World Flipper’s Global Launch! Development & Collaboration

The epic, nonstop action pinball game World Flipper is taking the world by storm. The Traditional Chinese version was released in May 2021, followed by the global version* in September, and the Simplified Chinese version in October. It is the most widely distributed Cygames title to date, reaching players in more than 180 countries and regions, and soaring up the app store sales charts. We asked staff in the Global Business Development division and the game development team how they worked together to bring about such a large-scale international expansion.

*The language in the global version can be set to Korean and many Southeast Asian and Western languages from the settings menu.

Global Business Development – Regional Director of AsiaYuka
After joining the company in 2015, Yuka developed the PR team and then joined the newly established Overseas Division to start up and run the Korean branch office in 2017. As the current Asian Division Director, she oversees the Asian Division headquartered in Tokyo, the Korean branch, and the Taiwanese branch.
Assistant ProducerYusuke
Joining the company in 2020, Yusuke first worked as the project manager on Princess Connect! Re: Dive. As the point of contact for the World Flipper development team, he is responsible for managing the release and operation of the Japanese and overseas versions.

Mainstream Appeal Meets Retro Boom
Distributed to over 180 Countries and Regions!

World Flipper was released globally to great fanfare in 2021. Could you first tell us what prompted you to aim for overseas markets?

Yuka We were still at the development stage on the Japanese version when we started discussing whether a pinball game with a concept like World Flipper’s could be readily accepted by overseas players. Pinball is a game that many people around the world have played at least once, so we felt that World Flipper could have fairly high mainstream appeal, which moved the discussion about overseas versions forward.

A promotion featured in a Korean railway station.
A promotion for the Traditional Chinese version in Taiwan using a shipping container.

Yusuke There was also a big retro boom going on, especially in Asia. We thought that the old-school nature of World Flipper’s pixelated graphics could be a big hit with that crowd. Yuka, you’re at the Korean branch now, so what’s it like over there?

Yuka You can certainly see the retro boom happening in Korea. Right now, Cyworld, a popular Korean social media platform from the 2000s, is enjoying a huge resurgence. It has bright, colorful backgrounds that feature blocky pixel illustrations, which I think signals a real comeback for that kind of look. That’s why I felt like younger audiences in particular could potentially view the pixelated animations in World Flipper as fresh and modern.

A battle scene in the pinball-themed World Flipper.

How did Cygames coordinate internally and with the publishers for the release of the overseas versions?

Yusuke Looking at the project as a whole, many divisions and external partners have been involved. In addition to Yuka’s Asian Division, there are Cygames staff members from the development side, like project managers and myself, and then there is our development partner and subsidiary, Citail, along with publishers in each region, creators who produce the art and music, and the list goes on.

Yuka The Asian Division, which is part of the Overseas Division, was responsible for project management for the Traditional Chinese and Simplified Chinese versions, with the Taiwanese branch of Cygames supervising the Traditional Chinese translation. Project management for the global version, as well as supervision for the Korean translation, was handled by the Korean branch. The English translation and supervision were managed by the localization team at the Tokyo headquarters.

In October 2020, Kakao Games and Cygames entered into a contract for the global release of World Flipper.

Translations for overseas versions are often handled by the publisher, so why did Cygames step in for the English translation?

Yuka One of the biggest reasons was that, as the plan to develop the game for Western countries was moving forward, the Cygames English localization department declared that they really wanted to do it themselves. The French, German, and Spanish text for the Global version isn’t translated directly from the Japanese, but rather uses the English translation as a base. This makes the English translation particularly important in ensuring that World Flipper’s perspective and appeal is properly conveyed, so we wanted to pour our hearts into it.

As such, when we approached Kakao Games with the proposal of handling the English translation ourselves, they readily agreed. Kakao Games worked with us to publish the Korean version of Princess Connect! Re: Dive, so they had confidence in our work because we’d already collaborated for four years and had built a solid foundation of trust. We are truly grateful for our partnership.

Yusuke The fact that there is no single correct way to translate a given piece of text makes it difficult. Should it be translated word-for-word from the Japanese source? Should the prose be altered to better relate the story and characters’ emotions? Taking into account the culture, society, and gaming approaches of various regions, as well as the company’s inner workings, deciding between literal and liberal translations can easily become a heated discussion for any title. That’s why I’m so grateful that we could maintain close communication between departments and foster a positive environment for the English translation.

Post-Launch Reception and
Differences from the Japanese Version

The Traditional Chinese version was released first in May 2021. Looking back at that time, what has stayed with you the most?

Yuka After the release, the large concentration of players put too much strain on the servers and we had to carry out maintenance for an extended period. While the engineering teams at Cygames and Citail were able to work together to solve the issues, it was a terrible inconvenience for all players of the Traditional Chinese version. That’s why, to avoid any potential risk of a similar occurrence, we took great pains to get everything perfectly ready before the release of the global version.

