ideally, you should localize your game to as many languages as possible, budget constraints and genre popularity across different markets make it necessary for developers and publishers to prioritize certain languages to see a return on their investment.
If you wish to know more about which languages are the most suitable for your specific game to be localized into, reach out to one of our representatives. GameScribes is here to help.
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