During his visit to Poland in May 2011 the American President Barack Obama was offered a Collector’s Edition copy of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings by the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, as one of the country’s flagship products. Four months later, Waldemar Pawlak, Deputy Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland, declared during a press conference that the Polish IT market was estimated at 9 billion USD and that although its major role was in the production of hardware, gaming deserved special attention and that games were among the best Polish export products. We could easily dismiss those two facts as trivia, but the recognition of the gaming industry by high-ranking Polish officials marks the growing importance of electronic games in Poland.
Video games are now a common pastime in Poland. Games industry market research firm Newzoo included Poland in their 2012 MMO Games Market Report. Along with Turkey, they were the only new countries to be included in this year’s report. Thus Poland was listed among such important markets as the US, UK, Germany, France, Netherlands and Belgium.
Of 18.1 million active Internet users in Poland, 11.8 million play games, and Newzoo projects that the market may rise to $400 million this year, compared to $220 million in 2011 and $118 million in 2009. As we shall see, this fascinating, growing market has not been given enough attention by game publishers until recently.
Gamers and their Games
Gaming is becoming recognized globally, and this tendency is reflected in the age structure of gamers. According to a report concentrating on Polish gamers published by the service inwestycje.pl, people aged 15-18 account for only 10% of the total gaming community in Poland, with groups aged 25-34 and 35-49 being the majority (30% and 26% respectively). As for gender statistics, Newzoo reports that 44% of gamers are women. This pattern also shadows the worldwide trend – as the Entertainment Software Association points out, the average game player is 30 years old, while 47% of all gamers are women. This means the market is very likely to grow, with new generations of gamers.
One of the rather unique characteristics of Polish gaming is its PC-centrism. Of the eight countries included in Newzoo’s report, Poland comes in last place when it comes to console players among gamers. Although the console segment still garners 25% of the money spent on games, the PC gaming market is predominant in Poland. Social network games and mobile gaming are very popular, with the latter attracting nearly 8 million of the 11.8 million total gamers. Approximately 25% of these are paying gamers.
Massively Multiplayer Online Games
According to Newzoo, MMOs take a fair share of the market at 18%. Free-to-play (F2P) online games are immensely popular, so it’s important to talk about two F2P titles that are among the most popular games in Poland and, incidentally, some of the biggest online games.
The first one is World of Tanks, a Belarusian multiplayer online game that currently holds the world record for most players online simultaneously on one MMO Server, with a mindboggling quarter of a million. It seems that it is quite easy to find a Polish person among this huge mass of digital tank aficionados – according to the CEO of Wargaming.net, the company behind WoT, Warsaw has the highest density of World of Tanks players in the world. It should come as no surprise, that the game has been localized into Polish.
The second free to pay title that is hugely popular in Poland is League of Legends (LoL). This giant among online games grew to 11.5 million active players in 2011, surpassing the legendary World of Warcraft which slipped to 10.3 million subscribers, and can boast a record 1.3 million concurrent players (compared, for example, to 280 thousand concurrent Skyrim players on Steam). The In-game Polish community was so strong that Riot Games, the game’s developer, decided to choose Polish for the first post-launch localization. This proved to be a huge success. As we can read on LoL’s website: “Once the Polish language beta opened to the public the response was equally impressive, and Poland has since become one of the biggest single-language territories in Europe”.
It’s clear that localization played a very important role in ensuring League of Legend’s success in Poland. Although Poles are learning several different languages and will accept playing games in their English versions, there is a strong preference for playing in Polish.
This is particularly interesting, as publishers of massively multiplayer online games, (especially role playing games), have so far largely avoided localizing their games into Polish. The situation started changing only around five/six years ago, with the Polish versions of Guild Wars and Metin2, with the latter title being notable for having Polish moderators. Another important milestone was the 2008 localization of Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures which was released with professional dubbing and hailed as the first game of the genre to have been fully localized into Polish.
Localization-wise, the general situation is improving; however, a fair number of new games are still released on the market either without a Polish version or only with Polish subtitles. In many cases, gamers need to wait several months for a localized version. Desperate players often use fan translations, which are often incomplete and full of errors. This situation is especially true for MMOs. Given the example of League of Legends, one can but wonder how popular some games might have been, if they had been localized.
Knowledge is Key
As we can see, Poland is a very promising and interesting gaming market. With the dominance of PC gaming, high popularity of free to play titles, as well as browser and mobile gaming, it proves itself to be a unique and challenging market, but to achieve success there, one needs to know local peculiarities and have a properly localized product, catering to the needs of this 11.8 million gamer community.
Wojciech Brudziński, Polish Language Reviewer.
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