Yusuke The release of the global version went so smoothly that we were unnerved; we kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, but everyone was able to just play the game without issue. (laughs) We were especially nervous because this was our first time starting service in countries in Asia and the West simultaneously.

Yuka At that time, between the Korea, Taiwan, and Japan offices, we were calling each other and sending messages on Slack back and forth so many times a day asking each other, “Are there any problems?” (laughs)

What kind of reception did the overseas versions get?

Yusuke The response was amazing—the number of registered users and the store rankings in every region were beyond our expectations. The Traditional Chinese version took second place in sales rankings, and the global version flew up the charts in the huge Korean market.

Yuka What really surprised me was the underperformance of the global version with Thai speakers. Within Southeast Asian countries, we even managed to crack the top ten in the Singapore store rankings, so I couldn’t understand why we just weren’t succeeding in the large Thai market despite our strong translation.

Did you find out what caused the underwhelming performance of the Thai language version?

Yuka As it turns out, because of the game’s settings, many people inadvertently downloaded the game in English instead of in Thai. For convenience, the global version was initially designed to automatically change the game’s language to whatever language the smartphone operating system was set to.

While smartphones and PCs are now compatible with Thai language, feature phones and older operating systems aren’t, and they can only be operated in English. It seems that, because of this, even now many people still use devices that are configured to English. The game noted that configuration and set itself to display in English.

We asked two of our Thai employees, and both of their phones were set to English. They said that language settings in Thailand are probably split fifty-fifty between Thai and English. Taking that into account, we adjusted the game so that the language could be set after downloading it, which would allow everyone to enjoy the game as they please.

A screenshot of the game in Thai. The language can be configured in the game after downloading.

Are there any differences between the Japanese version and the overseas versions?

Yusuke The illustrations have been adapted to the cultures of each region, and the prose has also been adjusted. We were in constant consultation with our internal ethical review team, but with many human and non-human characters appearing in-game, it’s very difficult to definitively judge what’s acceptable and what’s not.

Yuka World Flipper isn’t simply a game of pinball—the instantly engaging art style is a large component of its popularity. By optimizing the illustrative content for a global audience, we’ve increased the amount of content that we can show to overseas audiences as a way of introducing the kinds of games Cygames puts out.

Yusuke That’s right. Moving forward, I’d love to organize a system where the Overseas Division and the development team work together to be able to create content from the outset that is intended not only for Japan, but with an eye to the world at large.

The Japanese version of Regitare (left) and the Simplified Chinese version. The skeleton was changed for cultural reasons.

Has the game’s system changed at all between the Japanese and overseas versions?

Yusuke From the beginning, the overseas versions included the improvements that were made to the Japanese version after its release. We included as many of the updated components as possible, such as balance adjustments, UI improvements, and so on.

The Japanese version before and after. The improved party screen (right) displays meters for skill weights, and the units’ elements can be identified by the color of their pedestal.
The overseas versions were released with the Japanese version’s enhanced UI.

Yuka As far as the units and content added after release go, considering the amount of time between the various releases, the update schedule often differs from the Japanese version’s. We stay in close contact with the development team to make certain this doesn’t upset the game’s balance. Of all the overseas versions I’ve worked on, this project has involved the most hours spent in meetings and the longest email exchanges to date. (laughs)

“A Fresh Experience”
Outlook for the Overseas Versions

The Simplified Chinese version was released at the end of October, adding to the already huge number of people around the globe playing World Flipper. Could you tell us about the outlook for the overseas versions and what you’d like to do with the game from here on out?

Yusuke The speed with which players in different regions consume content varies dramatically, so I’m working together with Yuka and her team on how to best manage this. Looking at the global version—which is available in locations spanning Korea, Southeast Asia, the USA, and Europe—American and Korean users play through new content particularly quickly.

Yuka At first, we maintained a pace very similar to Japan’s, but we’re currently looking into ways to accelerate the content updates little by little. That said, we’re still coordinating efforts with each region to search for the best way to optimize the schedule to meet the consumption rate of all regions as a whole. I’d also like to implement new measures to help overseas players have a fresh experience as they play.

What measures would those be?

Yuka Releasing updates for the Japanese and overseas versions simultaneously. Content is released for the overseas versions based on what the Japanese version has already received, so overseas players will always know what content will be coming next, for better or for worse. That’s why Yusuke and the rest of the development team are investigating ways for Japanese and overseas players to enjoy the same experience at the same time.

It sounds like World Flipper is going to continue being enjoyed by more and more players across the globe. Finally, Yusuke, do you have a message from the development team for the players?

Yusuke The development team for World Flipper has a shared vision of providing ever more enjoyment for even more players. When we say “more players,” we don’t mean only in Japan—we’re including users from all around the world. And we’re currently developing measures to release new content at a speedier rate for more enjoyment, so we hope everyone will look forward to that.

And that concludes our behind-the-scenes look at the overseas expansion of World Flipper. Exciting content will continue being shared with the whole world, so please look forward to more World Flipper developments in the future.