How to make your app successful in Russia

Discover best practice tips and localisation strategies to reach more users in Russia

As the biggest country in Central Eastern Europe (CEE) and one of the largest mobile markets in EMEA, Russia could be a great opportunity for your mobile app or game. While penetrating the market and winning loyal users will certainly require some groundwork in terms of localisation and local language support, the high (and still growing) number of mobile users in the region suggest the rewards could be significant.

Despite common misconceptions, users in Russia are prepared to pay for apps, games and services that offer value. Of the country’s 145m inhabitants, almost half (65m) are gamers – with an annual spend of up to $1.7b.

For your app or game to succeed in Russia, there are 7 key factors to consider: from popular categories and trends, to pricing, language and user acquisition strategies. Let’s dive into each one in more detail.

1 Popular game and app categories

Top game genres

Genre 1: Strategy. There has been a huge investment in this genre by global developers in the region, and it’s now the highest-grossing genre. The majority of the big titles have been localised to Russian.

Genre 2: RPG. The second main genre in terms of revenue.

Genre 3: Action. The third most popular genre, with plenty of titles available.

Game trends

Trend 1: Competitiveness. Many developers use strategies to raise the hype within Russian gaming communities, and increase the spirit of competition with other nations.

Trend 2: Multiplayer. Different co-ops, clans and social features are driving interest in new games.

Top app categories

Category 1: Media apps. Demand for VoD (Video on Demand), streaming and music apps have been growing rapidly during the same period. Much of this growth is attributable to Smart TVs – including Android TV – with revenue outpacing even average mobile gaming growth in Russia.

Category 2: Education apps. These have a steady stream of active users and revenue is also growing. The most popular content is language learning, especially English.

App trends

Trend 1: Russia’s app and internet market is a little different to its western counterpart, with many of the big and familiar search, social and streaming brands either unavailable or dominated by local operators. This is definitely an important factor to consider when implementing login and sharing options, or when planning your user acquisition strategies.

Trend 2: The sharing economy is on the rise.

  • Many of the big Russian cities were quick to enjoy the benefits of the various sharing economies and the convenience of being able to make in-app bookings and purchases.

  • Car sharing (per-minute billing) is widespread in major cities.

  • Bike and scooter rentals achieved prominence in 2017-18.

  • Food delivery services went through spree of acquisitions and competitions.

2 Pricing

Russia’s currency is the Russian Ruble. When showing prices, ensure the Ruble sign (₽) appears after the price with a no-break space. A comma should also be used to separate the decimal part of the price (kopecks), but denominations are often skipped. For example, use 49,99 ₽, and not 49.99 ₽.

Also, make sure your pricing ‘rounding up’ follows the ‘99’ or ‘49’ rules, as this is more appealing to users.

Russia is also one of the Google Play markets that supports sub-dollar pricing points. The minimum price for a premium app or IAP item is 15 ₽ (approximately 25 US cents).

Developers located outside of Russia are subject to 20% VAT, which will automatically be deducted by Google from any premium app or IAP item sale inside the country. You can find more information on that here.

Generally, in-app, subscriptions, or paid app/game prices should be lower than in Tier-1 markets. We recommend exploring industry best practices, and experimenting to see which price points work best for your app or game business model.

3 User acquisition

Working with mid-level creators on YouTube and other online Google channels can be a cost-effective way to promote your app or game.

When it comes to social media and other locally-relevant channels, keep the following in mind:

  • Social media promotions on the big local networks, VK and OK, can be done through the MyTarget platform.

  • Promotions can also be arranged on case-by-case basis with relevant VK groups.

  • Search traffic from Yandex is available through the Yandex.Direct platform.

Offline content also holds opportunities for acquiring new users. For example, local gaming industry events such as White Knights (and others) can be useful places to strike up partnerships and gather intel. Plus, TV, print and offline apps and gaming ads have also worked well for the big wargaming brands.

4 Translation

Russian is the main language spoken in Russia and throughout the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States). With very few people speaking English (or any other foreign language), it’s important your app or game is translated accordingly – especially when you consider that localisation is often the #1 developer request posted in user comments and reviews.

Poor translations, grammar and punctuation along with an inconsistent style of language give users the impression of a low-quality product that shouldn’t be trusted. In contrast, products with well-translated text tend to be received better and users are more likely to engage.

Formal vs informal

The use of a consistent language style is important, such as as formal (на “Вы”) versus informal (на “ты”). Also, when addressing the user informally (на “ты”), use the masculine/feminine style carefully, or find neutral language options.

Source: Busuu
Source: Busuu

Slang and jargon

When using technical jargon or gamer slang, be sure to bear in mind the context of your app or game, the characters, target audience, etc. Be consistent, too – and always use the same terms or names across all text and visual assets.

Quantity plurals

Ensure quantity plurals follow Russian language rules and change according to the context. For example: 0 игр, 1 игра, в одной игре, 2 игры, 5 игр, о пяти играх, etc.

Transliteration

If a word can’t (or shouldn’t) be translated, transliterate it instead (e.g. McDonald's > Макдоналдс).

Localisations vs translation

Make sure your text is translated and proofread by a native speaker. Ask them to check the context of your words in relation to your app or game interface as well, as many terms or words can have multiple meanings in Russian.

5 Font, layout and user interface (UI)

As mentioned above, simply translating strings of text won’t suffice – especially as words translated into Russian tend to be longer than English. This means your new text won’t fit neatly into your app or game UI, resulting in either overflow or text that’s too small and unreadable. You’ll either need to build your UI around your text length, or be creative and find alternative translations that fit with what you already have.

Example: translated Russian text often overflows

Source: PerBlue Entertainment
Source: PerBlue Entertainment

Abbreviations

Avoid abbreviations, and if you absolutely have to shorten words always follow the accepted rules and guidelines for doing so. Also, avoid awkward line breaks, too (e.g. appl-ication) and, again, always follow accepted language rules.

Example: incorrect line breaks

Orbital Knight (left), Trove Technologies (right)
Orbital Knight (left), Trove Technologies (right)

Remember, many fonts don’t support Cyrillic. That can make numbers, punctuation marks and other symbols appear wonky when stylized with Latin font. Symbols in Russian can also appear in a default font or as rectangles. Always be sure to test your font for compatibility.

Example: The Russian and English fonts don’t match, making numbers and punctuation marks appear different from other text.

Source: Snapbreak
Source: Snapbreak

Example: The font doesn’t support Cyrillic and/or there were charset issues (UTF-8 / Windows-1251 / etc).

Source: Ninja Kiwi
Source: Ninja Kiwi

6 Culturalisation

Authenticity

When promoting your app in Russia, always use locally-relevant imagery and videos (e.g. promo shots of a navigation app would feature a map of Moscow with labels in Russian). If you’re planning to use photos of real people, or illustrations of fictitious characters, give them Russian names and appearances. Likewise, if your promo has audio, hire a professional native speaker to record it. Lastly, make sure you respond to user reviews in proper Russian, not machine translations – and remember to localise your privacy policy and other legal documentation, too.

Log in options

Always add VK and OK log in options. For smaller communities, see if there is a similar Russian-speaking user-oriented service and offer people a way to log in through it.

Note: Some services (e.g. LinkedIn) are not available in Russia, so your app or game should not rely on these.

Laws

Always be aware of any Federal (or other) laws related to users’ private data storage restrictions, restricted contents and resources, etc.