No budget for someone like you...
This was from a developer who was kind enough to find the time to answer my message and I really want to thank him because he summarizes almost each and every pain point people experience with localisation, so I want to analyze this and show you how we can tackle some of these problems.
“The localisation budget doesn’t allow for Turkish”. I will talk about which languages you may want to localize in a different blog post, but for now, let’s talk about the notion of budget. If it is ‘none’, there is nothing to do of course. But, if it is limited, first, you can revise your priorities and make sure if you use your resources efficiently. Maybe you are paying more than you need for some other services? Maybe this is why your ‘localisation’ budget is so low, because you leave more for marketing etc. [For instance, do you pay for ‘influencers? Check this blog post.) Or maybe you don’t work with the right localisation service provider for you, or maybe you use expensive localisation agencies.]
“Perhaps post release…”
If the budget is low, the safest way to go with ‘additional’ languages [like Turkish] is to wait post-release. This way, you can see if the game is doing well and if it is worth adding more languages along with the latest updates. Another advantage is that it gives you more time to think and plan your localisation strategy. If you release languages one after another, maybe you can focus on that target audience better, treating this as if a little game release for each new language/country. You can find the best translators for the language you want in the meantime.
Warning: Sometimes, people pay so much for localization pre-release and if the game doesn’t sell that much, it becomes even worse. So, there should be a balance in budgeting.
“…if there is enough demand.”
'Demand' is an interesting problem. But when it comes to localization, I don’t think that asking your mostly-English-speaking-community is a measurable way to gauge the level of interest or demand from a certain country for the game. (Unless you do what ZAUM did for their Disco Elysium, a translation poll to see the demand: https://internationale.zaumstudio.com/)
Btw, Turkish is the number one! People tend to do some kind of quick social media survey or expect players to put comments on the store fronts, like "spanish plz., Turkish pleaseeeee..." Yes, this shows that there is ‘some’ interest in that language, but it is in no way measurable. Maybe and hopefully, 'supply creates its own demand'. Unfortunately, just like those ‘wishlists’, there is no guarantee of the demand. This shows the nature of localization as venture, as an investment. It's success depends on many other metrics, but if done right, it can be rewarding. However, don’t be discouraged, based on my experience, Turkish localization is almost always recoupable. By the way, I wish there was a Steam functionality, where you can do some sort of advanced wishlisting, i.e. demanding your language. Or a poll functionality to be able to better gauge the ‘demand’ in different languages. Waiting for demand is passive. I want to show you another way to tackle this by being active, doing something about the problem. Because it is obvious that without support activities, the reach of localization would be limited. You need some nano-publishing activities with each localization to make discover its full potential. (Local press releases, streamers, steam page localization, subtitled trailers, localized update announcements etc.) You just need to do a bit more to reap the reward. If you do this and your game is great, your audience will be thankful to you, and they’ll love you for it. Then you can be proud of your international reach and your generosity.
“Perhaps… community localisation.”
This is an option too. But it promises neither quality, nor speed, nor completion. And unless you have the time and energy to coordinate the well-meaning but time-consuming whims of your volunteer translators, I don't think this is a viable option.
“No budget for someone like you to translate it.”
I have mixed feelings about this. I am flattered but at the same time, I am a bit disappointed. Yes, I am a professional but this shouldn’t put me in an unreachable position. I am always ready to come up with solutions and contrary to the agencies, I can always offer more flexible payment terms, tailored solutions and better rates. But I refuse to race to the bottom. I am here to carry you to the top.